Emergency Room Negligence

Nationwide Cerebral Palsy Resource Network

If you were faced with a terrible situation resulting in the need to go to the emergency room during your pregnancy and your baby suffered from birth injuries as a result, you are probably searching for answers. Emergency rooms are specifically equipped to function in the midst of pandemonium and dire circumstances, yet somehow something went wrong and your child paid the devastating price.

Though it is true that the chaos in emergency scenarios may lead to mistakes, it is often individual negligence and malpractice of a doctor, intern or resident that caused your child to sustain serious birth injuries. Please call Stern Law, PLLC at (800)462-5772 for a free evaluation of your case.

Who Is Liable for Emergency Room Negligence?

Emergency rooms are busy, high-pressure environments that must be carefully managed. Even if an ER is busy, medical staff is required to give each patient adequate attention and proper treatment; it’s part of the expectation of reasonable care. When an ER team fails to properly assess and treat patients, serious issues can arise resulting in further health issues.

Despite the fact that there are some special considerations that must be factored into an analysis of legal options from possible emergency room malpractice, it is still possible to bring a successful action against emergency room medical personnel, depending upon the law in your state. The most common emergency room mistakes are:

  • Failure to completely evaluate and treat the patient’s condition;
  • Delayed or misdiagnosis;
  • Erroneous laboratory tests;
  • Mistakes with blood transfusions, including mis-identifying blood types;
  • Prescription errors;
  • Failure to monitor the patient’s condition.

Whether due to a lack of experience or inattention, health care providers sometimes cause serious and irreparable harm to their most vulnerable patients. Despite the unintentional nature of their actions, these types of medical mistakes can have catastrophic results for children and their families alike.

Hospital Liability for a Doctor's Negligence

Under normal circumstances, subject to variations which exist in many states, a hospital is not usually liable for the actions of a doctor practicing in the hospital. This is due to a variety of factors, but primarily because most doctors are not employees of the hospital, but rather are independent contractors. If a non-employee doctor commits malpractice in the hospital, then the injured party likely cannot hold the hospital responsible. If, however, the patient is led to believe by statement, appearance or otherwise that the doctor is a hospital employee or representative, some states may still find the hospital liable for the doctor’s malpractice.

Nurses, medical technicians, and other medical personnel usually are hospital employees and, therefore, the hospital has responsibility for their actions. All of this is a brief overview, subject to the law in your state which may be different, to understand why the emergency room may require a different analysis:

  • The patient is going to an emergency room and not a specific doctor – The emergency room is under the control of the hospital, which has responsibility to make sure that the medical personnel on duty in the emergency room perform their duties in a reasonable manner;
  • Disclosure that a doctor is a non-employee – When a patient selects a doctor, part of the process and paperwork usually involves a disclosure that the doctor is not an employee of the hospital, but merely has privileges to practice there. Therefore, the hospital distances itself from responsibility for the doctor’s actions. In an emergency situation, the patient is not choosing a specific doctor but a care center and the hospital does not have the opportunity to inform the patient of the non-employee status of the doctor.

Refusal to Treat a Patient May Lead to a Medical Malpractice Action

Hospitals face special regulations when it comes to treatment in emergency rooms. Any hospital that receives federal funding falls under the provisions of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). In accordance with EMTALA, an emergency room must not refuse treatment to a patient. Rather, the hospital emergency room has the obligation to:

  • Provide a medical examination and screening of the patient;
  • Provide medical treatment in order to stabilize the patient’s condition to the fullest extent possible.

If a hospital violates the provisions of EMTALA, then it may be liable for damages that are similar to those awarded in a medical malpractice action. This liability applies even where:

  • The hospital transferred the patient to another emergency facility rather than refusing treatment;
  • The patient had the ability to pay and lack of sufficient financial resources was not a factor in the refusal of treatment.

You trusted the doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to care for you and your baby, but something happened where negligence led to a birth injury. For a complimentary evaluation of your claim or for answers to your questions about the well-being of your child, please call (800)462-5772 to speak with an attorney at Stern Law, PLLC today.