Emergency medical situations often require immediate decisions and quick responses that can lead to misdiagnosis, medication errors, mismanagement of medical tests and other acts that often exacerbate a patient’s current condition or cause a completely new medical issue. In some cases, significant injury, illness or death is a result.
(Article continues below Infographic)
Top Causes of Malpractice in the ER
The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) reports that approximately 136 million people visit emergency rooms across the nation each year.
- In about 81 percent of cases, patients are discharged, and in many situations they are sent home without receiving thorough testing or extensive evaluation of their conditions. Only around 16 percent of ER patients are admitted to the hospital for further treatment. Since emergency medical staff focus primarily on procedures that stabilize their patients, serious, and sometimes life-threatening conditions are sometimes mistakenly overlooked. In fact, a recent study revealed that about 30 percent of malpractice lawsuits that were related to emergency rooms involved misdiagnosis and another 20 percent were due to failure to diagnose.
- Understaffing in emergency medical departments is a growing concern throughout many hospitals in the United States. As the number of ER patients continues to rise and staffing shortages remain, many patients who require immediate medical treatment within 1 to 14 minutes are forced to wait dangerously long amounts of time for care. According to ACEP, these long waits can result in worsening conditions and more severe injuries. Sometimes permanent injury or death is the consequence. When emergency room staff fails to recognize a critical condition or fails to provide immediate treatment and the patient’s condition worsens as a result, the hospital may be able to be held liable for damages.
- Hospitals that receive funding from Medicare are required to abide by the rules set forth by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). Under this federal law, patients cannot be refused treatment regardless of their inability to pay. In many cases, however, “patient dumping” occurs (especially in private hospitals) and patients are forced to seek medical treatment at other facilities which delays diagnosis and proper medical care. When a patient is turned away from a hospital without first being evaluated and stabilized, the hospital can be held liable for damages.
Individuals who are victims of medical malpractice or negligence in emergency rooms can often receive compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, and more.