Emergency room personnel work in fast-paced environments filled with patients experiencing serious and life-threatening conditions. Although this can be very demanding and stressful, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers must treat all patients at the accepted professional level of care. Unfortunately, not all do.
Some medical personnel provide substandard treatment, putting the lives of those they are supposed to be caring for at risk. When an error in the ER is more than an honest mistake and causes harm to a patient, the injured party may pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit. Taking legal action allows the individual to recover compensation for damages resulting from the healthcare professional’s negligence.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is more than a mistake made by a healthcare worker. It involves an injury caused to a patient because a doctor, nurse, or other professional was negligent (either through acts or omissions) when treating a patient.
Negligence in a medical malpractice case means that the healthcare professional:
- Owed a duty of care to the patient: This is established when a professional relationship exists between the patient and the healthcare provider. It means that the patient has gone to the provider to treat a medical condition.
- Breached the duty of care: A healthcare provider breaches their duty if the treatment they provide falls below professional standards.
- Caused injury because of the breach: The healthcare provider’s misconduct must have caused the patient to suffer harm, which could mean that the condition they sought treatment for worsened or they sustained a new injury.
- Caused damages: The patient must also have incurred expenses and losses because of their injury.
What Is the Standard Level of Care in an Emergency Room?
The term “standard level of care” refers to the accepted norms of a profession. In the medical field, it generally means the type of care and treatment a reasonable and prudent healthcare professional would provide in given circumstances. When a doctor, nurse, or other medical provider falls below the standard, they could be considered negligent.
The healthcare field is highly specialized and incredibly nuanced, especially when it comes to emergency rooms. Because of the quick decisions and actions ER personnel must take, it is difficult to precisely define what it means to provide a standard level of care. For that reason, some mistakes might not rise to the definition of medical malpractice.
Thus, when bringing a medical malpractice claim resulting from an injury sustained in an ER, plaintiffs must often rely on various methods to prove the treating physician, nurse, or other worker was negligent.
Some of these methods include:
- Calling upon an expert to explain the intricacies of the field
- Referring to textbooks and journals citing ER standards of care
- Presenting published medical guidelines discussing the norms of the practice
What Emergency Room Errors Could Lead to a Medical Malpractice Case?
As noted earlier, not all ER errors may give rise to a medical malpractice case. That said, if the medical professional made a mistake that a similarly situated provider would not have, the injured patient might have grounds for legal action.
ER errors that could constitute medical malpractice include, but are not limited to:
- Diagnostic errors: The treating physician might not have accurately assessed the patient's symptoms or correctly read the test results. Because of this, they may have given a misdiagnosis.
- Treatment errors: The healthcare professional might have delayed or prescribed the wrong treatment, causing the patient’s condition to worsen.
- Communication errors: Medical care providers might have failed to ensure that all personnel working with a certain patient were aware of allergies, sensitivities, adverse health conditions, or other issues that could affect the patient's care. Or a doctor might have given the wrong instructions to a nurse.
- Premature discharge: An ER doctor might have failed to fully assess a patient's condition or run additional tests, causing them to release the patient too early.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
If you or someone you love was injured because of an ER professional’s negligence, you might be entitled to file a claim against the responsible party. By taking legal action, you may recover compensation for economic and noneconomic damages such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Pursuing a lawsuit against an ER worker can be difficult, as you must prove that their substandard level of care led to your injury. A lawyer can help build and present your case.
Discuss your situation with one of our Kansas City lawyers by calling Bertram & Graf, L.L.C. at (888) 398-2277 or contacting us online.