Medical Malpractice in Maryland Emergency Rooms: When Can Victims File Lawsuits?

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Medical Malpractice Published on March 27, 2024 and updated on April 17, 2024.

doctors rushing hospital bed through hallwayEmergency rooms are high-stress environments where doctors and other healthcare professionals must make quick decisions to provide effective treatment. In some cases, lives may hang in the balance.

While doctors are human and mistakes can happen, doctors are legally obligated to provide a standard of care. If that does not happen and a patient suffers an injury, there may be a medical malpractice case.

This blog discusses medical malpractice in emergency rooms, including common examples, why medical malpractice happens in emergency rooms and when victims may have a case.

At The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl, we understand the pain and confusion victims and families often feel. We have secured millions in compensation for those injured by medical professionals.

Free initial consultation. Zero upfront fees. Contact us today: 410-297-0271.

Common Forms of Medical Malpractice in Emergency Rooms

These are some of the more common examples of medical malpractice that happen in emergency rooms. However, there may be other forms of medical malpractice that are not listed. It is critical that patients who think they were victims of malpractice meet with an experienced Maryland medical malpractice lawyer to discuss their potential legal options.

Common forms of emergency room malpractice may include:

Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

Misdiagnosis is a huge problem in non-emergency care, so it is no surprise doctors often misdiagnose patients in emergency rooms. Misdiagnosis also includes failing to diagnose patients in a timely manner. This can be especially dangerous in an emergency room setting.

Misdiagnosis results in delayed treatment, allowing the underlying issue to get worse and potentially become life-threatening. Providing the wrong treatment exposes the patient to unnecessary risks.

Some of the medical conditions that are commonly misdiagnosed in emergency rooms include:

  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Infections
  • Stroke
  • Sepsis
  • Severe bone fractures, such as compound or open fractures
  • Internal bleeding
  • Meningitis
  • Appendicitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Encephalitis
  • Endocarditis
  • Spinal abscess
  • Aortic aneurysm
  • Arterial thromboembolism

Misinterpreting Test Results

This falls under misdiagnosis, as doctors must properly interpret test results to reach an accurate diagnosis. Sometimes this happens because of laboratory errors (rushing through a test, such as not collecting enough blood), but sometimes doctors do not notice something on an X-ray or blood test that would allow them to properly diagnose an illness.

Medication Errors

Emergency rooms can be crowded, which makes it more challenging to provide prompt, accurate treatment. However, doctors still need to be take care to make sure they are not putting patients at risk, such as by making medication errors. These errors can be life-threatening, such as:

  • Administering the wrong medication
  • Providing the wrong dose
  • Not administering the medication in the appropriate way
  • Giving the patient something that has a harmful interaction with other prescription medications the patient is taking

Surgical Errors

Common examples of surgical errors include:

  • Operating on the wrong body part
  • Leaving surgical instruments inside the patient
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Using tools that have not been properly sanitized
  • Damaging tissues near the surgical site

Failure to Monitor Patients

Proper monitoring allows doctors and staff to catch changes in the patient’s condition. For instance, doctors need to monitor patients after surgery to catch signs of an infection or other adverse reaction. It is especially important to monitor patient oxygen levels, blood pressure and other vital signs. These are often the first indicators that something is wrong.

Improper Discharge

Discharging patients prematurely or without giving the proper guidance on follow-up care can result in preventable injuries. Sometimes patients are discharged even though they exhibited signs of severe complications that doctors did not notice. This could result in fatal injuries that may have been avoided if the patient was still in the hospital.

Causes of Emergency Room Medical Malpractice

There are several factors that may contribute to a higher likelihood of medical malpractice. However, there is no excuse for medical malpractice. Doctors and other healthcare providers are still expected to perform up to the standard of care for the situation.

Some of the factors that contribute to emergency room medical malpractice may include:

  • Overcrowding, which can result in rushed examinations and treatment.
  • Insufficient staffing, putting excessive pressure on the doctors and staff who are working.
  • Inadequate training or experience in handling specific illnesses or injuries.
  • Communication breakdowns between medical staff or between doctors and patients, which could result in medication errors, delayed treatment and misdiagnosis.
  • Inaccurate or incomplete patient records can lead to medication errors, incorrect treatments and other serious mistakes.
  • Long shifts and the stress of dealing with emergency situations can lead to exhaustion among healthcare workers.
  • Confusion created by shift changes or lack of staff working on holidays or weekends. This can result in gaps in care or monitoring.

Hospital Liability for Emergency Room Malpractice

In Maryland, hospitals could potentially be held liable for medical malpractice in the emergency room. This usually only occurs when the healthcare professionals involved in a patient’s care were employees of the hospital. The hospital can be held vicariously liable for the actions of its employees.

If you were treated by an independent contractor, the hospital may be shielded from liability. However, staff need to make it clear they are receiving treatment from an independent contractor. If this is not made clear, the hospital may be exposed to liability for medical malpractice.

Sometimes emergency medical malpractice cases cite understaffing as a contributing factor. If your lawyer can prove this, the hospital may face liability.

How do I Know if I May Have a Case?

This is a question for an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. However, if you went to an emergency room and suffered a severe injury or you later discover you were misdiagnosed, there may be case.

If you have any other reason to suspect you received substandard care, you should contact a lawyer to find out if there may be a case.

Injured in a Maryland Emergency Room? Call The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl

At The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl, we are committed to providing the support and legal guidance medical malpractice victims need. We have a track record of success with Maryland medical malpractice claims.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you during this challenging time.

Millions recovered. Zero upfront costs. 410-297-0271