More than 120 million people visit emergency rooms in the United States every year, and more than 37 million of those visitors seek help after some injury. Some patients find themselves taken to an ER after a car accident or another accident that occurs in public, and others ask for help due to colds and other simple conditions. While most patients expect to get the help that they need, mistakes and errors in the ER can lead to future problems.
Types of ER Errors
Many of the errors that occur in the ER relate to misdiagnoses. As doctors may only spend five minutes or less with patients, they must quickly identify the problem. This frees up the room and keeps the wait time down. Doctors may not order the proper tests for patients; they may ignore some of the symptoms that patients have, or they might ignore patients who do not have health insurance. There are also situations where doctors order medications without looking at a patient history first, which may leave the patient taking a drug that interacts with other drugs he or she is on.
Reasons for Emergency Room Mistakes
Emergency rooms request that patients give them their social security numbers and some other basic information when checking into the hospital. Patients then receive a band that they wear on their wrists that identify them. Despite using those measures, errors can still occur. Doctors only have a limited amount of time to spend with patients, and some larger hospitals place medical assistants and students in charge of caring for patients. This can lead to students misdiagnosing patients or administering the wrong medications.
Good Samaritan Laws
Good Samaritan laws refer to laws put in place by individual states that hold doctors accountable for helping during emergency situations. The laws essentially state that any medical professional within a reasonable distance from an emergency situation must help those in need. Patients cannot file lawsuits against doctors for helping outside of a hospital or medical facility. Even if the patient saw the doctor for professional reasons before the incident, the patient cannot charge that doctor with medical malpractice later. These cases will often go through civil courts.
Types of Emergency Room Lawsuits
Failing to treat a patient in need is one type of malpractice suit that patients can bring to a hospital. Public hospitals that receive funding from the federal government agree to treat any patient who comes through the doors. Those facilities cannot turn away patients of a specific age, race or gender, and the hospitals cannot turn down a patient who does now have insurance. Attorneys can also help patients file lawsuits in regards to other cases. ER medical malpractice can include cases where doctors did not order tests and left patients untreated; the hospital left patients with severe medical conditions waiting for help and a doctor deliberately ignored certain symptoms to make a diagnosis.
Contacting a Lawyer
Anyone who feels they have a valid complaint against an emergency room must show some proof as to his or her claims. That it why many patients agree to work with a lawyer to gather that evidence before going to court. Hospitals have insurance that pays out in malpractice cases, and most insurance providers prefer settling out of court. Lawyers will help their clients decide if they would rather resolve the case and end things sooner or keep working on a case that might go to trial at a later date.