Our country sees approximately 129.8 million visits to emergency rooms every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This number is continuing to rise while the number of emergency departments operating is actually falling, the CDC reports.
The result is emergency rooms that are even more chaotic, with more patients than staff can handle. This may be causing a fall in the quality of care ER patients receive and an increase in emergency room errors. The medical staff is in a hurry to attend to the growing number of patients for whom they are responsible, and this can lead to careless mistakes and negligent decisions with potentially disastrous consequences.
Have you been harmed as a result of negligent ER errors? It is never wrong to question an unexpected negative outcome after a visit to an emergency room. Not every bad outcome is malpractice, and not every valid medical malpractice claim results in compensation. However, it costs nothing to have your case investigated and the potential for success in a lawsuit evaluated.
The Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP has a long record of holding doctors and hospitals accountable for medical malpractice. Accomplished trial lawyer Richard Jaffe is intimately involved in every case. He brings to the table 20-plus years of legal experience, demonstrated courtroom skills, a nationwide network of medical experts and unique insights as a trained EMT (emergency medical technician).
Common Emergency Room Errors
Misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose are particularly common with heart attacks and strokes, especially when the patient does not fit the typical profile of the ailment. A recent study in the Wall Street Journal showed that 15 percent of patients around the age of 38 who came to the emergency room complaining of stroke symptoms were initially misdiagnosed.
Hospitals now urge ER staff not to make hasty assumptions or rule out illnesses simply because the patient is younger than the typical victim or is female. Especially in the case of a heart attack or stroke, these assumptions may cost the patient valuable minutes before intervention can take place – time that could make the difference between life and death.
Similarly, illnesses that should be diagnosable may be overlooked and treatment delayed if correct tests are not ordered, or if test results are not communicated in a timely and accurate manner. In the case of a less urgent ailment, a patient may be informed only that the worst has been ruled out, but may not receive adequate information to responsibly follow up with a physician in a non-emergency setting, potentially causing more severe medical issues later.
Another factor endangering the health of ER patients is a lack of communication among medical staff. Patients may assume that because they’ve told their medical history to a nurse, the physician who sees them is necessarily aware of it. However, an unfortunate consequence of the digitization of medical records is that ER staff enter information into a computer system rather than communicating directly with one another. This disconnect may cause important details to be overlooked and, if it results in injury to the patient, may constitute malpractice.
Even if an ER doctor makes a proper diagnosis, it is still possible that the physician may deliver care in a negligent way, resulting in patient harm.
Different Standards for Emergency Rooms
It is important to note when considering a medical malpractice lawsuit involving an ER that the standards for this setting are different from those for general practitioners or specialists.
An ER physician is more likely to rule out the direst causes of a patient’s symptoms and then encourage the patient to follow up with a general practitioner or a specialist for a more complete assessment if symptoms persist.
Because this difference is inherent to the function of an emergency department, an ER doctor’s failure to diagnose certain illnesses may not constitute malpractice even if a specialist could have been reasonably expected to make an accurate diagnosis. However, this does not excuse negligence in an emergency room setting.
Think you May Have an ER Malpractice Claim? Talk to us Today
If you or a loved one have suffered as a result of an emergency department’s misdiagnosis, failure to diagnosis, error in treatment or other mistake, you may be entitled to compensation. It costs you nothing to have your potential lawsuit evaluated. We invite you to tell us exactly what happened to you so that we can determine if your medical malpractice case has merit.
For a free claim evaluation and consultation, call to speak to a Long Island medical malpractice lawyer or fill out our online contact form. We will respond promptly. We can arrange evening and weekend appointments, and we can come to you.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Emergency Department Visits
- The Wall Street Journal: Hospitals Overhaul ERs to Reduce Mistakes
For a free legal consultation with a emergency room errors lawyer serving Long Island, call 516-358-6900