Emergency Room Mistakes: When to File a Lawsuit

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Illnesses and injuries happen every day, with many of them requiring a trip to the emergency department of a hospital. When you have an illness or injury that needs urgent care, you depend on the doctors and nurses to perform the right procedures and provide the right treatments to improve your health. 

When a medical practitioner acts in a negligent manner, even in the emergency department, you may be able to file a lawsuit for any damages you incur as a result of that negligence. In this article, we’ll cover the basics that explain when filing a malpractice suit against the ER is a good idea.

Emergency Department Environment

By nature, the emergency department is a chaotic environment. Patients did not expect to be seeing a doctor, but now they are faced with medical treatment due to a violent act, severe illness, or accident that has led them to seek immediate care. Because many injuries and illnesses can be traumatic, a doctor may not be able to completely review medical records because you needed treatment quickly. 

This is why emergency departments are often given more leeway when they make a mistake than your family doctor would be. That does not mean, however, they are protected against all liability should you receive substandard care.

Doctor-Patient Relationship

When it comes to your family doctor, and even specialists you may see regularly, there is an established doctor-patient relationship. This is probably not the case when you visit the emergency department, as you may see a doctor you have never seen before. This does not mean, however, that the medical professionals can ignore established protocol that any other reasonable doctor would have followed.

Proving Negligence

In order to prove medical malpractice, you will need to prove that the medical professionals in the emergency department were negligent in some way. This can be difficult in an emergency situation, as the standard of care expected in an emergency department is often different from the standard of care required of your family doctor in their office. 

If you visit your family doctor, they will likely order tests, such as lab work, an MRI, or a CT scan, some of which may take several days or weeks for results to be determined. In an emergency situation, the doctor may not have days or weeks to determine what is wrong. However, they still must order tests that will diagnose what is wrong and failure to do so could be deemed negligent.

Suffer Harm

Simply knowing that an emergency room professional made a mistake is not enough to file a lawsuit, however. You must actually suffer harm because of negligence. This harm could be an additional surgery that may not have been needed had the emergency department done what they were supposed to do, a misdiagnosis, or extended pain and suffering. 

For example, if you come to the emergency room with abdominal pain and an emergency room doctor prescribes medication and sends you home without running tests, you may be able to receive compensation if your appendix bursts later that evening, leading to severe complications. This is because you actually suffered harm due to the emergency room doctor failing to run the proper tests that may have discovered your appendicitis.

If you believe you have been injured by an emergency department’s negligence, you need to speak to a medical malpractice lawyer who will review your case and guide you through the process. You may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering as well as other costs you incurred as a result of your injury.

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