What Types of Medical Mistakes Happen in Emergency Rooms?
December 28, 2021
Hospital emergency rooms stabilize patients with serious medical problems and set them up for follow-up care. Emergency rooms can be chaotic, as patients arrive unexpectedly with life-threatening conditions. However, doctors and nurses in emergency rooms are still responsible for delivering a standard, acceptable level of care. Some studies show that medical mistakes are more likely to happen in emergency rooms than in most other health care settings. Patients who have been harmed in an emergency room as a direct result of a doctor’s or other health care provider’s negligence have the legal right to seek damages.
More people are admitted to hospital emergency rooms each day, with estimates ranging between 130 million and 148 million patients per year. With so many patients, the number of medical mistakes happening in emergency rooms are also on the rise. Many medical mistakes happen during examinations or lab tests. The types of medical mistakes that happen in the emergency room most often include the following:
- Misdiagnosis: Some of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions include heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism, and meningitis. However, less common illnesses are also more likely to be misdiagnosed in an emergency room.
- Medication errors: More than 7,000 patients die each year to due medication errors, many were admitted to the hospital in the emergency room.
- Delayed treatment: Delays in treatment lead to negative outcomes in patient care. Studies cited by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) show that age, gender, level of educational, and other factors may affect the length of delayed treatment in emergency rooms.
- Inadequate discharge instructions: Emergency rooms are responsible for giving patients clear instructions for managing their condition when they leave the hospital. According to the Emergency Medicine Journal, patients often misunderstand these instructions. Emergency department discharge failure happens when patients return to the emergency room within 72 hours after discharge because they did not understand or comply with discharge instructions.
The underlying causes of medical mistakes include understaffing, overworked staff, and a general culture of hierarchy in which doctors are not questioned about the decisions they make.
Why Do Medical Mistakes Happen More Often in Emergency Rooms?
There are many reasons why medical mistakes happen more often in emergency rooms, particularly in hospitals that are busy and understaffed. Doctors and nurses may not review a patient’s medical records before treating a patient. They also may feel that they do not have time to do MRIs, CT scans, or other imaging tests before administering treatment. There may also be miscommunication among staff or between a patient and staff during an emergency.
There are many underlying causes as well to medical mistakes in the emergency room, including the following:
- Burnout: Studies show that about one in three emergency room doctors and many nurses are experiencing fatigue and burnout at any given time. Burnout often results in higher rates of medical errors.
- Interruptions: Emergency room staff may be interrupted at any time if a more severe emergency arrives while they are treating patients.
- Monitoring issues: Emergency room patients waiting for treatment may not be adequately monitored, creating life-threatening situations if their conditions deteriorate quickly.
It is important to know that a doctor-patient relationship is generally established whenever a patient is examined in the emergency room. Once this relationship is established, the doctor and staff are responsible for providing a standard, reasonable level of care. Patients may have the right to file a medical malpractice claim if they have been harmed because they did not receive that level of care.
Can I Sue the Hospital or Doctor for Medical Mistakes in the Emergency Room?
Patients may file a medical malpractice claim against a physician or the hospital if they suffer harm due to negligent practices while in the emergency room. Patients may choose to sue the hospital if the doctor or other health care provider that committed the medical mistake was a hospital employee. In many cases, there may be multiple parties responsible for your injury, like nurses, lab technicians, and other staff. In some situations, you may hold the hospital liable because they did not provide adequate training for employees or their employees were not properly vetted before they were hired.
An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can sort through these complex issues and determine if it is possible to sue the hospital, doctor, and/or other parties for medical malpractice.
What Should I Expect During a Visit to the Emergency Room?
When you visit the hospital emergency room, you can expect to speak with a triage nurse who will take your vital signs, ask questions, and evaluate the seriousness of your case. Depending on your symptoms, you may have an X-ray, bloodwork, or other tests.
However, you should also expect to wait for treatment. Since you do not need an appointment for emergency room visits, many patients often arrive at once. Hospital staff must prioritize patients and treat the most urgent cases first, leaving others to wait their turn. However, if your condition changes and/or you experience sudden pain or other severe symptoms, let the nurse know right away.
If your doctor has referred you to the emergency room and you have a bit of time to get ready, it is helpful to bring the following items with you before you go:
- Driver’s license or other form of state-issued identification.
- Health insurance cards.
- List of medications you are taking.
- Phone and phone charger.
- Kindle, book, or something else to read.
Since many emergency room visits happen without notice, it is always a good idea to carry your identification and your insurance cards with you at all times in case you have a medical emergency.
How Do I Know if I Have a Valid Medical Malpractice Claim?
It is never easy to determine whether you have a valid medical malpractice claim against an emergency room. This is because any claim of medical negligence is complicated, requiring extensive reviews of medical records and getting the opinions of medical experts.
The best way to determine if you have a valid medical malpractice claim is to reach out to an experienced lawyer who has worked with medical experts in the past on these types of cases. Our lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP have helped injured patients recover significant multi-million-dollar medical malpractice settlements, including the following:
- $2.1 million-dollar settlement for delayed treatment. Our client’s heart stopped due to a drug overdose. However, the hospital delayed treatment for 30 minutes after code blue. During that time, the woman’s heart was not beating. By the time the pacemaker was implanted, she had suffered a permanent brain injury. We recovered more than $2 million dollars in damages for her injuries.
If you have questions or concerns about the medical care you received at an emergency department or urgent care facility, someone at our firm can help. We will review your medical records as part of an initial investigation. Depending upon the circumstances, we may also speak with a medical expert to determine whether or not you have a valid medical malpractice claim.
Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Are Experienced in Representing Severely Injured Clients
Many thousands of patients suffer serious or fatal injuries due to the negligence of doctors or other health care providers. Our Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP represent innocent patients who have been harmed by medical mistakes. If you have been injured by a medical mistake, call us today at 800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.