Emergency Room Errors: Common Causes of Medical Malpractice Claims

Emergency rooms are often chaotic places. Patients are rushed in to get urgent care for their serious injuries or illnesses. Thus, doctors and nurses are moving fast to treat patients’ needs and perform emergency procedures. But because of the fast-paced environment that accompanies emergency rooms, errors are often made that can cause patients further injuries and harm.

The truth of the matter is that doctors aren’t the only ones who make critical errors in the emergency room (ER). Mistakes are often made by paramedics, nurses, technicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, or other medical staff involved in a patient’s care. Some of the most common errors that happen in emergency rooms include misdiagnosis, delay in diagnosis, surgical errors, anesthesia errors, medication mistakes, and improper discharging of patients. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why such emergency room errors are made.

Common Causes of Emergency Room Errors

In the hustle and bustle of a busy ER, mistakes are often a result. Some of the reasons mistakes occur are the following:

  • Understaffed emergency rooms. Because many emergency rooms run lean, there are many doctors who are overworked and do not have the adequate time to spend properly diagnosing each patient. Also, many test results are not reviewed thoroughly because of the staffing situation and patients may fall through the cracks—being discharged improperly.
  • Overcrowded emergency rooms. Because many emergency rooms are overcrowded and lack the proper staff, patients may have to wait too long in the waiting area without receiving the care they need. As a result, they may suffer a heart attack or have their health condition worsen because they cannot be seen in a timely manner.
  • Worker fatigue. Because doctors and nurses work long shifts, they often suffer from exhaustion. When staff members are fatigued, they aren’t able to think clearly or use their best judgement. As a result, doctors and other ER staff may overlook symptoms or misdiagnose conditions—causing patients further harm.
  • Lack of communication. Because there are many people involved in a patient’s care in an emergency situtation, from the EMT to the nurse, technician and surgeon, miscommunication sometimes occurs because someone left something out of a patient’s chart or forgot to pass along important information.

Types of Injuries Due to ER Errors

Whether an error was made due to an overcrowded emergency room, understaffing, an overworked doctor, or due to lack of communication and poor processes, a patient may suffer serious—even fatal—injuries. Some of the types of injuries patients suffer due to emergency rooms errors can include:

  • Heart attack. This can occur when chest pains are dismissed or diagnosed as another condition or if a patient isn’t seen in time. Unfortunately, an undiagnosed heart attack can lead to death.
  • Stroke. This often occurs in younger people and in women who complain of migraines and dizziness because doctors sometimes fail to connect these symptoms as stroke symptoms due to the fact that these two groups of people aren’t the typical candidates who suffer strokes.
  • Appendicitis. When a patient comes into the ER with appendicitis, it is sometimes mistaken for another health condition or dismissed as a stomach virus. As a result, a patient can be discharged and sent home to suffer needlessly. Unfortunately, an untreated appendix can result in organ damage and even death.
  • Hemorrhaging. Sometimes internal bleeding isn’t discovered in time, and a patient can hemorrhage because symptoms were overlooked and appropriate tests weren’t ordered in a timely manner.
  • Brain aneurysm. When patients present symptoms of headaches, pain behind their eyes, vision changes or paralysis on one side of the face and doctors in the ER don’t conduct the proper tests, an aneurysm can rupture.

If you or a loved one suffered further harm due to negligence in the emergency room at Inova or at another hospital in Virginia or D.C., you may have a medical malpractice case to collect for your damages. For help determining if you were a victim of an ER error, please contact us for a free consultation today at (703) 591-0067 or order a free copy of our book, Do You Have a Case? A Patient’s Guide to Virginia Medical Negligence Law.