A hospital’s emergency room is often a stressful and chaotic place to be treated. Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers in emergency rooms must regularly make high-stakes, rapid-fire decisions with potentially life-altering implications. Sometimes those decisions are the wrong ones, and patients get harmed.
If you or someone you love has suffered needlessly due to an ER error or malpractice incident, the emergency room error attorneys in Philadelphia at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. are ready to help. We have recovered billions of dollars on behalf of injured Pennsylvanians. Contact us today for a free consultation so we can explain how we can help seek justice and accountability on your behalf.
Why Do Errors Occur During Emergency Room Visits?
Emergency rooms are high-stress environments that often suffer from understaffing and overwork. Perhaps unsurprisingly, CBS Philadelphia estimates that between 5 and 10 percent of all ER visits result in medical errors. Misdiagnosis is by far the leading cause of these errors.
A study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine reviewed 122 closed medical malpractice claims alleging delayed or missed diagnosis in emergency rooms. Its authors found that a hefty 65 percent of claims were the result of emergency room (ER) diagnosis errors that resulted in harm to patients. Among these ER diagnosis error claims, 48 percent involved “serious harm” to patients, and 39 percent resulted in death.
The leading causes and contributing factors to the breakdown of diagnostic procedures in the affected ERs included:
- Failure to order appropriate diagnostic tests (58 percent)
- Inadequate physical examination or medical history review (42 percent)
- Incorrect interpretation of diagnostic tests (37 percent)
- Failure to request necessary consultations (33 percent)
- Mistakes in judgment (87 percent)
- Limited technical competence or knowledge (58 percent)
- Lapses in memory or vigilance (41 percent)
- Patient-related factors (34 percent)
- Lack of adequate supervision (30 percent)
- Improper handoff procedures (24 percent)
- Excessive workloads (23 percent)
Common Medical Errors in Emergency Rooms
Many ER medical malpractice cases stem from diagnostic errors. Here are some of the most common examples of medical errors that occur in Philadelphia ERs:
- Misdiagnosis – Arriving at the incorrect diagnosis for a condition
- Failure to diagnose – Neglecting to diagnose a condition at all
- Delayed diagnosis – Failing to diagnose a condition in a timely manner
- Delayed treatment – Failing to treat a condition in a timely manner
- Failure to treat – Neglecting to treat a condition at all
- Triage errors – Failing to evaluate ER patients properly upon arrival
- Failure to monitor – Neglecting to observe known patient conditions properly
- Medication errors – Prescribing or administering incorrect drugs or dosages
- Transfusion errors – Using contaminated or wrong-type blood for transfusions
- Inadequate sterilization – Failing to sterilize surfaces or instruments properly
- Paramedic errors – Failing to follow EMT protocol or proper ambulance routes
- Anesthetic errors – Administering too much, too little, or the wrong type of anesthesia
- Surgical errors – Failing to observe proper surgical and post-operative procedures
- Record-keeping errors – Neglecting to keep appropriate ER patient records
- Poor administration – Failing to hire or screen ER doctors and staff properly
The Consequences of ER Mistakes
An emergency room error can negatively impact nearly every facet of a patient’s life. Here are just a few of the types of preventable, life-changing consequences patients experience due to ER mistakes in Philadelphia:
- New health issues – If an ER patient’s medical condition goes undiagnosed and untreated, they risk developing new health issues in two ways. First, their original condition may worsen unnecessarily without the proper care. Second, unnecessary treatment may have adverse side effects that cause new medical issues.
- Longer recovery times – When ER staff fail to diagnose or treat a patient’s original condition properly, their failure often leads to longer recovery times due to the increased severity of the condition and the delayed onset of treatment.
- Additional medical expenses – New medical conditions and more time spent in recovery mean additional, unnecessary healthcare expenses due to extended hospital stays and multiple follow-up visits.
- Long-term disabilities – Lack of adequate treatment can lead to long-term complications that cause a patient to miss time at work or even be permanently unable to return to the work they used to perform.
- Psychosocial difficulties – An unexpected injury or illness can impact a patient’s life in many intangible ways. Many ER malpractice victims suffer from depression, insomnia, and other mental health issues. The extreme stress and lifestyle changes accompanying malpractice injuries can also take a toll on a patient’s social interactions, which can compound other health issues.
- Wrongful death – Tragically, some emergency room errors cause the death of patients who have no recourse to fight back against the negligence demonstrated by healthcare providers. In these situations, the surviving spouse, children, and parents can seek accountability through a wrongful death claim.
Proving Liability for Emergency Room Malpractice
It is difficult to prove liability in any medical malpractice case because of the high burden of proof. This is especially true in ER malpractice cases due to emergency medicine’s specialized and fast-paced nature. Generally, you must demonstrate three key elements to prove liability in a Philadelphia ER malpractice case:
- A provider-patient relationship existed at the time – This is typically the easiest element to prove because emergency rooms establish provider-patient relationships whenever they examine or treat someone. You can present ER admittance or treatment records to demonstrate that such a relationship existed when the malpractice occurred.
- ER staff failed to meet appropriate standards of care – Next, you must establish that the physician or other ER staff failed to meet appropriate medical standards of care. The medical standard of care is the level of care a similarly competent and trained healthcare professional would have provided in the same circumstances. Proving this element is tricky and typically requires expert testimony from an independent medical professional.
- You were harmed due to the ER’s negligence – Finally, you’ll need to show that a medical error or some other form of ER malpractice directly contributed to injuries or illnesses you would not have otherwise sustained. Testimony from expert witnesses is often necessary to prove this element, too.
For wrongful death claims, you will also have to show that the negligence caused your loved one’s death and you are the patient’s spouse, parent, or child with legal standing to sue.
Types of Compensation for Emergency Room Errors
Depending on the circumstances, you could be entitled to compensation for the following malpractice-related losses:
- The costs of any medical care necessitated by the malpractice
- Incidental medical expenses, such as the costs of traveling to appointments
- The value of reduced household income due to missed time at work
- Losses in projected earning capacity, if you suffer permanent malpractice injuries
- Subjective losses, such as your pain, suffering, and reduced quality of life
In the event of wrongful death, the surviving family members can seek compensation for:
- Reasonable hospital, nursing, and medical bills
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Administration expenses caused by the death
Contact Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. to Discuss Your Case with a Skilled Medical Malpractice Attorney in Philadelphia
The emergency room error lawyers in Philadelphia at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. are ready to help if you’ve been harmed by an emergency room error. Contact us for a free consultation and learn more about your next steps.