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8 Common Emergency Room Errors

Chicago is home to some of the best emergency departments (ED) in the country. However, even the most skilled emergency physicians (EP) can make catastrophic mistakes. In the worst-case scenarios, these emergency room errors can lead to severe harm and even death.

An emergency department is a very challenging, high-pressure environment. Medical professionals are forced to work at a fast pace, often having to make life-or-death decisions at a moment’s notice. But having taken an oath to “do no harm,” medical professionals are expected to do everything possible to avoid making harmful or negligent mistakes.

If an ED employee’s negligence causes injury to their patient, this may be considered medical malpractice and a legal claim can be filed. However, these cases are notoriously difficult to prove and would require the legal expertise of a medical malpractice lawyer.

If you or someone you know suffered an injury due to these common emergency room errors, consider speaking to an attorney to determine if you have a medical malpractice case.

Emergency room errors, emergency room sign at hospital

In This Article:

    1. Misdiagnosis
    2. Improper Performance of a Procedure
    3. Delayed Treatment
    4. Medication Errors
    5. Improper Discharge
    6. Testing/Lab Mistakes
    7. Removal of Patient For Lack of Insurance or Finances
    8. Failure to Follow Up

Common Types of Emergency Room Errors

The most common types of emergency room errors that can be considered medical malpractice include:

1. Misdiagnosis

There are an estimated 130 million ED visits in the United States per year. Among these visits, 5.7% are misdiagnosed. That means around 7.4 million people receive the wrong diagnosis when they visit the ED each year making misdiagnosis one of the most common types of emergency room errors.

The conditions that are most commonly misdiagnosed include the following:

  • stroke
  • spinal cord compression/injury
  • myocardial infarction
  • venous thromboembolism
  • aortic aneurysm/dissection

Misdiagnoses can happen for any number of reasons. ED staff are often crammed for time and operate under significant pressure. With everything moving quickly, EPs may fail to consider all the possible options, forget to order tests, or simply skip over valuable information. Unfortunately, this type of emergency room error can cause serious injury to the patient.

Ninety percent of emergency room malpractice claims associated with misdiagnosis are related to failures in decision-making, reasoning, or clinical assessment.

2. Improper Performance of a Procedure

The emergency department is unpredictable. It’s difficult to foresee what injuries or illnesses one can see in just one day. Doctors,  nurses, and other ED staff are expected to handle any and every medical situation that comes through the door. However, EPs may not be experts in every procedure they are tasked with. With little to no experience in some areas of practice, mistakes are much more likely to happen.

These types of emergency room errors can include:

  • wrong-site surgery
  • incorrectly administered stitches
  • incorrect surgical procedure
  • poorly executed surgical procedure
  • improper handling of medical devices

3. Delayed Treatment

Delayed treatment in emergency rooms can have severe consequences for patients, potentially leading to worsened conditions and even fatalities. The busy nature of emergency rooms often contributes to these delays, as medical staff may struggle to attend to patients promptly. This issue is particularly concerning for certain types of injuries or medical emergencies where time is of the essence.

When treatment is delayed, there is an increased risk of complications, progression of the underlying condition, and a higher likelihood of adverse outcomes. Healthcare facilities must address this issue by implementing strategies to reduce wait times and ensure timely access to care.

4. Medication Errors

Another common emergency room error is when doctors or nurses mistakenly prescribe the wrong medication. Medication errors can include:

  • administering the wrong drug
  • failing to provideany medication at all.
  • administering or prescribing an improper dosage

These types of emergency room errors can also happen if a doctor’s handwriting is illegible or there was a communication error that resulted from the chaos of the ED. A medication error in the emergency room is only considered malpractice if a doctor-patient relationship was established, it caused injury or harm, and the medical professional did not meet the standard of care.

5. Improper Discharge

A common problem EDs face is not having enough room for every patient. As a result, there may be pressure to discharge patients as soon as possible to free up space for other patients in need of medical care. However, the consequences of this can be catastrophic if a patient is improperly discharged.

A patient can be improperly discharged if:

  • they were sent home before receiving the care they need
  • they were not given the proper information to get better or continue treatment at home.
  • they were discharged before they could be properly diagnosed

An improper discharge can result in the worsening of a patient’s condition and even death.

6. Testing/Lab Mistakes

Doctors and nurses are not the only ED staff involved with patient care. To make a diagnosis, doctors often need to complete several tests to confirm or rule out possible conditions. When a doctor orders a test, the request is sent to the medical technicians who test the samples.

Within this testing process, any number of emergency room errors can be done such as:

  • improper testing
  • miscommunication if test results
  • not ordering enough tests
  • misinterpretation of test results
  • ordering the wrong tests

7. Removal of Patient for Lack of Insurance or Finances

To make an appointment to see a doctor, you often have to provide information on your insurance and ability to pay. However, emergency departments are held to a different standard.

Thanks to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), hospital emergency departments are required to treat anyone who comes in with an emergency medical condition (EMC). This includes active labor. The hospital must continue to offer stabilizing treatment and if it is unable to provide the appropriate care, it must transfer the patient to another hospital that can.

In short, hospitals cannot refuse treatment of a patient with an EMC because they have no insurance or may be unable to pay. Patients with an EMC who were refused care for these reasons and whose condition worsened or resulted in death may consider contacting an attorney to discuss filing a medical malpractice claim.

8. Failure to Follow Up

Care does not always end after a patient is discharged from the emergency room. Doctors are still responsible for providing follow-up treatment. That can include checking up for infection after surgery or prescribing medication for necessary treatments. This type of emergency room error can also lead to injury or even death and is often considered to be a form of medical malpractice.

Who is Liable For Emergency Room Errors?

Doctors and nurses are not the only ones who can be liable for emergency room errors. As mentioned, an emergency room error can occur at any point in the process of providing care. Other parties who can be responsible for these errors include:

  • medical technicians
  • drug manufacturers
  • equipment manufacturers
  • hospital administrators
  • medical assistants

When filing a medical malpractice claim, all negligent parties must be named. A medical malpractice lawyer will have the expertise needed to track down all employees involved with the emergency room error that caused injury or death. That’s why it is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible so they have the time to build your case.

Contact Disparti Law Group Accident & Injury Lawyers About Emergency Room Errors

At Disparti Law Group Accident & Injury Lawyers, we truly care about fighting for those harmed by negligent medical professionals. We acknowledge the betrayal and lack of trust one might feel after sustaining an injury caused by an emergency room error.

Let us fight for you or your loved one to be compensated fairly so you can go on healing from this experience both physically and emotionally.

Schedule your FREE consultation to discuss if you should file a medical malpractice claim for an emergency room error. Call (312) 600-6000 to speak with someone today.

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The Disparti Law Group Accident & Injury Lawyers is one of the most successful law firms serving the greater Chicago and Tampa areas. As the leader in Injury, Disability, Workers’ Comp, and Employment Law, with more than $1 Billion in recoveries, The Disparti Law Group Accident & Injury Lawyers has been named One of the Most Influential Law Firms in America by Trial Lawyer Magazine.

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