According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 131 million emergency room visits each year in the United States. This translates to nearly 360,000 emergency department visits every single day. In fact, the emergency department at the University of Virginia Medical Center alone provides care for more than 60,000 patients per year.
The nature of a Virginia emergency department means that the vast majority of patients seen are experiencing some type of fairly major health concern—major enough, at least, that they could not wait to schedule an appointment with their family doctor. It also means that there is a great deal of emphasis placed by the hospital staff on the speed of patient treatment. Unfortunately, rushed treatment can lead to mistakes and, in some cases, actionable medical negligence. If you or a loved one has suffered as result of carelessness or negligence in a Virginia emergency room, an experienced Virginia medical malpractice lawyer can help you take action.
An Intense Atmosphere
There is absolutely no question that emergency department staff, including physicians, nurses, and support personnel, are often overworked, underpaid, and largely underappreciated. They frequently work long hours, seeing dozens of patients in a single shift. To make matters even more complicated, emergency room patients come looking for immediate answers, which means that ER doctors are under pressure to diagnose each patient quickly so they can begin treatment.
Emergency room staff also face the additional challenge of essentially starting from scratch with each patient they see. Consider this: When you visit your family doctor, the doctor is familiar with you as a patient and is generally aware of your health and medical history, as well as your lifestyle. This allows your doctor to establish a reasonable starting point for addressing your current problem. An ER doctor often has virtually nothing to go on, and they must attempt to gather the necessary information while trying to diagnose and treat the patient.
Common ER Mistakes
Given the fast-paced, high-intensity atmosphere of the emergency department, it is easy to see how the staff might be prone to making mistakes. Some of the most common emergency room errors include:
- Improper testing, including ordering the wrong tests or failing to order certain tests
- Triage decisions that make patients wait too long
- Poor communication among staff members
- Inadequate monitoring of patients
- Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
- Laboratory mistakes
- Discharging patients too soon
- Failure to identify potential problems such as medication allergies.
Proving Medical Malpractice in Virginia
It is important to understand that not every mistake made in the emergency room is automatically considered to be malpractice. Some errors are caught quickly and result in no harm to the patient, but even those that do cause some harm may not be grounds for a malpractice claim. In order for a mistake to be considered malpractice, the patient must show that the mistake would not have been made by reasonably prudent medical professionals of a similar age and specialty with similar training and experience. The patient must also show that they suffered harm as a result of the error.
In many medical malpractice cases, it is common for expert witnesses to provide testimony regarding what a reasonably prudent medical professional would have or should have done under the circumstances of a given case. Such expert witnesses are generally medical professionals themselves—typically working in the area of specialization as the medical professional alleged to have committed malpractice. Medical records and records of interactions between the doctor and the patient are also important elements in these types of cases.
We Can Help
If you or a loved one has been negatively affected by a Virginia emergency room error, an experienced Virginia medical malpractice lawyer from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can help you explore your options for taking action. We understand the importance of acting quickly to ensure that your rights and best interests are fully protected. When you work with our team, you can count on us to be at your side every step of the way—just as we were for a 32-year-old woman for whom we secured a $750,000 settlement after a botched hysterectomy procedure.
For over twenty years, Mr. Sharp's law practice has focused on serious personal injury claims, including traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury claims. He also handles nursing home neglect cases and medical malpractice claims. Mr. Sharp has counseled numerous clients about the complexities concerning litigation of both pediatric and adult brain injury.
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