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Can Malpractice Occur in the Emergency Room?

Emergency RoomAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 141 million emergency room visits each year in the United States. This translates to nearly 390,000 emergency department visits every single day. The nature of an emergency department means that the vast majority of patients seen are experiencing some type of fairly major health concern—major enough, at least, that they could not wait to schedule an appointment with their family doctor. It also means that there is a great deal of emphasis placed by the hospital staff on the speed of patient treatment. Unfortunately, rushed treatment can lead to mistakes and, in some cases, actionable medical negligence.

An Intense Atmosphere

There is absolutely no question that emergency department staff, including physicians, nurses, and support personnel, are often overworked, underpaid, and largely underappreciated. They frequently work long hours, seeing dozens of patients in a single shift. To make matters even more complicated, emergency room patients come looking for immediate answers, which means that ER doctors are under pressure to diagnose each patient quickly so they can begin treatment.

Emergency room staff also face the additional challenge of essentially starting from scratch with each patient they see. Consider this: When you visit your family doctor, the doctor is familiar with you as a patient and is generally aware of your health and medical history, as well as your lifestyle. This allows your doctor to establish a reasonable starting point for addressing your current problem. An ER doctor often has virtually nothing to go on, and he or she must attempt to gather the necessary information while trying to diagnose and treat the patient.

Common ER Mistakes

Given the fast-paced, high-intensity atmosphere of the emergency department, it is easy to see how the staff might be prone to making mistakes. Some of the most common emergency room errors include:

  • Improper testing, including ordering the wrong tests or failing to order certain tests;
  • Triage decisions that make patients wait too long;
  • Poor communication among staff members;
  • Inadequate monitoring of patients;
  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis;
  • Laboratory mistakes;
  • Discharging patients too soon; and
  • Failure to identify potential problems such as medication allergies.

It is important to understand that not every mistake made in the emergency room is automatically considered to be malpractice. Some errors are caught quickly and result in no harm to the patient, but even those that do cause some harm may not be grounds for a malpractice claim. In order for a mistake to be considered malpractice, the patient must show that the mistake would not have been made by most other medical professionals of a similar age with similar training and experience. The patient must also show that he or she suffered harm as a result of the error.

We Can Help

If you or a loved one has been negatively affected by an emergency room mistake, an experienced San Jose medical malpractice attorney can help you explore your options for taking action. Call (408) 289-1417 to schedule a free consultation at Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. today.

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My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.