Top causes of Emergency Department medical malpractice

Emergency Department visits can lead to injury.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that there are 136.3 million visits to Emergency Departments across the United States every year. The need for these services has been on the rise since 1996 while the overall numbers of Emergency Departments (ED) are decreasing. This translates to more patients and overcrowding issues. People that seek care within the ED trust that the medical professionals providing treatment will provide quality care. Although this is often true, there are cases where a professional fails to meet a patient’s needs, potentially leading to injury to the patient.

A study published in the United States National Library of Medicine addressed this issue, ultimately finding the most common causes of medical malpractice claims against emergency room physicians were errors in diagnosis and improper performance of a procedure.

Details of the study

This study is one of many that reviews the problems that can occur within the ED. In this specific study, researchers reviewed 11,529 claims spanning over a time period of 20 years. Through review of this data, researchers found that the most common cause of medical malpractice claims were cases of appendicitis, fractures and acute myocardial infarctions, more commonly known as heart attacks.

More on the common causes: Errors in diagnosis and improper performance of a procedure

Errors in diagnosis represented 37 percent of all malpractice claims. A separate study by Johns Hopkins supports this finding, noting diagnostic errors accounted for more medical malpractice claims than surgical mistakes or medication overdoses. In addition to the high number of the occurrence of errors in diagnosis, these errors are also extremely dangerous. Errors in diagnosis were responsible for "death or disability twice as often as other error categories."

Examples of errors in diagnosis include missed, delayed and wrong diagnosis. The most common mistake was missed diagnosis.

With 17 percent of all claims, improper performance of a procedure was second most common. A number of factors can contribute to this issue, likely including the high paced and often stressed environment of an ED. However, medical professionals are required to provide each individual patient with a certain standard of medical care. If this is not met, a medical malpractice claim likely exists.

Remedies for victims

Those who are injured by these types of medical malpractice claims are likely eligible to receive compensation through a civil suit. This suit can lead to awards to help cover the high cost of additional medical care and rehabilitation needs as well as lost wages. Contact an experienced medical negligence lawyer to discuss the details of your case and better ensure your legal rights and remedies are protected.