Emergency rooms in a hospital can be bustling, fast-paced, and filled with all types of urgent situations. In some cases, an injury can occur due to some form of error related to the emergency room process and staff. When patients visit an emergency room, they expect their needs to be addressed quickly with expert care.
However, emergency rooms are chaotic environments. Many emergency rooms today are understaffed. This creates opportunities for mistakes to creep in, even from well-trained medical professionals. Since most emergency room situations are already severe, errors in this context can lead to further injury and serious conditions.
Most people who visit the emergency room already have dire medical concerns, to make matters worse. Errors in an emergency room setting can result in serious complications or death for patients. Some common forms of emergency room errors can include:
- Failure to run the proper tests and diagnoses
- Medication errors
- Delayed treatment
- Failure to follow up
- Failure to perform required tests
- Errors related to the identification of a patient
- Causing a patient to wait unnecessarily long before receiving treatment
- Errors related to emergency surgeries
- Errors related to diagnosis (failure to diagnose and medical misdiagnosis)
- Premature discharge from an emergency room
- Various other forms of medical error, negligence, or malpractice
In serious cases, an emergency room error can sometimes be fatal, leading to a wrongful death claim or a similar type of legal claim. Patients injured due to emergency room errors may be eligible to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against doctors, staff, or the hospital to receive compensation for their damages.
Who Can Be Held Liable For an Injury Resulting from an Emergency Room Error?
Various parties can be held liable for an emergency room error injury. These can include:
- Nurses and nursing staff (for instance, administering drugs or medicines improperly)
- Hospital staff
Several parties can be held liable for injuries resulting from an emergency room error in some cases. A hospital may be found liable for malpractice or negligence in other instances. For example, if the hospital allows unsanitary practices, dangerous, or that do not conform to industry standards for emergency room procedures, the hospital may be liable.
What Can Result from Emergency Room Errors?
Emergency room errors may exacerbate the symptoms of the original condition. For example, a gunshot wound victim may continue to bleed and eventually fall unconscious. Some possible injuries or serious complications that may arise from an emergency room error include:
- Internal bleeding
- Brain aneurysms
- Heart attacks
- Appendicitis complications
Many injuries caused by emergency room errors are preventable.
How Common Are Emergency Room Errors?
Evidence suggests that emergency room errors are more common than most would believe. Studies have found that reported errors occur in almost every aspect of emergency care, but serious errors occur in only a minority of cases.
Other studies have found that errors commonly include noncompliance, malpractice, or inappropriate prescribing. Emergency departments and operating rooms are the most likely hospital departments to have serious errors.
Why Do Emergency Room Errors Happen?
The emergency room is a place where mistakes can get out of control and multiply. The typical emergency room is understaffed. Patients may be passed from one doctor to another or from nurse to nurse multiple times throughout a single shift.
Emergency rooms require perfect communication regarding patient symptoms. Medical information and allergies must be communicated from one medical professional to another without error. Stressed doctors and other medical professionals can easily make mistakes when writing down patient responses or recording medical information.
When a different medical professional tries to treat a patient, they may accidentally injure the patient due to improper information recorded beforehand. It can be nearly impossible to determine who is responsible for an emergency room error in the worst cases.
Emergency room errors may occur due to:
- Understaffed hospitals
- Inadequately trained hospital staff
- Hospital staff that does not communicate effectively
- Doctors who are late or distracted
Are Emergency Room Errors Examples of Medical Malpractice?
Virtually all emergency room errors are preventable. Emergency room errors typically fall under the umbrella of medical malpractice. For an injury to be considered medical malpractice:
- The doctor must have had a relationship with the patient
- The doctor must have been negligent (acted below the acceptable standard of care as defined by common practices of other doctors in their profession)
- The negligence was responsible for an injury
- The injury led to damages
For example, if a doctor sent a patient home from the emergency room without properly suturing a wound following surgery, this act would likely be considered medical malpractice. If the patient’s stitches ruptured and severe bleeding resumed, the doctor may be legally liable for the injury. However, not all emergency room errors are the fault of doctors.
Can Hospitals Be Charged with Medical Malpractice?
Many hospitals do not adequately staff their emergency rooms. Patients still deserve the highest level of care possible from a medical institution, regardless of whether the hospital is understaffed or if the medical practitioners are doing the best that they can.
The fault for an emergency room error may ultimately lie with a medical organization or hospital that improperly or inadequately staffed their emergency room. Improper training tactics may also open up a hospital to liability. Proving this, along with any other type of medical malpractice case, requires expert representation and a thorough investigation of hospital records and available evidence.
Are There any Legal Remedies for Emergency Room Error Claims?
Legal remedies in an emergency room error lawsuit typically include a monetary damages award. These damages are generally intended to compensate the injured party or parties for losses caused by the error. These can include additional medical expenses, lost wages, and loss of earning capacity.
The amount of damages issued is dependent on several different factors, including:
- The degree of seriousness of the injury
- How “egregious” or serious the negligence or misconduct of the liable party is
- State laws (some states limit damages in a medical malpractice claim)
- Whether the person had prior existing injuries
Lastly, remedies for an emergency room error case can also involve other measures, such as requiring a change of hospital staff or policies.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Assistance with an Emergency Room Error or Injury?
Emergency room errors can lead to serious injuries and losses. It may be in your best interests to hire a personal injury lawyer in your area if you need legal advice or guidance for a lawsuit. Medical malpractice and medical negligence cases are highly complicated. Do not try to represent yourself in a claim for an emergency room error. An experienced personal injury attorney can provide you with answers to your inquiries and inform you of your options under state law.
Also, if you need to appear in court, your lawyer will be able to represent you during those times. Consider using LegalMatch’s services today to find the right personal injury lawyer for you. Our services allow you to narrow down your search for an attorney in your area by selecting the specific issues in your case. There is never a fee to schedule a consultation, and our services remain 100% confidential.