When sudden disease or traumatic injury happens, most people rush to their local emergency room. They expect immediate and competent medical care from trained professionals. Doctors and other caregivers are trained to work quickly and correctly in these notoriously chaotic environments, but in recent years, emergency rooms have frequently been understaffed.
The severity of acute illnesses and bodily wounds, coupled with practitioners’ attention being drawn to several emergency cases at once creates multiple opportunities for someone to make a mistake. Even well-trained caregivers can fall victim to fatigue, overwork, and distractions when administering medicines or procedures. Errors in these situations lead to the risk of serious complications and even death. In these instances, a skilled Tulsa emergency room errors attorney can guide patients and their families through the complexities of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit for compensation.
It is easy for a single mistake to have cascading consequences that result in more harm than the original complaint that brought the patient to the emergency room. When an ER is understaffed, and a patient must stay there for long hours, their case will be passed from one doctor to another and through multiple nurses for care. To avoid preventable errors in treatment, an ER relies on perfect, clear communication amongst all staff members regarding all patients’ symptoms, medical history, allergies, and drug interactions, among other considerations.
Despite this pressure, perfection is something humans rarely achieve for long periods. Relying on fewer people working longer hours means a medical practitioner may accidentally harm a patient if they are using incorrect information mistakenly recorded by another staffer. In the worst cases, severe illness or death may occur, but it is nearly impossible to determine exactly who is at fault for the emergency room error.
So, in short, errors in the emergency room can occur because:
There are many reasons that emergency room errors occur beyond simple understaffing or ineffective communication. Some common causes include:
A medical misdiagnosis happens when a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional misdiagnoses a patient for various reasons. The practitioner may refer the patient to the wrong department or doctor, may misread a test result, misinterpret symptoms, or allow unrecognized biases to cloud their judgment. In the worst situations, a doctor or nurse may decide a patient is fine and send them home, after which the individual’s condition worsens.
When an ER professional fails to properly assess a patient or listen closely to their self-reported symptoms, they may administer medications or triage procedures that are not appropriate for the situation. The practitioners may ignore patient requests for services (such as an X-ray), order tests that are not required or even decline to pursue further testing for various non-medical reasons.
When communication or recordkeeping mistakes occur, doctors and nurses are consequently working with incorrect information. Likewise, professionals who are severely fatigued or distracted may misread or misinterpret details from a patient’s chart. These are two of many situations in which a practitioner is at risk of administering the wrong medication or the wrong dosage. For example, if a doctor misreads the blood type of a person who needs a transfusion and gives them the wrong blood, they could unintentionally kill the patient.
ERs are seldom quiet and are often the busiest place in a hospital at any time of day or night. As more individuals arrive for care, the number of people and the urgency of their medical needs can result in current patients experiencing a delay in treatment. In many cases, the delay may be long enough that new complications and problems develop. When a patient is incorrectly assessed with less serious symptoms than they actually are, a delay can quickly become dangerous or deadly.
Once a patient has left the emergency room, the doctor who treated them is responsible for following up to ensure they follow the discharge instructions. Failing to follow up leaves patients at risk of developing an infection or other problems after surgery or other treatment. Sometimes, patients must be reminded to care for themselves or visit specialists as directed and failing to contact the individuals after they leave the ER can lead to serious complications and death. This failure to follow up can be considered a form of medical malpractice.
Virtually all emergency room errors are avoidable, and as such, they usually fall under the legal umbrella of medical malpractice. The burden of proof is somewhat higher than in other types of cases.
When you or a loved one is affected by someone else’s mistake in an ER in Oklahoma, a skilled Tulsa emergency room error attorney can consult with you to understand your options and develop a roadmap for a lawsuit. A qualified law firm can assist victims in pursuing personal injury, medical malpractice, or wrongful death claims. Their team of legal professionals can aid in reducing the stress of gathering evidence, proving liability, and calculating what damages to seek.
When someone suffers illness or death from an emergency room error, it can drastically alter their lives and those of their family members. An experienced lawyer will advise the plaintiff on how to develop an appropriate list of both economic and non-economic damages. Oklahoma Statutes section 23-61.2 provides no upper limit for economic expenses, such as medical costs or property damage. However, for non-economic damages such as loss of companionship or pain and suffering, there is a limit of $350,000 that can be won in a jury award, even if there are multiple defendants in a case.
In Oklahoma, all medical negligence lawsuits are subject to a 2-year window, meaning the suit must be filed within two years of the emergency room error or from the date that the patient first became aware of the error that caused their illness or injury. If a plaintiff does not file within the timeframe required by law, they may lose their ability to recover any compensation.
Proving liability in medical malpractice or medical negligence lawsuits is more difficult than in other types of cases. Because of the sometimes disorganized atmosphere of an ER, tracking exactly who is responsible for an emergency room error can be challenging. Lawsuits in these cases usually involve recruiting individuals to provide expert medical testimony on complicated triage methods and how they can cause complications when not administered correctly. Medical practitioners and organizations are usually adverse to admitting any mistakes. They also possess the financial means to engage legal teams and other professionals to argue against their culpability.
It is critical to convincingly prove the liability of the medical provider, and the bar for doing so is much higher than in other types of cases. For example, the plaintiff and their lawyer must prove the following:
While a victim can pursue a medical malpractice case against the doctor or doctors responsible for their care, the fault for errors in the ER is not limited to the staff working at the time. Ultimately, the organization or hospital that inadequately staffed or trained the ER can be held liable. This type of claim will require a highly skilled emergency room errors attorney who can engage medical experts for testimony. They can also investigate hospital records and other evidence to further build a strong case.
The plaintiff’s legal team must clearly prove the ways in which the medical practitioner failed to adhere to the recommended standard of care. Detailed records of receipts, medical records, a contemporaneous record to show the timeline, and evidence of the standard of care for the corresponding medical speciality will also strengthen a medical malpractice or other type of claim.
When evidence has been gathered and an argument developed, the victim and their emergency room error attorney are able to litigate their claim in court. Part of this process is creating the list of damages sought to reimburse the plaintiff for harm and loss they have suffered from the medical malpractice or negligence. Damages can include the following:
When a trip to the ER results in life-changing injury or loss for you or your family, trust the Tulsa emergency rooms errors attorneys at the law offices of Graves McLain. We are devoted to working relentlessly to bring you justice. Contact us today for a free consultation, either online or by phone at 918-359-6600.
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