Emergency room (ER) malpractice involves misdiagnosis, medical errors or failure to diagnose injuries in the emergency room. However, medical errors in the emergency room often have devastating consequences to the patients and the hospital. Unfortunately, these errors might result in permanent injury or death of the patients. Here’s what you should know about emergency room malpractice.
Proving medical malpractice
For a medical malpractice claim to prevail, the patient needs to prove:
- The existence of a doctor-patient relationship
- The doctor was medically negligent
- As a result of the doctor’s negligence, the patient suffered injuries
The second and the third elements are the most common areas of dispute in malpractice cases.
When is the doctor negligent?
In Illinois, the legal standard to determine whether a physician committed malpractice is whether his/her care deviated from the standard of care. The standard of care is generally defined in Illinois as the physician acts with the same degree of knowledge, skill and ability as an ordinarily careful professional would exercise under similar circumstances. In laymen’s terms, the issue is typically whether the physician did something he/she should not have done or failed to do something the he/she should have done. The latter is the type that often occurs in the emergency rooms setting in the form of a delayed diagnosis, failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis. The mere fact that the there was a delay, failure or a misdiagnosis does not always result in a deviation of the standard of care.
Determining whether an emergency physician deviated from the standard of care involves understanding the physician’s differential diagnosis when evaluating the patient. A differential diagnosis is a process used to reach a definitive diagnosis. The physician develops a list of the possible conditions that might produce a patient’s symptoms and signs. The list of possible conditions enables appropriate testing to rule out possibilities and confirm a final diagnosis. The patient’s clinical history and interview, symptoms, a physical exam and diagnostic tests are used in the ongoing differential diagnosis process to reach the final diagnosis.
Many emergency room medical malpractice cases arise out of diagnosis errors. Thus, the patient should prove that a doctor who faced similar circumstances would not have misdiagnosed the patient.
Proving that a physician misdiagnosed the patient is not enough. The patient must also prove that the bad result the patient experienced was caused by the failure to properly diagnose. The proximate cause portion of a medical malpractice case is often the most heavily contested issue by physicians. The physician’s attorneys often defend the case on the basis that even though there was a failure to properly diagnose, that failure was not the cause of the bad outcome.
Finally, except in limited situations, in Illinois a medical malpractice Plaintiff must have the case reviewed by a licensed physician who is familiar with the area of treatment by way of practice or teaching. After the review and before the Plaintiff can move forward with a lawsuit, the reviewing physician has to conclude that there is a meritorious basis for the lawsuit to proceed.
Those who experience harm from emergency room malpractice, might get compensation. Consulting an attorney is essential after an emergency room malpractice. An attorney might help you obtain fair compensation. The sooner an attorney after the suspected malpractice is consulted the better as there are time limitations to file suit.