Most of us think of emergency rooms as places of salvation in times of medical crisis and much of the time they are. Nevertheless, because of the very nature of the emergency room environment — unpredictable numbers of patients appearing randomly with a wide variety of (often critical) illnesses and injuries — the level of confusion and distraction can be high and mistakes happen more frequently than medical professionals like to acknowledge. For patients, emergency room errors or ER mistakes can have prolonged, dangerous medical consequences, or lead to death.
If you are a resident of New Jersey and have suffered as a result of an ER mistake or emergency room malpractice, or if you have gone through the misery of losing a loved one through such an error, Nagel Rice LLP, an outstanding medical malpractice law firm, is the place to come. Over the years, we have won over $100 million in medical practice settlements and jury verdicts for our clients, some of whom have been severely harmed by an emergency room mistake. We have also won cases of wrongful death for the families of victims who died as a result of a catastrophic ER error. Having brought more medical malpractice cases before the New Jersey Supreme Court and the appeals courts than any other law firm in New Jersey, Nagel Rice attorneys have the knowledge and skill to obtain the compensation you and your family deserve.
Causes of ER Mistakes
Many, or even most, of the medical mistakes that occur in New Jersey emergency rooms also occur in doctor’s offices, but, as noted, the ER environment with its high number of patients, quick conclusions and urgent interventions, and, ironically, also its delays in treatment, is conducive to medical mistakes that can be serious or deadly. Though there are very rarely malicious healthcare professionals, there are many distracted, overwhelmed or fatigued ones, especially in emergency rooms.
Common Mistakes That Lead to Emergency Room Malpractice
Some of the mistakes frequently made in ERs involve:
- Confusion between drugs with similar names
- Misreading of poorly written handwritten notes
- Misdiagnosis or mistreatment caused by taking an incomplete medical history
- Improper testing, lab errors
- Contamination of lab samples
- Lack of proper sanitation of facilities or personnel (lack of hand washing)
- Treatment delays
- Inadequate monitoring of patients
Emergency Room Mistakes Have Serious, Sometimes Fatal, Consequences
We have all heard tales of horrendous ER mistakes that have actually occurred. Even though patients with competent medical malpractice attorneys win substantial compensation, the result of these mistakes may be life-altering or fatal. Such ER errors include:
- Improper triage: when a patient with acute symptoms has to wait too long for help
- Confusion of two patients with different conditions by medical personnel
- Leaving of surgical instruments inside a surgical patient (e.g. sponges, scissors)
- Losing track of a patient’s whereabouts (typically a patient with dementia)
- Air bubbles in the blood when a patient’s chest isn’t sealed properly (after chest tube removal)
- Operation or removal of the wrong body part
- Mixing up of tubes that look alike, e.g. a feeding tube and a chest tube
- Improper administration of medication
- Inadequate anesthesia that causes a patient to feel pain during surgery
The Importance of “Informed Consent”
When you go to the emergency room, just as when you go to your doctor’s office, the healthcare providers, no matter how much pressure they are under, have the legal obligation to inform you of the potential risks, benefits and alternatives to any treatment they recommend, including surgery that you receive.
If you are conscious and alert, your written permission must be obtained; if not, your next of kin (e.g. spouse or parent) must be informed and give consent. There are exceptions to this, however, that occur fairly often in the emergency room. In life or death situations, when neither the patient or next of kin is able to give informed consent, doctors are permitted to take whatever steps they deem necessary to save the patient’s life. Some tricky legal matters may be involved with informed consent. For instance, the patient, if he or she is mentally competent, has the right to refuse treatment, even if refusing such treatment (such as an amputation) may eventually result in his or her death.
New Jersey Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
In New Jersey, the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit for medical malpractice error is 2 years from the date the injury occurred. In some situations, the law may make an exception if the patient could not have known of the medical error until it affected his or her health. In such a case, the patient is allowed to have two years from the date of discovery that he or she was harmed by ER negligence.
Damages You May Receive
If you believe that medical errors in the emergency room led to undue suffering for you or a loved one, you should contact the knowledgeable personal injury attorneys at Nagel Rice as quickly as possible. By investigating your case thoroughly, and examining all pertinent medical records, we will be able to determine whether you have a viable case. If so, we will work diligently to win you compensation for:
- Medical, hospital and rehabilitative costs
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earnings
- Physical pain
- Emotional suffering
- Permanent disability
Monies awarded to you for the above are known as compensatory damages.
If the medical error made in the ER was particularly awful — involving, for example, malicious or illegal activity or resulting in permanent disfigurement or death — we will also fight vigorously to win punitive damages for you. Punitive damages are awarded both as a means of punishing the defendant for egregious behavior and as a deterrent to others who might be tempted to engage in similar reckless misconduct.
Contact An Emergency Room Malpractice Lawyer
By conducting a thorough investigation, obtaining and evaluating relevant medical records, and relying on the testimony of expert witnesses, we build a convincing claim for a serious emergency room mistake. In addition to finding the attorneys at Nagel Rice to be skilled negotiators and powerful litigators, you will also find us to be compassionate human beings, fighting hard to protect your rights and win you just compensation for your suffering. You can reach us by phone or by filling out a contact form on our website.