Emergency rooms are some of the most stressful working environments in the world. Paramedics, first responders, and emergency room personnel must act quickly and competently to address immediate medical issues. Hospital employees work notoriously demanding shifts and long hours, but they are still expected to do no harm to the patients they treat. Mistakes happen, but if negligent actions cause them, victims need to be aware of their rights.
Types of Errors in the Emergency Room
Due to the rushed nature of the emergency room, health care professionals sometimes make mistakes when determining what is wrong with patients. Misdiagnosis is the most common emergency room error, accounting for most medical malpractice suits that begin with an emergency room visit; however, there are several other errors that may result in a malpractice suit against the emergency room personnel:
- Neglectful actions from emergency medical technicians and paramedics. This may include failure to administer proper medications or life-saving techniques en route to the hospital.
- Incorrect use of medications or anesthesia. Despite the speed demanded by the emergency room environment, doctors cannot rush to medicate their patients without considering their current conditions and medical histories.
- Errors in surgeries. Triage surgery must be performed quickly, but doctors who fail to sterilize instruments or leave instruments inside patients after surgery endanger those patients’ lives.
- An unreasonably delayed diagnosis. Doctors must be able to identify their patients’ needs quickly and accurately. A doctor may make mistakes even when using reasonable skill and caution, and those individuals most likely would be protected from a malpractice suit as long as they could demonstrate that they took every reasonable precaution.
- Failure to identify the victim’s medical issue. Some conditions are difficult to detect, and doctors must consider every possibility with a difficult diagnosis.
- Botched blood transfusions. A patient requiring a blood transfusion must receive the correct blood type in the correct amount, and the transfusion must be performed safely in a sanitary environment.
Due to the nature of the emergency room, several laws protect first responders who make mistakes when acting in good faith but made every effort to provide adequate care. There are also laws that ensure that every emergency room patient is offered effective treatment, regardless of their insurance or ability to pay for emergency medical treatment. The Emergency Treatment and Labor Act of 1986 (EMTALA) ensures that emergency rooms cannot refuse care to someone who requires immediate medical intervention, simply because they have no insurance or cannot cover the cost of treatment.
Proving Negligence and Suing for Damages
Emergency room lawsuits will largely center on medical malpractice laws, and anyone suing for malpractice must prove that negligent practices caused their injuries. In order to pursue a medical malpractice case successfully, the victim must prove several factors:
- There was a patient/doctor relationship between the defendant and the victim.
- The defendant owed the patient a duty of care to act with reasonable skill in their medical treatment.
- The defendant breached this duty in some way. The victim must be able to demonstrate that any other reasonably competent and skillful doctor would not have made the same error in the same situation.
- This breach of duty injured the victim.
Emergency room doctors, nurses, and specialists need to act quickly to address their patients’ immediate medical issues, but they must do so without sacrificing accuracy for speed. Conversely, they must be able to respond to their patients’ conditions in a timely manner to avoid causing prolonged pain or more-extensive injuries.
If you’ve been injured or required subsequent medical procedures after an emergency room visit in Springfield, Mo., you may be entitled to claim damages. When a doctor, nurse, specialist, EMT, or first responder does not exercise reasonable skill or caution in treating patients, they run the risk of causing even more damage.
At the law offices of Douglas, Haun & Heidemann, we believe that health care professionals need to be responsible in the emergency room. They must act quickly to address the dire medical needs of their patients, but do so without cutting corners, taking unnecessary risks, or endangering their patients. We believe that medical professionals who act negligently and harm their patients must be held accountable. Get in touch with our legal experts in Springfield or Bolivar if you have a case you’d like us to review, or if you have any concerns about a recent emergency room visit.