Can I Sue for Malpractice in Emergency Rooms?
The emergency room or emergency department of a hospital is a hectic environment. Doctors, nurses, and other staff are often racing to treat multiple casualties with little to no time before moving to the next patient.
Although emergency room personnel are trained to handle a high volume of patients presenting with a wide variety of complaints, mistakes in this setting are common. If you suffered injury or lost a loved one as a result of an error in the emergency room, you may assume that you have grounds for a medical malpractice claim.
However, claims involving negligent emergency care are challenging. It is important to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights and options.
What Is the Standard of Care in Emergency Rooms?
We’ve written before about how the standard of care is the cornerstone of any medical malpractice claim. To recover compensation, you must prove that your injuries occurred due to the provider’s failure to uphold the standard of care owed to you.
Different standards of care (i.e., the proper course of action given the patient’s complaint) may apply to doctors in different medical specialties. Crucially, an emergency room physician may be afforded greater latitude than doctors in other specialties who can make less time-pressured care decisions.
Doctors in emergency rooms must often make life-or-death choices in very little time. They are frequently forced to act with limited information (especially if the patient is unresponsive). As a result, adverse outcomes may occur in spite of an emergency room physician’s best efforts and without any negligence.
However, this does not mean that doctors and E.R. staff are immune from medical malpractice claims. Some errors are likely to fall below the standard of care, even in an emergency situation. Examples include:
- Delivering the wrong medication to a patient
- Failure to order standard tests
- Errors in triaging patients
- Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis errors
- Delaying critical and life-saving treatment
- Failure to consult a specialist when necessary
- Failure to monitor patients for signs of distress
- Providing the wrong treatment for the patient’s complaint
These and other forms of negligence in an emergency room can lead to worsening of a patient’s health, complications, and even death. If you suspect malpractice harmed you or a loved one or resulted in your relative’s death, it is in your best interest to contact a lawyer promptly.
Proving Emergency Room Malpractice
Medical malpractice can be difficult to prove no matter the circumstances. Patients lack the knowledge and resources they need to distinguish a mistake from actual negligence.
To recover compensation for emergency room malpractice, you must prove that the negligence of one or more members of the clinical staff (including doctors, nurses, technicians, physician’s assistants, etc.) led to your injuries and subsequent damages. The medical records for your emergency room visit will document the tests performed, medications administered, and treatment recommendations. Careful examination of these records may reveal the error and who is responsible.
Although documentary evidence is key, it is often not enough on its own to prove that the emergency department staff is liable for medical negligence. Testimony from medical experts is essential for establishing (a) the relevant standard of care, (b) how the E.R. staff deviated from it, and (c) how the error led to the harm you or your loved one suffered.
Who Is Liable for Emergency Room Malpractice?
Liability in any medical malpractice claim is a complicated subject. Both the staff members in the emergency room as well as those involved in providing emergency care (such as pharmacists, lab technicians, etc.) are generally considered employees of the hospital. If the negligence that harmed you occurred in the course of one or more of these employees’ jobs, you will likely have a claim against the hospital.
Emergency room physicians, meanwhile, may be employees of the hospital or they could be classified as independent contractors. In the latter scenario, the doctor may be liable for medical malpractice while the hospital is not.
Hospitals frequently use this employment relationship to dispute liability in medical malpractice claims involving doctors in the emergency department. It is crucial to work with a knowledgeable lawyer who can assess employment records to determine if this classification is correct. Depending on the circumstances, your lawyer may be able to argue that both the doctor and the hospital are liable.
Medical malpractice can take an enormous physical, emotional, and financial toll on patients and their families. It is important to identify all of your legal options for pursuing fair compensation after an injury or adverse outcome in the emergency room.
Contact an Emergency Room Malpractice Lawyer Today
A visit to the emergency room is trying enough without having to worry about the staff making a serious mistake. Unfortunately, negligence in the E.R. leads to tens of thousands of fatalities and even more catastrophic injuries in Canadian hospitals every year.
If you or a loved one suffered a life-altering injury or complication and you suspect negligence in the emergency department was to blame, you should seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Klein Lawyers has extensive experience with a wide range of complex claims.
Please call (604) 874-7171 today for a free case review. Klein Lawyers handles emergency room malpractice claims in Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby, and other areas of British Columbia.