Common Examples of Emergency Room Negligence

Published on Aug 21, 2020 at 8:21 am in Medical Malpractice.


When you or someone you love is experiencing a medical emergency, the last thing on your mind is the possibility that you’ll suffer more because of a negligent doctor’s decisions. When, however, the emergency is made worse because of a medical professionals actions, it’s possible medical malpractice could be involved.

Unfortunately, medical malpractice is more common in the emergency department than people realize. In order to understand why, we’ll take a look at some common examples of emergency room negligence. But first, let’s take a look at just how often events like that happen.

Emergency Medicine Malpractice Statistics

Emergency medicine is a high-risk practice. The nurses and doctors that choose to go into that area of medicine are tasked with diagnosing and treating a variety of conditions on a daily basis. Because of that high risk, malpractice claims stemming from emergency care account for nearly 20% of all malpractice claims occurring is hospitals—the majority of which involve serious disability or death.

It’s estimated that 63% of all malpractice incidents in the emergency room happen between the hours of 6 p.m. and 1 a.m. on weekends and holidays. These are generally the busiest hours for an emergency room. The second highest risk period if from midnight to 7 a.m. on weekdays.

Understanding the Risk of Negligence in the Emergency Room

There are a number of factors that increase the risk of negligence during a medical emergency. Those factors are often related to high-risk situation. Some of the most common include the following:

  • Physician shift change. Shift change is considered to be one of the most dangerous times for patients. When a physician has made a determination for a patient, but another doctor comes in and changes medications or treatment, it’s possible the patient could end up injured.
  • Language barriers. Communication is important for accurate and useful medical care. When a doctor cannot understand their patient and fails to take the necessary steps to remove the language barrier, the patient could end up with additional injuries.
  • Physician orders by telephone. Sometimes, emergency physicians defer to a consultant who have never seen a patient. When this happens, the consultant will likely forget the conversation or mix up facts.
  • Informed consent. Upon arrival at an emergency room, patients are given a number of documents to sign. Among those is the document for informed consent. Patients are required to sign this document to agree that they understand their diagnosis and consent to treatment. There are instances, however, where informed consent is not present and a patient is injured.
  • The patient with an emergency is unable to give consent. In some situations, patients are brought into the emergency room in a state where they are unable to give consent. In a true medical emergency, a physician is legally allowed to treat a patient without their consent. It’s important, however, that all doctors understand what constitutes a true medical emergency.
  • Minor not accompanied by a parent or guardian. If a minor is brought into a hospital without a parent or guardian, there are only specific situations under which they may be treated, which include being in danger of losing life, limb, or body function, seeking treatment for pregnancy or venereal disease, or being an emancipated minor. If a doctor treats an unaccompanied minor patient outside of the circumstances, malpractice may be present.
  • Unaccompanied unconscious patients. If an unconscious patient arrives in the emergency room without a companion of some kind, there is a greater risk for malpractice—particularly in the area of informed consent.
  • Treatment of incompetent adults. Patients deemed medically incompetent may only be treated without a court order if they are in danger of losing life, limb, or bodily function. If those situations do not apply and a doctor harms a patient, they may be able to be held liable for malpractice.

In the event you experienced a high-risk situation and believe your medical provider brought further injury or harm to you, it’s important to understand how to protect yourself and your future.

Seek Legal Guidance From Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC

If you believe you’ve been a victim of medical malpractice after a visit to the emergency room, it’s important to understand your legal rights and options. A med mal event has the potential to result in economic and noneconomic losses like medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Filing a personal injury claim, however, has the potential to help you recover those damages.

Because medical malpractice claims are among the most complex personal injury claims, it’s important to work with an experienced and resourceful law firm. The attorneys at Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC are prepared to guide you through the process, hold the negligent physician or hospital accountable, and ensure you receive the compensation you need to get your life back in order.

Filing a claim takes time, so it’s best to get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible. Once you schedule your free case evaluation with us, we’ll review what you’ve been through and help you determine how best to proceed. Contact us today for more information.

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