Experienced Representation In ER Negligence Claims
There is no time for mistakes during a medical emergency. A missed diagnosis can result in serious injury or death for the person seeking treatment.
Every year, more than 141 million people visit emergency rooms. Some are critically injured or severely ill. No matter your reason for seeking care at an ER, you deserve to be treated competently. When a health care professional treating you makes an error or fails to comply with the requisite standard of care, you may have a claim for medical malpractice.
A claim for an ER error is a medical malpractice claim. In order to collect for your damages, you must prove:
- You had a provider/patient relationship with the professional you claim was negligent
- The provider was negligent; and
- You were harmed by the negligence.
At Johnstone & Gabhart, LLP, in Charleston, West Virginia, our lawyers represent people who have suffered a serious injury due to the negligence of a medical provider. If you have suffered a serious injury following admission to an emergency room, we offer a free initial consultation to discuss your case. We also represent families in cases of wrongful death.
Provider/Patient Relationship in an ER Setting
When a physician or other provider treats you at the ER , this is enough to establish a provider/patient relationship. This is generally proven by medical records that document the care provided and who provided it.
The Emergency Health Care Provider was Negligent
In order to prove negligence, you must prove the provider’s care fell below the acceptable standard of care. This is based on the care that other ER doctors would have provided in similar circumstances. Unfortunately for patients, ER physicians are granted more leeway than practitioners or specialists who see patients in their private practice offices.
For example, if you consult a neurologist about your headaches in his or her office, the standard of care may require screening tests or intensive medical testing, like an MRI or CT scan. If you go to a Charleston hospital ER complaining about your headaches, it may be within the standard of care for the ER doctor to perform a few simple tests, prescribe some pain medication and to send you home with instructions to visit a specialist for further testing and follow-up care. If you are sent home and have a stroke a few hours later, it may not amount to medical malpractice if other Charleston ER physicians say the original doctor’s treatment was within the standard of care of other ER physicians.
On the other hand, there are many instances reported every year of someone going to an ER, getting misdiagnosed and sent home, only to suffer severe consequences from an undiagnosed serious illness. The flu may really be an infection on its way to sepsis. An improperly treated cat scratch on the hand may lead to a massive infection with a risk of amputation.
If another ER physician provides an opinion that the diagnosis and treatment fell below the standard of care of other ER physicians, who would have admitted the flu patient based on the symptoms he or she presented, or would have admitted the cat scratch patient and immediately started antibiotics, you have a strong medical malpractice claim for the emergency room error.
You Were Harmed by the Negligence
Harm caused by medical errors in the emergency room takes many forms. It includes your cost of medical bills due to additional treatment, loss of your wages and earning capacity if you lost time from work, pain and suffering, and other damages that are available for medical malpractice claims.
Common Types of ER Errors
There is almost no end to the types of errors that occur in an ER, the most common types of errors that may lead to a lawsuit include:
- Failure to properly diagnose. People with headaches are sent home with pain medication when they have had, or are having, a stroke. People in the throes of a heart attack have been sent home with a diagnosis of indigestion. People have been diagnosed with flu and sent home, only to return suffering from life-threatening sepsis.
- Medication errors. This includes giving the wrong medication for a correct diagnosis. A medication may be given without realizing the patient is allergic to it. Pain medication may be prescribed when a person is really suffering from internal injuries or a stroke, or a blood clot. A busy nurse may hang the wrong solution for an IV drip.
- Failure to perform necessary diagnostic testing. This can take many forms. The wrong test may be done so the results lead to a wrong diagnosis or misdiagnosis. A wrong diagnosis may lead to failure to perform any test at all or the wrong tests.
- Discharging a patient who needs to be hospitalized. The person complaining of chest pain is diagnosed with indigestion and sent home, only to return later needing hospitalization for a heart attack, or else dies at home.
Statute of Limitations
With a few exceptions, West Virginia law requires a claim for medical malpractice to be filed within two years of the date of the injury, or of the date that the person discovers “or with the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have discovered the injury, whichever last occurs.” Under no circumstances may an action commence more than 10 years after the date of the injury.
Did The Emergency Doctor Commit Malpractice?
During an emergency room admission, the stakes are incredibly high, especially if the patient is admitted with a life-threatening condition such as stroke, heart attack or appendicitis. If the patient doesn’t receive appropriate treatment immediately, the opportunity for a complete recovery may have passed.
Not every case of injury or death following emergency room care is due to medical malpractice. Sometimes people suffer serious injuries or die even when doctors, nurses and staff do everything they are supposed to do. However, if the medical staff made errors or were negligent in your care, and you are injured as a result, you may be entitled to compensation. To recover compensation, you would have to prove that the outcome would have been different if you received appropriate care.
The following are examples of errors that should never happen in an emergency room:
- Failure to request appropriate lab tests or X-rays
- Failure to diagnose and treat a bone fracture
- Discharging a patient who is not medically stable
- Failure to review your medical records
Our attorneys work with medical experts who will review your case to determine if the providers were negligent.