When Should a Hospital Be Held Liable for an Emergency Room Error?
When patients go to the emergency room, they have a right to expect that the hospital will act competently. Emergency rooms, by definition of an emergency, handle very difficult cases. Still, the hospitals and medical staff should be trained to handle emergencies properly and efficiently. Many types of emergencies, including heart attacks, gunshot wounds, injuries from car accidents, and burn injuries are fairly common. Hospital and ERs should be ready to handle them.
When emergency room staff commit errors, they deserve to be held liable for the damage they cause to patients. Improper care can cause a patient’s condition to worsen, can cause additional harm on top of the patient’s current medical disorder, and may even result in the death of a patient.
Medical malpractice claims require demonstrating that:
- There was a doctor/patient relationship. In emergency room cases, this relationship is normally based on the doctor agreeing to examine, diagnose, and treat patients who come into the emergency room.
- The ER providers failed to provide care in accordance with accepted medical practices for care. This definition ensures that emergency room doctors are also treated fairly. Doctors are not expected to be gods. Many medical conditions and injuries are fatal. Further, if numerous patients come in at one time, the emergency room staff needs to triage which patients are treated first – generally based on the severity of the injuries or condition. Emergency room doctors are not expected to be evaluated based on the type of care a doctor could provide if time wasn’t critical. They are, however, expected to be evaluated based on how competent ER doctors would have handled the emergency.
- The patient must suffer harm based on negligent care. If an ER doctor fails to treat a patient in a timely or competent matter, his/her condition may worsen. Patients can also suffer permanent harm if a surgeon operates on the wrong body part in an emergency situation. Many other types of incompetent care can cause a range of physical and emotional harm.
Common types of emergency room negligence
Every emergency room malpractice claim is evaluated on a patient-by-patient basis. There are many types of negligent acts, however, that tend to happen again and again. Hospitals and ER staff should be held liable if the following acts cause a patient harm:
- Failing to take a complete and accurate medical history. The ER team should conduct a physical examination. If the patient can communicate, they should take an oral history. The staff should order the proper diagnostic tests for his/her condition.
- Failing to prioritize and treat any life-threatening conditions, including failing to conduct tests to rule out life-threatening conditions.
- Failing to make a proper medical diagnosis and delaying a diagnosis.
- Failing to consider alternative causes of a patient’s serious condition.
- Delaying treating a patient and failing to provide the proper treatments.
- Releasing a patient when the patient should have been admitted or monitored before the release.
- Failing to properly monitor a patient.
- Failing to consult with specialists in the hospital in a timely manner.
- Failing to read laboratory results correctly.
- Providing treatments that are not proper for the patient’s medical condition.
- Providing the wrong medications or the correct medications in the wrong amount.
- Using contaminated blood transfusion.
- Surgical errors.
- Anesthesia mistakes.
- Refusing patient care improperly.
What injuries do ER patients suffer?
The injuries patient suffer depend on the patient’s condition and the type of medical malpractice that occurred. In the most tragic cases, a patient dies due to emergency room malpractice. Some common types of emergency room injuries that patients suffer include:
- Cardiac damage due to failure to treat undiagnosed or misdiagnosed heart attacks or heart conditions.
- Paralysis due to failure to properly treat spinal cord damage or stroke.
- Injuries and illnesses that worsen due to failure to treat the injury or illness.
- Medical conditions that fail to improve because timely treatment was delayed.
- Damage to the anatomy because a healthy part of the anatomy was damaged.
- Wrongful or untimely death.
- Many other injuries.
Who is liable when emergency rooms make mistakes?
The primary defendants when emergency room malpractice occurs are the hospitals where the ER center is located and the ER doctors.
Hospitals should be ready for many emergencies by conducting a proper triage of the patients. The hospitals should also be ready by making sure they have enough staff. Hospitals should know, on average, how many doctors they need on a given day and at a given time of the day. Hospitals should have procedures in place to handle virtually every type of emergency.
ER physicians should perform their duties in accordance with hospital requirements and acceptable emergency room standards as established by state and local medical boards.
In addition to the hospitals and doctors, other healthcare providers may be liable, including ER nurses, medical laboratories, and on-staff pharmacies.
What is the value of an ER error claim?
There’s never any amount of money that can make your life the same when an emergency room error causes you harm. Our Kennewick medical malpractice lawyers fight to obtain the maximum amount of compensation you deserve. We demand that negligent ER providers pay:
- All your medical bills, including the cost for new surgeries, visits with doctors and specialists, all the therapy you need, the cost of assistive devices, and all the medications you need.
- All your lost income, including compensation if you have a permanent disability.
- Your daily physical pain and emotional suffering.
- The loss of function of any body part.
- The loss of life’s pleasures.
If a loved one died due to medical malpractice, we file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the family members of the deceased patient.
At Telaré Law, our Kennewick and Richland medical malpractice lawyers have the experience, reputation, and resources to hold ER health providers liable when they commit medical malpractice. We work with expert medical professionals who understand medical competency standards. We have offices in Kennewick and Richland. Our personal injury lawyers also serve Pasco, Walla Walla, the Tri-Cities, and all of Southeast Washington. Patients and families can discuss their medical malpractice claims by calling us at 509.737.8500 or filling out our contact form.