Medical Malpractice

Can I Sue ER Doctors for Emergency Room Malpractice?

July 26, 2023

Table Of Contents


Suffering from an injury or illness is traumatic. When you reach the emergency room, you expect to receive reasonably competent medical care. When you are a victim of medical malpractice, you could experience painful, disabling injuries that require corrective medical treatment and prevent you from working.

An emergency room malpractice lawyer has experience dealing with insurance companies to get fair compensation for injured patients after medical errors. If the medical malpractice insurer refuses to settle, you can sue ER doctors and hospitals for your injuries.

Can You File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for Emergency Room Errors?

Yes, you can file a medical malpractice claim for emergency room errors. To do so, you must show that the emergency room doctors, nurses, support staff, or administrative staff failed to meet the professional standard of medical care. This standard of care requires hospitals and healthcare providers to provide reasonably competent medical care under the circumstances.

Patients do not have medical malpractice cases merely because they suffered negative outcomes from their treatments. A reasonable mistake, such as an allergic reaction to a drug when neither you nor your doctor knew of your allergy, would probably not support a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Instead, a patient must show that their negative outcome happened because the hospital or its healthcare professionals did something or failed to do something when they knew or should have known their actions could harm the patient.

Who Can Be Held Responsible for ER Malpractice?

Anyone involved in the delivery of emergency healthcare services may bear liability for emergency room malpractice, including:

  • Intake and discharge administrators
  • Nurses
  • Nursing assistants and orderlies
  • Physicians' assistants
  • Physicians
  • Pharmacists
  • Testing laboratories
  • Hospitals

All of these medical professionals must deliver reasonable care to you under the circumstances. For example, an administrator might record your symptoms incorrectly. Nurses could administer the wrong medication. And doctors could perform a procedure incompetently. All these errors could qualify as emergency room malpractice.

emergency room negligence cases

Common Types of Emergency Room Malpractice

Emergency room medical malpractice can happen in many ways. Typically, medical malpractice falls into three broad types:

  • Diagnosis and misdiagnosis failure
  • Treatment error
  • Communication mistake

Diagnosis and non-diagnosis errors happen when an emergency room physician:

  • Misdiagnoses you as healthy when you have an injury or medical condition
  • Diagnoses you with a condition or injury when you have a different injury or condition
  • Misdiagnoses you with a condition or injury when you are healthy

Some causes of an incorrect diagnosis include overworked doctors and staff, laboratory errors, and mixed-up medical records.

You suffer a treatment error when a healthcare professional provides incompetent or unskilled treatment. Examples of treatment errors in an emergency room include:

Administration of the wrong drug or dose

Object left inside a patient

Treatment at the wrong site — for example, amputating the right rather than the left leg

Treatment errors result from inexperience, fatigue, and inattentiveness.

Communication errors take a few forms. Some communication errors happen when medical professionals miscommunicate. A nurse may misunderstand a doctor's instructions, or a pharmacist may misread a prescription.

Other communication errors happen in the doctor-patient relationship. Doctors must explain to patients:

  • Their diagnosis
  • The treatment options available
  • The benefits and drawbacks of each treatment
  • The risks of non-treatment

After the discussion, the patient must give informed consent to the treatment. Emergency rooms are hectic environments, and many patients arrive unconscious. Emergency room doctors sometimes skip steps for informed consent. As a result, a patient may receive treatment they did not request.

How to Prove an Emergency Room Medical Malpractice Case

Injured patients must prove a doctor's negligence to win a medical malpractice lawsuit. Negligence is a legal concept that means someone owed a duty of care and failed to uphold it. The elements of negligence for emergency room malpractice include:

1. Establish a Doctor-Patient Relationship

The first element of negligence is a duty of care. In the case of medical malpractice in emergency rooms, doctors owe a duty of care to patients. To establish a doctor-patient relationship, you must show that you sought treatment or were taken to get treatment from the doctor. You must also show that the doctor assented to treat you.

A classic example happens when you collapse on an airplane and the flight attendant asks for help from any doctors on board. If a doctor steps forward and examines you, the doctor-patient relationship is formed. If the doctor remains in their seat and does nothing to assist in your revival, the doctor owes you no duty of care.

2. Establish Medical Negligence

The next element of emergency room malpractice is a breach of duty that caused your injuries. It means that the medical professional performed some act or omission that failed to meet the professional standard of medical care.

This breach of duty is typically measured by comparing your treatment to the treatment you would have received from a reasonably prudent medical professional in the same circumstances.

Thus, your emergency room malpractice attorney must identify the typical treatment for your injury or condition and compare it to the treatment you received. If the treatment you received failed to meet the appropriate standard, you may have a claim for injury compensation.

After you prove negligence, you must prove it caused your injuries. Causation is often clear. But in some situations, you may need testimony from an expert witness to establish causation. For example, if you suffered a heart attack after the administration of a drug, you need someone to explain the connection.

emergency room negligence

3. Provide Evidence of the Harm and Damages You Suffered

You can get compensation for emergency room malpractice only if you suffered harm. If emergency room errors were harmless, you cannot pursue a medical malpractice case.

But bear in mind that courts use a very broad definition of harm. Bodily injuries, emotional distress, lost income from missing work, and pain and suffering all qualify as losses you can recover in malpractice cases.

Why Do Emergency Room Negligence Cases Occur?

Emergency rooms in New York City can be chaotic places and medical personnel typically are under pressure to make quick decisions. They may be fatigued and stressed. Unfortunately, ER mistakes happen. Attorney Neal Bhushan recently defended the deposition of one of his clients who went to an emergency room complaining of symptoms consistent with a stroke, such as numbness on one side of the body, confusion, difficulty speaking, sudden trouble walking, and dizziness, but the client was improperly discharged.

As a result, the next day, the client had a catastrophic stroke resulting in paralysis on one side of the body and permanent disability. This particular case is ongoing and the emergency room staff’s depositions will be taken shortly.

The causes of negligence in emergency rooms can vary widely. An emergency room doctor has a lot of responsibility and works under a great deal of stress. Medical errors and mistakes happen. The question is whether these errors were unreasonable. Some causes of unreasonable errors constituting negligence include:

  • Understaffing, which forces ER doctors and nurses to work while fatigued
  • Inexperience and substandard training
  • Improper sanitation
  • Carelessness
  • Lack of supervision
  • Poorly designed hospital policies

Many malpractice lawsuits can be traced to these broad causes. And knowing the causes of medical errors in emergency rooms can help you identify who may bear liability in your ER malpractice case.

For example, suppose that you developed a post-operative infection after a procedure in a hospital emergency department. If your medical malpractice lawyer finds evidence that the hospital laid off half of its cleaning staff right before your injury, the liability might sit with the institution running the emergency department rather than the emergency room doctor who treated you.

Examples of an Emergency Room Doctor's Negligence Case

Cases handled by the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm against some of the largest hospitals in the nation often deal with an ER medical error that caused catastrophic injury or death.

For example, a client came to us after suffering a catastrophic stroke. This medical incident happened despite the client's visit to the emergency room just one day earlier for symptoms consistent with a stroke, including:

  • Numbness on one side of the body
  • Confusion and dizziness
  • Difficulty walking and speaking

The hospital discharged the client despite these troubling symptoms. We alleged on behalf of this client that their subsequent stroke was a direct cause of the hospital's failure to diagnose and treat.

Supporting our allegations was an article that described staffing issues at the hospital that treated our client. Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City assigned up to 18 patients to each nurse during a shift when experts recommend five or six.

Schedule a Consultation with a Skilled NY Emergency Room Malpractice Lawyer Today!

ER malpractice can leave you with physical and mental trauma that causes painful and disabling injuries. Whether your injury resulted from incompetence, inexperience, or miscommunication, you may have a claim for financial compensation.

Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm has experience dealing with medical malpractice insurance companies to get financial compensation for injured patients. Contact us online or by calling 212.869.3500 for a free consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. We will discuss your injuries and the compensation you can seek for them.