To understand why injuries sometimes occur in the emergency room, one must understand negligence. Negligence refers to a doctor who fails to provide the quality of care that other reasonable competent doctors would have provided in a similar circumstance. If a patient wishes to demonstrate that negligence occurred in a medical malpractice lawsuit, they must prove the standard of care and a breach in that standard of care.
Standard of Care: This refers to the level of competence that most doctors would have conducted themselves with in similar circumstances when treating a patient. Establishing this could require expert testimony, and a specialist would typically consider all evidence and present his or her opinion on what kind of treatment would have been reasonable and competent under the circumstances.
Breach of the Standard: The plaintiff must methodically show how the emergency room treatment that was actually received fell short of the appropriate standard of care under the circumstances.
Next, a patient must consider if harm was caused by the negligence involved. In order for a person to win a medical malpractice lawsuit, a patient must prove that the doctor’s negligence caused foreseeable harm. This could include pain and suffering, cost of medical bills due to additional corrective treatment, loss of earning capacity, and the loss of ability to enjoy life.
So, who is liable for medical emergency malpractice?
Typically, normal malpractice rules will apply to ER doctors or nurses. Like with other malpractice situations, the patient must prove that a competent doctor under the same circumstances would not have made the mistake that was made. First responders are often protected when it comes to medical emergencies. This usually refers to ambulance crews, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians. These protections are put in place in order to preserve emergency services, which would otherwise be subject to frequent lawsuits. The only occasion in which they are not protected is if they are being totally reckless and blatantly negligent, in which case they may be found liable.
What about a case where an emergency room refuses to treat a patient?
Most hospitals receive Medicare funding. This means that they are subject to the rules of a federal law called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). Under EMTALA, the emergency room cannot turn anyone away, regardless of the person’s ability to pay. The emergency room must instead provide a medical screening of the injured person and stabilize the person to the extent possible. If these rules are violated, financial liability similar to malpractice damages could occur. These rules apply even if the emergency room transferred the injured person to another ER instead of just refusing treatment, or the patient could have paid for the medical services.
Medical malpractice law is highly regulated by a complex body of rules. These rules can vary considerably from state to state, which means it is advisable that one receives representation from an attorney they can trust. Call us at WTW today to talk about a potential case. We can work with you to see where you stand!