When we have a serious injury or illness that requires immediate medical attention, we trust that emergency room nurses, doctors, surgeons, and other staff to make sure we get the care we need. Unfortunately, sometimes errors happen which result in preventable complications. Emergency rooms are chaotic environments, as patients with a variety of severe injuries are moving in and out 24 hours a day. Understaffing, overworking, and just plain carelessness can all lead to potentially life-threatening complications. When a patient suffers unnecessary harm due to medical negligence in the emergency room, it’s important to seek accountability from the people who failed to provide proper care.
How Common Are Medical Errors In The ER?
In most cases, emergency room staff does all that they can to ensure their patients get the care they need as soon as possible. But unfortunately, the fast-paced and hectic nature of an emergency room creates opportunities for medical negligence. In a 23-year study by the Society for Academic Emergency medicine, researchers found records for 11,529 medical malpractice claims related to emergency room negligence – this works out to over 500 claims each year. The total liability for these claims was about $664 million, or an average of $57,593 per claim.
As in most cases of medical malpractice, the true number of medical mistakes in the ER is likely much higher, as some patients don’t file malpractice claims.
Types Of Emergency Room Negligence
According to a study by the Doctor’s Company, the nation’s leading malpractice insurer, emergency room physicians are more likely to be sued for medical malpractice than other physicians. This is because these physicians are often treating unfamiliar patients who have a wide range of injuries, illnesses, and health problems. The study also examined 332 emergency medicine malpractice claims from between 2007-2013, which revealed the four most common forms of negligence claims in malpractice lawsuits:
- Diagnosis errors like failure to diagnose, delayed diagnosis, or making an incorrect diagnosis accounted for 57 percent of claims
- Improper management of treatment, such as failure to properly stabilize a patient’s neck following an accident involving head or neck trauma which can lead to paralysis (13 percent)
- Improper performance of a treatment or procedure, such as intubation of the respiratory tract or poor suturing technique (5 percent)
- Failure to order medication, for example, the proper therapy wasn’t ordered for a stroke within recommended time frames (3 percent)
The study also uncovered the top six factors contributing to patient injuries in emergency medicine:
- Patient assessment issues – Examples include failure to order diagnostic tests or premature discharge (52 percent).
- Patient factors – Patient factors that contribute to ER injuries include physical characteristics (like morbid obesity) that caused a delay in care, failure to adhere with follow-up calls or appointments, and failure to adhere to the treatment plan (21 percent).
- Communication among providers – Such as failure to communicate, failure to review the medical records, or poor professional relationships (17 percent).
- Communication between patient/family and healthcare providers – Such as poor rapport with the patient, inadequate patient education for follow-up instructions, and language barriers (14 percent).
- Insufficient or lack of documentation – Such as failure to record information or failure to review the medical records (13 percent).
- Workflow and workload – Examples include inadequate staffing or long wait times for patients with chest pain or abnormal vital signs (12 percent).
According to these statistics, approximately 79 percent of patient injuries in emergency medicine are caused by medical negligence. Only 21 percent are related to patient factors.
Bronx Man Paralyzed After Two-Hour ER Wait
Let’s take a look at a real-world example of how emergency room negligence can have devastating consequences. In September 2014, 54-year-old Anthony Medlin was rushed to the emergency room at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx after being hit by a car. However, ER staff failed to read the report filed by the ambulance crew, mistakenly believing that he only had a minor facial injury. Because of this error, they decided there was no rush to treat Medlin.
Being struck by a car can result in severe injuries, and requires an immediate full body exam by a doctor. Instead, Medlin was left to wait for over two hours. By the time he was finally examined, he was paralyzed from the waist down. Medical personnel rushed him into surgery, but to no avail. Medlin’s family has filed a lawsuit against the city for this delayed treatment.
Filing A Malpractice Lawsuit
If you were denied proper and prompt medical care in a New York City emergency room and suffered preventable complications as a result, it’s important to know that you have rights. A medical malpractice lawsuit can help account for the medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering, and other difficulties you’ve faced because of a lack of proper treatment. To find out more about how you can hold negligent medical professionals accountable and get the financial support you need, get in touch with our NYC medical malpractice lawyers today for a free consultation.