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Emergency Room and Hospital Malpractice: Is Access to Care Part of the Standard?

Emergency RoomWhen most people think of medical malpractice, they think of a deliberate breach of the standard of care on the part of an individual medical professional. However, there are other ways in which the prevailing standard of care can be breached, even on the part of an emergency room or hospital as a whole. Failure to provide adequate care can be interpreted as a breach of the duty owed to patients, and under circumstances, such a failure may even be compensable.

Failing Grades for California ERs

Data from the past few years indicates a severe lack of emergency rooms in California when compared with the population each is meant to serve. The American College of Emergency Physicians, a health care advocacy group, releases America’s Emergency Care Environment report card each year, and the most recent data puts California in 42nd place for accessibility of care. This can have several different implications.

The most immediate and pressing is that if care is delayed for emergency patients, there will almost certainly be negative consequences. The Los Angeles Times reported a wait of over five hours, on average, for California ER patients. Also, because there are so few ERs, it is not uncommon for a hospital to be forced to ‘board’ patients, or keep them in the emergency room until a bed can be found for them elsewhere. This cuts down even further on the amount of beds available for incoming patients.

California’s Standard of Care

There are four parts to a medical malpractice cases in most instances. A patient must be able to establish that a duty of care exists between medical professionals and their patients - which is true as a matter of law in California - and then show that duty to have been breached by the conduct of the defendant, causing a tangible injury (that is, an injury that lasts a certain period of time and causes harm; the damage does not have to be physical).

The nature of the standard of care in a medical malpractice case is somewhat different than that used for regular negligence cases. California holds that the standard is essentially whether or not a medical professional of similar age, experience and ability would pursue the same treatment methods - if not, it is prima facie evidence of a breach of duty. This standard can be extrapolated to hospitals or specific personnel - that is, it can be argued that a medical facility has a duty to its patients, just as individual medical professionals do.

In this context, it can absolutely be argued that many California emergency rooms are breaching the acceptable standard of patient care, but it is also conceivable in some situations that the fault might lie with the paramedics transporting a critical patient to an already-overworked hospital. It is always best to speak to a qualified attorney regarding your specific case, as fact patterns do differ, but the important thing is that failure to provide quick care can absolutely be used as evidence of malpractice.

Seek Experienced Assistance

If you have been injured, but wind up waiting in a hospital hallway, it can feel like no one cares, and it can have serious physical or mental consequences. Having a knowledgeable and understanding attorney on your side can help you obtain the compensation you need to get your life back on track. The skilled San Jose medical malpractice attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. are well versed in the problems associated with California’s emergency rooms, and will be happy to answer questions about which direction you should take from here. Call us today at Call us today at (408) 289-1417 or use our web form to set up a consultation to discuss your case. We serve San Jose, the Bay Area, and the counties of San Benito, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda and Monterey.

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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.