Emergency Room Negligence: How a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Can Help
Were you or a loved one the victim of emergency room medical malpractice? If you’re dealing with emergency room negligence, here’s how a medical malpractice lawyer in Washington, DC can help.
You went to the hospital in a time of crisis, after an accident, or during an acute medical emergency. You deserved adequate and careful treatment. However, that is not what you received. Now you are wondering if you can take legal action against the doctor or hospital. If you suffered a serious injury, illness, or required prolonged hospitalization because of emergency room negligence, we can help.
Speak with a Washington, DC Emergency Room Negligence Attorney
Schedule your free consultation today. Call (202) 960-4534 or complete our online form to start. The only way to know if you have a legal case is to speak with a medical malpractice attorney. At Regan Zambri Long, we offer a free consultation so you can get the answers that you need with no obligation or risk. We never collect a fee for our services unless we win your case.
What are Common Mistakes That Can Happen in an ER?
Most emergency rooms are busy, hectic places. A patient of any age, with virtually any type of illness or injury can come in, from an adult car accident victim to a child who is complaining of stomach pain.
In addition to the inherent chaos in an ER, some staff may be overworked or not have the proper emergency medicine training. Some examples of emergency room negligence include:
Patients may be told that “nothing is wrong” with them. They are sent home to rest or advised to follow up with their regular doctor if their symptoms persist. As a result, life-saving treatment may be delayed or even completely overlooked.
- Delayed diagnosis.
A serious medical condition is missed, either because a medical test isn’t ordered or the results aren’t available before the patient is discharged. It is only at a later appointment that the proper diagnosis is given. If the delay resulted in a worsened condition that could have been avoided, you may have cause for legal action.
- Inadequate monitoring.
A patient’s vitals aren’t monitored closely enough or maybe even not at all. Or, a nurse may fail to act on an abnormal pulse, blood pressure, or oxygen saturation reading. If a patient known to be a “fall risk” is not carefully monitored and suffers a serious slip and fall, the emergency room may be liable.
There are several types of medication mistakes that can occur in the ER. Drug-drug, drug-condition, and drug-food interactions can happen when a complete patient history isn’t recorded. A patient may also be given the wrong drug, the wrong dose, or a drug that they are allergic to.
Several errors can occur during an emergency operation. There may be inadequate cleaning of the surgical site, an instrument or bandage can be left inside of the body, healthy tissue can be accidentally nicked, and even the wrong procedure can be performed.
- Improper discharge.
A patient may be moved to a medical/surgical wing when they really need to be in the ICU. Or, they may even be sent directly home before they are well.
Many of these types of errors will lead to serious or lifelong complications for the patient, and can even result in death.
The Devastating Consequences of Emergency Room Negligence
The consequences of emergency room and hospital negligence are wide-ranging.
Diagnostic mistakes are a leading contributing factor to ER negligence. These errors include a missed, wrong, or delayed diagnosis. Any of these can result in the patient’s condition progressing further than it should have. A patient may then require more invasive treatment for their advanced medical condition. And for some diseases like cancer, a delayed diagnosis may limit what treatments are feasible.
An analysis of medical malpractice claims found that a “[f]ailure or delay in ordering a diagnostic test was the most common contributing factor” of those claims.
According to an analysis, the most frequently misdiagnosed medical conditions in the ER setting were “acute cerebral vascular accident, myocardial infarction, spinal epidural abscess, pulmonary embolism, necrotizing fasciitis, meningitis, testicular torsion, subarachnoid hemorrhage, septicemia, lung cancer, fractures, and appendicitis.” With these serious conditions, even delaying diagnosis by a day or two can lead to death or serious complications.
Inadequate Patient Monitoring
A patient whose vitals are not properly monitored may also experience a missed diagnosis. Or, a patient is discharged when they should still be receiving medical treatment.
The complications of a medication error can range from a skin rash to anaphylaxis and even death. When pregnant women are given contraindicated drugs, they may go into premature labor, experience stillbirth, or the fetus may be injured.
Mistakes that are made during an emergency operation can result in life-threatening infections and the need for additional medical procedures.
A hasty discharge can cause a condition or illness to worsen. In fact, almost 20% of Medicare patients who are discharged will be readmitted within 30 days. This is a serious issue for people who live alone and may not have anyone to assist them if they fall, have a seizure, lose consciousness, or experience another type of medical event.
Emergency room negligence happens for a variety of reasons.
Why Do Mistakes Happen in the ER?
The bottom line is, mistakes in the ER happen when a doctor is careless, inattentive, and doesn’t do their job correctly. Unfortunately, patients pay the price when there is:
- Inadequate staffing
- Staff on duty that does not have proper ER training
- Overworked personnel
- Miscommunication between the ER and other departments
- Miscommunication between the ER and other healthcare facilities
- A lack of qualified interpreters for nonnative English speaking patients and their families
- An incomplete or missing medical history
- A doctor and other ER staff members who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Between 10% and 15% of all healthcare professionals will experience a substance abuse disorder during their careers. The rate is higher for certain specialties, including emergency medicine.
Why You Need an Emergency Room Negligence Attorney
It is extremely difficult for a patient or their family to bring forth an emergency room error lawsuit on their own. The hospital may not be entirely forthcoming about what exactly happened. Physicians can be hesitant to speak out because they don’t want to lose their professional licenses or attract negative publicity. As a result, you may be told that what happened to you was an expected risk of ER treatment when in fact it was negligence.
To successfully win a medical malpractice lawsuit, you must be able to prove two things:
1. The doctor acted negligently.
In the legal world, that means that the medical care that they provided fell below the standard at which someone with their education, training, and experience would be expected to provide in that particular situation.
2. The doctor’s negligence resulted in damages.
In the eyes of the law, “damages” are things like bodily injury, medical bills, and emotional distress.
These are complex cases, and you need an experienced attorney on your side.
How Much is the Average Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Against an Emergency Room?
A medical malpractice settlement of this type typically covers:
- Current and future medical bills.
You should not have to pay for the ER visit that injured you, nor should you be burdened with the costs of any ongoing related medical care.
- Noneconomic damages.
These damages are commonly referred to as “pain and suffering.” This is the physical pain as well as the emotional distress you experienced because of the emergency room mistake.
- Lost wages.
You and your family shouldn’t have to worry about paying bills and putting food on the table. Whether you are out of work while you recover or if your injuries prevent you from ever working again, you deserve to be paid for any lost wages.
The most serious mistakes made in the ER will result in death. If you lost a loved one, you may also be entitled to:
- Wrongful death compensation. This money will make life a little easier for surviving family members. Nothing can bring your loved one back, but you shouldn’t have to worry about losing your home or not being able to afford college tuition.
- Loss of consortium. This type of reimbursement accounts for the intangible losses that a family may experience when someone passes away: spousal companionship, assistance with maintaining a home, as well as guidance for minor children.
How Much Time Do I Have to File an Emergency Room Negligence Lawsuit?
You don’t have forever to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. The Washington, DC statute of limitations sets forth the amount of time you have to pursue such a legal case.
Typically, the clock starts ticking the day that the negligence occurred or when the patient was made aware of the negligence. However, there are many factors at play in an emergency room negligence case, including if the patient died.
How Long Does it Take to Win a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Against an Emergency Room?
It is difficult to predict how long a case will take to complete. Oftentimes, the more serious your or your loved one’s injuries are, the longer the case may last.
Some of the factors that impact how long a medical malpractice case can last are:
- Settling a case out of court, or if it goes to trial
- What legal actions, if any, have to take place to gather all of the evidence needed to support your claim
- How long it takes to adequately assess the full scope of your or your loved one’s injuries
We know that it’s difficult to wait, but our attorneys are in it for the long haul. We also want the best possible outcome for you, which may not be the quickest.
Keep in mind that when you hire us, you won’t pay us until after you receive your settlement. That allows you to receive legal representation without incurring more bills.
How Can I Prevent Myself or My Loved Ones from Emergency Room Negligence?
Emergency room patients are some of the most vulnerable. Family members or friends may not be allowed in the patient’s room during treatment. Some emergencies occur away from home. So a patient may be at a hospital where they have never been seen before. However, there are some steps you can take to reduce the chances of an ER mistake.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet if you have a chronic health condition or a serious allergy.
- Carry a card in your wallet with emergency contact and health information. Include your regular doctor’s name and phone number as well as a list of any OTC or prescription medications that you take.
- If you have a serious medical condition that increases your odds of an ER visit, have all of your medical paperwork handy. Some people find it helpful to keep this information in a brightly colored folder by their front door.
If you or a loved one want to learn more about your legal rights after ER negligence, we’re here to help.
Are you ready to pursue a medical malpractice emergency room lawsuit? Call Regan Zambri Long today, (202) 960-4534.
At Regan Zambri Long, our entire practice is dedicated to representing clients who experienced a personal injury. And that includes medical malpractice cases where an ER doctor or hospital was negligent.
You can trust us with your case because we are the law firm that other lawyers turn to for assistance. We receive referrals from firms that do not have the resources to pursue complex medical malpractice cases.
Our firm works on a contingency fee basis. That means you pay absolutely nothing upfront. Contact us today to schedule your free, no-obligation case review.