Is There a Greater Risk of Misdiagnosis in an Emergency Room?

Photo of an Emergency Room

Emergency care physicians have an incredibly tough and emotionally draining job. Without these health care practitioners, it would be impossible to receive treatment for emergency health situations. Unfortunately, emergency rooms are one area of a hospital where you are more likely to suffer harm caused by a medical error. Some estimates suggest 5 to 10 percent of emergency room visits result in medical mistakes.

Emergency rooms are chaotic. There are frequent interruptions and emotions run high among staff, including doctors. Even worse, information is not always reliable due to the fast-paced environment.

Despite the possible pitfalls associated with emergency rooms, ER physicians have a legal obligation to provide you medical services within the accepted standard of care. Medical mistakes caused by negligence can cause you or a loved one to suffer damages, sometimes in the millions of dollars.

Diagnostic mistakes are the most common type of medical error in all health care settings, but especially in emergency rooms.

Misdiagnosis and Emergency Rooms

Diagnostic errors in emergency rooms can lead to tragic consequences. Certain health conditions, such as bacterial meningitis, may cause brain damage, amputations or death if patients do not receive prompt treatment.

While bacterial meningitis is rare, it is an example of a health condition that can lead to extensive damages for patients and their families. There was a recent case in Springfield, Missouri where a small boy died after doctors misdiagnosed bacterial meningitis. Another similar case occurred in 2017, this time involving a young girl in Texas. Bacterial meningitis may be misdiagnosed because its early stages mimic symptoms associated with much more common health conditions, such as the flu. However, doctors can diagnose the condition with certain diagnostic tests.

More common types of emergency health conditions can lead to similar outcomes. Heart attacks can have symptoms that are similar to food poisoning or gastrointestinal issues. ER doctors may also misdiagnose infections in the early stages, which allows the infection to spread to vital organs.

Pulmonary embolisms, where there is an arterial blockage in the lungs, is another misdiagnosed emergency health condition. All of these are examples of common health conditions that can result in death or permanent disability without prompt treatment.

Doctors may fail to issue a correct diagnosis for a number of reasons. For instance, they may misinterpret test results or fail to order necessary tests. Inexperience is another common reason why diagnostic errors occur in health care settings, including emergency rooms. Although there are many common causes of diagnostic errors in emergency rooms, each case is going to be different.

When Is an Emergency Room Medical Mistake Malpractice?

Doctors must treat patients under their care within the accepted standard of care. When they fail to uphold this duty, and patients suffer damages as a result, then it may be possible to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Diagnostic errors can lead to injuries that saddle patients and their family members with unaffordable medical expenses. In other cases, diagnostic errors kill patients who were the sole source of income for a family. These are possible “damages” that plaintiffs may incur after a diagnostic error.

Medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits allow these plaintiffs to recover compensation for their damages through a settlement or verdict. Plaintiffs can generally seek compensation against the doctor, hospital or parent company.

You should never assume that your case is a slam dunk. Malpractice insurers may fight tooth and nail to avoid having to pay you full compensation for your damages. It is important to speak with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who can help negotiate an insurance settlement or pursue a jury verdict if necessary.

About Our Tampa Medical Malpractice Lawyers

Tampa medical malpractice lawyer Armando Edmiston can help you with the settlement negotiation or lawsuit process. If you have questions about filing a lawsuit or how Florida statutory laws could affect your potential case, then we encourage you to call us for a free consultation. You can reach us by dialing (813)906-1168 or by using our online case review form.