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Can You Sue an Emergency Room for Misdiagnosis?

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Tired depressed old male doctor feels desperate thinking of medical problem. Sue an emergency room for misdiagnosis concept

If you have not received proper medical treatment for a health condition, you may need to know if you can sue an emergency room for misdiagnosis in Illinois. Emergency rooms often have the stigma of having long waits and hasty in-and-out care. Patients should be able to trust their emergency room doctors to give them the highest possible quality of medical care. However, this isn’t always the case. Health conditions are frequently misdiagnosed when patients seek initial treatment.

Tired depressed old male doctor feels desperate thinking of medical problem. Sue an emergency room for misdiagnosis concept

Not every negative outcome that surfaces from emergency room visits can be considered medical malpractice. Medical professionals and facilities are not always responsible for the negative effects experienced by patients after an ER visit. For a medical malpractice claim to be considered valid, a case must meet thorough standards. These standards are known as the four elements of medical malpractice. 

The Four Elements of Medical Malpractice

The most common emergency room errors are a result of the four elements of malpractice. What are the 4 elements of malpractice? The four contributing factors of medical negligence claims are the duty of care, breach of duty of care, harm or injury due to the breach of care, and damages from the sustained injury. All four elements must be present for patients to prove a valid medical malpractice claim. Medical malpractice claims are not eligible to alleged victims should a breach of care occur, but no damages are sustained from the error. Knowledge of these elements helps victims to understand how to sue a doctor for medical malpractice.

Duty of Care 

Doctors are not the only individuals who owe patients a duty of care. Any medical professional that has an affirmed provider-patient relationship owes a duty of care to the individual he or she is treating. Medical professionals that owe their patients a duty of care can include chiropractors, dentists, doctors, nurses, optometrists, physician’s assistants, psychiatrists, and other licensed professionals. To move forward with a medical malpractice claim, a victim must prove that the healthcare provider owed him or her a duty of care. 

Violation of the Standard of Care

By law, medical professionals are required to maintain the expected standard of care. The standard of care is established by the expert’s profession as adequate behavior that would be expected to be given by a reasonably alert healthcare professional under any of the exact or similar events. Medical negligence can be established should a licensed healthcare professional fail to provide treatment that is in agreement with the given standards.

Injury

A medical malpractice claim may not exist based on negligence in itself. Injuries can happen for a variety of reasons in the course of medical treatment, but must meet a set of criteria to hold a medical professional liable. To file a medical malpractice lawsuit, the victim must have suffered an injury or loss that would otherwise not have taken place had negligence not occurred. 

Significant Damages

The negligence of a healthcare professional must have provoked serious injuries or harm to a victim to be defined as significant damages. Serious harm and injuries include disability, disfigurement, loss of income, immense pain and suffering, and any additional medical cost linked to negligence. Without these extreme effects, no significant damages exist.

The Most Common Emergency Room Errors in Chicago

Mistakes in emergency rooms have adverse effects on a wide range of victims. The most typical emergency room mistakes are misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis, medication mistakes, failure to inform patients of risks, surgical errors, medical equipment failures, hospital-acquired infections, improper monitoring, and delayed treatments.

Misdiagnosis or Missed Diagnosis

A common medical error that may turn fatal is failure to diagnose a health condition. Misdiagnosed health concerns, such as heart conditions, cancers, and stroke, can become fatal when left untreated. When critical conditions experienced by the victim are missed, it can create a disastrous result for his or her health. There are a multitude of reasons healthcare practitioners may misdiagnose a patient in the emergency room. Reasons often include inaccurately reading test results, not ordering the necessary tests, disregarding a patient’s family medical history during diagnosis, and failing to perform due diligence during a patient’s appointment.

Medication Mistakes

Health experts such as doctors, emergency medical staff, nurses, and pharmacists can all be held accountable for medication mistakes. Given the variety of experts involved in the medication treatment process, medication errors can occur at any time, especially if communication is not clear between professionals. Medical malpractice claims involving medication mistakes frequently include administering the wrong medication, failing to consider interactions between multiple medications given or prescribed to a patient, and prescribing or administering the wrong dose of medicine to a patient.

Failure to Inform Patients of Risks

It is a legal requirement that a doctor must obtain a patient’s informed consent before a procedure can begin. Consent is legally considered “informed” when patients have been provided with all critical components of a procedure and any connected hazards. A patient that does not fully comprehend the risks involved with a procedure is not able to give a doctor informed consent. Medical malpractice claims can be made if a healthcare expert fails to caution a patient of the various risks involved with the method of treatment.

Surgical Errors

Fatigued, inadequately scheduled, overworked, and under-trained staff are some of the biggest factors contributing to surgical errors. Anesthesiologists have incorrectly administered medications to patients, which leads to dangerous side effects. Surgeons have been guilty of injuring nerves or organs near the surgical site, leaving equipment or a piece of equipment inside patients, operating on the wrong body part, and in some cases operating on the wrong patient altogether. These neglectful acts can lead to a patient having a slower recovery, additional surgeries, severe infections, permanent disabilities, or death.

Medical Equipment Failures

Faulty equipment could be a result of improperly maintained equipment, damaged property, or faulty production. When medical equipment fails, it can lead to delayed treatment, patient injuries, and missed diagnosis. Medical equipment failures can occur throughout the medical treatment process. Entities liable include facilities for improper maintenance, negligent workers for damaging equipment, and even the product manufacturer for faulty production.

Hospital-Acquired Infections

Hospital-acquired infections occur while patients are still receiving care in the hospital and cannot be related to another underlying health condition. Unsanitary conditions and a medical staff’s failure to prevent contamination are the main causes of hospital-acquired infections. Sepsis, staph infections, blood infections, and surgical site infections are one of the leading causes of patient deaths.

Improper Monitoring

Signs and symptoms of distress may go unnoticed if professionals fail to monitor patients. Many health conditions can be avoided when the proper monitoring of patients is executed. Improper monitoring most commonly happens during surgical procedures, labor and delivery, or during patient recovery. 

Delayed Treatments

Providing a patient with a quick and efficient diagnosis is of major importance. Even when provided care is timely, any delays in treatment could lead to a decline in the patient’s condition. Delayed treatment can lead to patients suffering from additional injuries or illnesses. Delayed treatments can also be a result of a doctor’s failure to make a patient referral or follow-up appointment post-diagnosis, scheduling errors by the hospital, or an insurer’s failure to authorize a claim.

Standard of Care for Emergency Room Physicians

Administrative agencies, courts, and state legislatures define the legal capacity of care required in the medical field. The precise legal standard of care can vary by state, but the majority of states will follow the national standard. The standard is an important principle for both medical experts and patients to comprehend. The standard of care was established to determine whether medical professionals have met the level of care they are obligated to give patients. Should the standard of care not be met by the medical professional, this is known as negligence and substantial consequences for clinicians responsible can result. 

Factors included that can be used as variables for the applicable standard of care include:

  • Statutes and regulations
  • Court opinions and other regulatory statements
  • Authoritative clinical guidelines and policies and guidelines from professional organizations
  • Academic journal articles
  • Accreditation standards
  • Facility policies and procedures

Patients place trust in their qualified medical professionals and deserve honest and responsible care. To take their first step in filing a medical malpractice claim, victims should seek experienced legal aid. Medical malpractice lawyers will need victims to bring documents to be used as evidence to support the claim. Documents can include medical records that demonstrate the care received, billing statements from all healthcare providers, reports from a physician summarizing their diagnosis (including the symptoms, diagnosis, and prognosis), any effects of the medical care given, the contact information of all medical professionals seen for care, and documented accounts of any measures taken to mend the situation before the legal consult. A proficient medical malpractice lawyer can protect a victim’s rights and help build a strong case.

About the Author

Kurt D. Lloyd is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases. He lives in Chicago and represents injured clients throughout Illinois. He is also the founder of Lloyd Miller Law, Ltd.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois

Kurt D. Lloyd is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases. He lives in Chicago and represents injured clients throughout Illinois. He is also the founder of Lloyd Miller Law, Ltd.

Years of Experience: Over 35 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar