Medical Malpractice Arising From Emergency Room Mistakes

Experiencing an injury that requires a trip to the emergency room is scary enough, but suffering an additional injury or having your original injury made worse due to an emergency room mistake can be devastating. During these traumatic and unexpected times, we trust our medical providers to give us the care and attention we need. Unfortunately, some hospitals are understaffed or fail to provide appropriate emergency trauma training to their staff. An emergency room patient who suffers an injury due to a medical provider’s error can bring a medical malpractice claim to recover for his or her damages.

A medical malpractice case is a type of personal injury claim. A defendant in a medical malpractice case can include a nurse, paramedic, doctor, hospital, or healthcare network. To recover damages in a personal injury case, the plaintiff must show that the defendant failed to act according to the appropriate standard of care. Medical professionals are required to treat their patients according to the commonly accepted medical practices and procedures in their area of specialty and geographic location. Medical professionals must also take into account a patient’s current injuries, medical conditions, and demographics. This is especially important in a trauma room setting where the treating physicians may have no prior knowledge of their patient. One of the most common emergency room mistakes is misdiagnosis. Additionally, many medications cannot be mixed with other drugs, and some medical health conditions limit the type of treatment that a patient can receive.

After establishing the appropriate standard of care, the plaintiff must show that the defendant breached the standard of care. Emergency rooms are chaotic and fast-paced environments, which increases the likelihood that mistakes will occur and provides additional opportunities for mistakes to be made. In most cases, the parties will provide expert witness testimony from medical professionals regarding the appropriate standard of care and whether the defendant breached it. Often, the plaintiff will enlist the medical professional who treated him or her after the medical malpractice incident to provide testimony regarding the appropriate way that the plaintiff’s injury or condition should have been treated.

Next, the plaintiff must show causation, which requires a plaintiff to prove that he or she would not have suffered an injury but for the emergency room professional’s negligence. Many jurisdictions require plaintiffs to prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant’s breach caused their negligence, or to prove that the defendant is 51 percent responsible for the plaintiff’s injury. This method takes into account the patient’s existing conditions and medical needs, which may have also contributed to the plaintiff’s outcome. Patients who seek care in an emergency room experience a wide variety of injuries, from flu viruses to severe traumas.

Finally, the plaintiff must provide evidence of his or her injuries and damages. In medical malpractice cases, this typically includes hospital bills, physical therapy, medications, and long-term care. Unfortunately, some emergency room mistakes result in the death of the patient. In these instances, the surviving family members may bring a wrongful death claim to recover compensation for the loss of their loved one. Each state applies different rules regarding which family members are entitled to bring a claim and the types of damages that the surviving relatives can recover.