Emergency Room Negligence Attorney
For many patients with serious injury and illness, the local hospital emergency room, or ER, may provide the fastest and most effective course of treatment. However, many ERs in Indiana and other parts of the country have problems with overcrowding and understaffing. These problems can lead to long wait times for patients and rushed examinations by doctors and nurses. In turn, patients can face a heightened risk of suffering serious harm due to medical malpractice.
In this article, we will focus on the state of emergency rooms in Indiana and elsewhere and the issue of emergency room negligence. We will also discuss what you can do if you believe that you or a loved one has suffered harm due to medical malpractice in an ER.
Emergency Room Statistics
More than 141 million people visit hospital emergency rooms each year in the United States, according to ER statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nearly one-third of those patients need treatment for injuries. For instance, the patient may have been involved in a car accident, suffered a slip and fall or ingested a poisonous substance. Emergency Room malpractice is not uncommon.
The CDC reports that the most common reasons for ER visits are:
- Chest pains
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Respiratory ailments and shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Broken bones
- Head, neck, and back injuries
- Severe cuts and puncture wounds
- Unexplained weakness, dizziness and pain.
Unfortunately, the treatment that patients receive may fail to meet acceptable standards. For instance, in 2014, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) gave Indiana a “D+” grade in its state-by-state report card on the country’s emergency care environment. The organization cited problems with “quality and patient safety environment” as one of the reasons for the near-failing grade. The country’s ERs, overall, also received a “D+.”
Medical errors have increased dramatically over the last decade. They are now the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., according to a 2016 study by Johns Hopkins Medical Center. Mistakes in emergency rooms contribute to this high fatality rate.
How Does Emergency Room Negligence Occur?
Overcrowding and understaffing in emergency rooms can affect the care and treatment that patients receive. A patient’s condition may worsen due to a long delay in getting seen by a doctor or nurse, or a doctor or nurse may rush through an assessment of the patient’s condition and miss important symptoms. Emergency room malpractice is not uncommon.
Some common emergency room mistakes that occur are:
- Administrative errors, which can involve dangerous mix-ups in patient charts
- Misdiagnosis of symptoms due to rushed exams and incomplete medical histories
- Diagnostic testing errors due to machine malfunctions, lack of training and the failure to correctly read results
- Medication errors, which may involve prescribing drugs that have dangerous interactions or giving the wrong dosage
- Treatment errors such as performing the wrong procedure or performing the right procedure on the wrong patient
- Failure to reduce the risk of infection by taking simple steps such as washing hands before seeing a patient.
Hospitals admit only about 10 percent of the people who visit ERs, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. Sadly, many patients suffer harm because the ER should have admitted them. The ER may discharge a patient without full knowledge of the patient’s condition, an incorrect diagnosis or inadequate treatment. Those mistakes can carry serious ramifications.
The Problem of Misdiagnoses in Emergency Rooms
Misdiagnosis serves as a leading cause of patient injuries in Indiana and across the country. It is especially a concern in emergency rooms. According to Everyday Health, the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions are:
- Heart attacks and cardiac arrest, which carry symptoms that are similar to other, less serious health issues
- Strokes, which often present easy-to-miss symptoms or symptoms associated with alcohol intoxication
- Aortic dissection, or a tear in the wall of the aortic artery leading to the heart, which doctors misdiagnose in more than one-third of patients
- Pulmonary embolism, a fatal condition that generally arises from blood clots and can cause chest pain and shortness of breath
- Cancer, which can spread if not promptly diagnosed and treated
- Lyme disease, which causes fatigue and widespread joint pain
- Depression, which will be fatal if a patient becomes suicidal.
In its report card, the ACEP recommended that emergency care providers in Indiana focus on increasing the number of medical specialists in ERs and on developing a uniform system for dealing with stroke and heart attack patients. If followed, those recommendations could help to reduce the risk of misdiagnoses in the state’s emergency rooms.
How Our ER Malpractice Lawyer Can Help
If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered harm due to emergency room negligence, you should consult with an experienced ER malpractice lawyer without delay. The lawyer can take many steps to protect your legal rights and pursue compensation that you are entitled to receive for the harm that you and your family have suffered. For example, the lawyer can:
- Obtain statements from doctors, nurses and other hospital staff involved in the ER treatment
- Request and analyze hospital records and admissions paperwork
- Consult with medical experts about the care and treatment involved in your case
- File all necessary paperwork in a timely manner
- Prepare your case for a trial while, at the same time, seeking a full and fair settlement of your medical malpractice claim.
In cases that involve ER negligence, the hospital, doctor, nurse and staff may all be held accountable for your damages. However, many medical care providers challenge malpractice claims or contest the amount of damages that patients deserve. In those cases, skilled legal representation can make a meaningful difference.
Contact the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson For a Free Consultation
To learn more about emergency room malpractice cases, please feel free to contact the Indianapolis medical malpractice attorney at the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson. We can provide a free and confidential consultation today.