Emergency Room Errors & Malpractice Cases: FAQs
November 6, 2014
Emergency rooms can be frenzied, chaotic places, especially when there are multiple people who need involved medical care as soon as possible. Although we want to be able to rely on the medical professionals who work in emergency rooms to provide us with superior care and treatment when we (or the people we love) need emergency medical treatment, the tragic facts are that:
Emergency room staff are not always as experienced, professional and/or attentive as they maybe should be.
- Such factors can significantly increase the risk that emergency room errors will occur.
- These mistakes can lead to serious patient injuries, with the worst incidences of emergency room malpractice resulting in life-threatening complications.
In this article we’ll answer some commonly asked questions about emergency room errors, medical malpractice and injured people’s options. Although the responses provided below (and in the upcoming parts of this blog series) are general, people can easily more specific info about their situation by contacting the trusted Portland malpractice attorneys at the Savage Law Firm. We have decades of experience successfully resolving medical malpractice cases, and we are ready to fight for your rights to compensation.
Q – How do I know if emergency room errors caused my injuries?
A – The best way to find out if you may have been hurt by emergency room errors is to consult with an experienced malpractice lawyer who can review the details of your situation.
That being stated, however, the following may be some indications that emergency room errors may have contributed to your injuries and health complications:
- Your symptoms don’t seem to match the diagnosis provided by ER medical professionals.
- Your condition has gotten worse despite undergoing the prescribed treatments.
- Medical professionals in the ER (particularly physicians) spent very little time with you.
Q – How does malpractice contribute to emergency room errors?
A – In various ways. In fact, the following are some of the most common ways that the mistakes of medical professionals can lead to emergency room errors and serious patient injuries:
- Misdiagnosing or a failure to diagnose a condition when there is sufficient evidence (lab tests, noticeable symptoms, etc.) to indicate the true existing health problem
- Administering the wrong types or amounts of medication to patients (based on the conditions they have, as well as their medical histories)
- Failing to provide prompt, appropriate treatments
- Failing to notice and properly respond to indications of life-threatening health issues.
Such common emergency room errors can be made by any of the medical professionals who work in ER (and related hospital) settings, including (but not limited to):
- ER doctors and surgeons
In fact, even the mistakes that administrative staff can make in ERs can lead to serious emergency room errors (such as, for instance, in the case when the wrong conditions or symptoms have been listed for patients, patients get mixed up, etc.).
Q – When are emergency room errors more likely to occur?
A – Various factors in ER settings can substantially increase the risk that emergency room errors will occur. Some of these common include (by are by no means limited to):
- A huge, sudden influx of patients
- Lack of sufficient staff in ERs, which can lead to few medical professionals trying to provide extensive medical care to a lot of injured people
- ER staff being fatigued due to, for example, working double shifts
- Hospitals lacking the equipment necessary to provide the appropriate level of care to patients (While this can involve hospitals not having the appropriate diagnostic equipment, it can also include cases in which hospitals lack sufficient beds for patients being cared for in ERs).
The bottom line here is that any number of different circumstances can contribute to emergency room errors and that experienced lawyers can carefully evaluate specific cases to identify which factors may have played a role in a particular person’s case.
Q – What are my options for compensation after being injured by emergency room errors?
A – In general, pursuing medical malpractice lawsuits after being injured by emergency room errors will be injured people’s best option for obtaining the financial recovery they likely deserve. With these cases, however, it’s important for prospective plaintiffs (i.e., injured people considering this option) to be aware of the following:
- Malpractice cases based on emergency room errors claims can be complicated and can take some time to resolve.
- When hospitals are identified as defendants in these cases (because hospital condition’s, protocols or staff contributed to emergency room errors), these cases can become far more contentious and complex.
- Most malpractice cases, including those related to emergency room errors, are settled before trial.
- Having an experienced attorney to litigate these cases on behalf of injured people will be critical to the outcome and success of these claims.
Q – How long do I have to file a medical malpractice case to seek compensation for my emergency room errors?
A – This is a tricky question to answer because, first and foremost, it will depend where a person will be filing their malpractice case. This is because the filing time limits, also referred to as the statutes of limitations for these cases, are different in different states.
In Oregon, the statute of limitations for filing medical malpractice claims is two years, and in Washington State, it’s three years. Here, it should also be noted that when these time frames start counting down can be less straightforward to pinpoint, as they can start either:
- As of the date on which the emergency room errors took place
- As of the date on which the injuries caused by the emergency room errors are diagnosed.
While these time frames may seem long and generous, waiting until the last minute to file malpractice can be detrimental to plaintiffs’ cases, as it can lead to:
- A risk of running out the statute of limitations
- Less possible evidence being available for injured people’s cases (as witnesses’ memories fade, some evidence may get lost or misplaced, etc.).
Q – What is my case worth?
A – There is no way to answer this without knowing the specifics of a particular case, and people curious about the value of their malpractice cases can get more precise answers to this question by meeting with an experienced attorney for an initial consultation.
What we can tell you about the value of these types of medical malpractice cases is that it tends to increase when:
- Patients have sustained more serious injuries due to the emergency room mistakes.
- Medical professionals (and/or hospitals) have a history of negligence, malpractice and/or emergency room mistakes.
- Injured people have skilled malpractice lawyers representing them, as these professionals know how to fight for people’s rights to the full amount of compensation to which they are entitled.
Q – How long will it take to resolve my malpractice case?
A – This is another question that cannot be readily or generally answered without first considering the details of a specific case. The facts of the matter are that malpractice cases related to emergency room errors tend to become more complicated and, in turn, take longer to resolve when any of the following may apply to the case at hand:
- A case involves allegations of surgical mistakes in an ER setting.
- More than one defendant has been named in a particular case.
- Patients have sustained irreversible injuries as a result of the emergency room mistakes.
What we can tell more definitively about how long these cases take to resolve is that you shouldn’t expect an immediate resolution, especially if you want to ensure that you eventually obtain the full amount of compensation to which you are entitled.
Q – Should I retain an attorney to represent me?
A – Absolutely! Malpractice cases are some of the more complicated personal injury claims to litigate and resolve, and not having a lawyer to represent you can lead to your case possibly getting thrown out, undervalued and/or unnecessarily delayed.
What’s more is that, after suffering injuries caused by malpractice, you will likely need to focus on your physical (and possibly psychological) recovery, and retaining an attorney can give you confidence that your financial recovery is being pursued by an experienced professional who is dedicated to helping you get the results you need from your malpractice case.
Contact the Experienced Portland Medical Malpractice Lawyers at the Savage Law Firm
Helping you recover from the financial setbacks caused by medical malpractice is one of our primary goals. Our Portland malpractice attorneys encourage you to learn more about your rights and case by setting up a free initial consult.
To learn more about our legal services and what we can do for you, call us at 503-222-0200 (in Portland) or at 206-957-7272 (in Seattle). You can also email us using the form on this page.
We represent clients in communities in both Oregon and Washington from our offices in Portland and Seattle.