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A Few Facts About Medical Malpractice in Emergency Departments

Sept. 26, 2019

The fast-paced environment in Michigan hospital emergency departments may seem chaotic, but hospitals have protocols in place to make sure that patients receive the care they need. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 145.6 million people in the United States visited emergency departments in 2016.

When patients sustain injuries due to medical negligence, they may file a lawsuit. EMRA answers the following questions about ED errors and medical malpractice lawsuits.

What are the most common issues that lead to lawsuits?

People most often file lawsuits against ED doctors because of mistakes related to heart attacks and appendicitis. Heart attacks were the most common reason that people filed wrongful death lawsuits, and they were the most commonly named missed diagnosis in litigation.

One of the goals of emergency room care is to treat patients and either admit them to the hospital or send them home. However, often, test results do not come back from the lab until after patients have already been discharged from emergency care and gone home. ED providers are typically liable if they do not make sure that patients receive test results and it leads to an adverse health event.

Who is most likely to be sued in the ED?

Although an injury may have occurred in the ED, the doctor and emergency staff may not be the ones liable for the incident. In fact, one study reported that all but 19% of claims were attributable to nonemergency specialty groups.

How often do patients win ED malpractice lawsuits?

Most cases do not ever go to trial. Many are dropped before they go to court. The study found only 1% of all claims resulted in a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs. However, 29% of the plaintiffs received a settlement that included a payment.

The severity of the injury to the patient made a difference in how large of an award he or she received. For example, those that resulted in brain damage, amputation, blindness or paralysis resulted in higher monetary payouts.