Common Causes of Emergency Room Negligence

Common Causes of Emergency Room Negligence

We think of emergency rooms as being a place where lives are saved, but when negligence occurs, the result can be worse than the reason you came to the emergency room. In fact, CDC statistics show that over 700,000 people die in hospitals each year, and as many as half of those are thought to be linked to preventable medical errors. Let’s take a look at the most common forms of emergency room negligence and who or what may be the underlying causes.

Most Common Emergency Room Negligence 

A recent study of emergency room negligence claims reviewed hundreds of cases in order to determine the top causes. Among the many unique cases, researchers were still able to identify four main causes of emergency room negligence.


  • Diagnosis-Related Mistakes


This was far and away the top-listed reason for the malpractice lawsuits, accounting for 57% of the patients claims. Another Johns Hopkins study found that diagnosis errors are the leading cause of serious medical errors in the US. These were  primarily due to a misdiagnosis, delays in making diagnoses, or failure to diagnose.


  • Incorrect Management of Treatment


Making up 13% of the studied medical negligence claims, negligence in managing treatment at emergency rooms applies to all acts performed during a patient’s hospital stay. This could include improper stabilization for neck injuries, communication issues between emergency room medical care staff, or otherwise failing to follow established protocol for treating specific injuries.


  • Improper Performance of a Medical Procedure


5% of cases were due to a medical care team member making a mistake in carrying out a particular medical procedure. This could occur during any common emergency room procedure, such as intubation, laceration repair, lumbar punctures, or simply placing an IV line. 


  • Failing to Order Medication


During medical emergencies, doctors and staff should realize when they need to act quickly. This includes properly ordering and administering the right and necessary medications. Failures reported in the study reported issues like antibiotics not being ordered in a case of suspected pneumonia. 

What Factors Does an Indiana Injury Lawyer Look for in Emergency Room Negligence?

Understanding how negligence happens in emergency rooms is an important start. But it may be even more important to explore why. Emergency rooms are a unique healthcare environment, but these doctors have been specially trained to deal with the unexpected.  Experts reviewed the top four negligence causes to establish what factors most often lead to preventable emergency room patient injuries and death.

In over half of the reviewed cases, the negligence occurred during patient assessment.  The very nature of emergency rooms means the entire treatment process, including assessing the issue, ordering tests, and establishing a course of treatment has no room for errors. Another study of ER doctors found a greater rate of death when patients arrived with “nonspecific complaints.” This might include general complaints like headache, stomach ache, or lethargy, all of which can be attributed to numerous causes. 

For that reason doctors and nurses are strictly advised to avoid first impression-based diagnoses, or going off a “hunch.” Additionally, doctors should make differential diagnoses, a process which involves reviewing symptoms and preexisting health factors, and establishing all possible diagnoses. They should then rule out the worst-possible diagnoses first before moving down the list. This comparative process helps doctors to rule out certain conditions and narrow down to the actual cause.

Another significant issue in emergency rooms is a lack of communication between providers. This might take the form of failure to review charts, improper documentation, or just generally poor rapport between members of an ER staff. Doctors rotate through patients all day, and it’s not uncommon for a patient to be treated by numerous members of the team. Some members of the staff may even give inadequate information to a doctor taking over the patient’s care. When documentation is done poorly or there’s conflicting methods of treatment, the possibility for negligence is significantly higher.

Choose the Indiana Medical Malpractice Lawyer that Will Be Your Advocate

The doctors, nurses, and other professionals of a hospital have a duty to provide the best possible treatment for their patients. When best practices are ignored, it can lead to preventable injuries and death. That’s when you need a top notch Indiana medical malpractice attorney to represent your best interests. If you’ve been the victim of emergency room-related negligence, contact Christie Farrell Lee & Bell today.