New Study Looks at Why ER Doctors are Sued for Malpractice

When we go to the emergency room, we may be in the most precarious medical condition possible. We may be critically injured, where time is of the essence, and where a wrong decision by a medical provider can be the difference between life and death.

New Study Looks at ER Malpractice

Like any doctors, ER doctors can be sued for malpractice, and, in reality, often are. Many ER doctors lament that their higher malpractice rates are due to the nature of their job–they make snap, on-the-spot decisions with patients with whom they may not be familiar, and who are often entirely unconscious.

But a new study sought out to definitively determine why ER doctors are sued and for what. The Doctors Company, a medical insurer, conducted the study based on 332 ER malpractice claims from 2007 two2013. The study found that the highest medical malpractice claims came from the following:

● 57% – failure to diagnose. This may include failing to rule out causes of injury, or failure to consider alternative means of treatment. In common parlance, it means as it says–a claim based on the fact that a doctor could have or should have seen a sign or symptom, but failed to do so, or otherwise failed to take a certain course of treatment that should have been taken.
● 13% – Failure to manage treatment or trauma. This would include stabilizing a patient, or preventing a patient from getting worse. An example would be failure to properly brace someone with a spinal injury, leading to a more severe injury.
● 5% – Negligent performance of a procedure. This means that the doctor may have made all the right decisions, but conducted a procedure in a negligent way.
● 3% – Failure to prescribe proper medication. This includes not just prescribing the wrong medicine, but failing to prescribe medicine timely–many medicines must be provided to patients within strict time parameters to be effective.

Other Contributing Factors to ER Malpractice
The study didn’t just look at medical malpractice from the physician’s fault. It also looked at external factors that can contribute to malpractice. They included:

● 21% – Patient factors, including obesity, or diabetes, which can delay or alter the care given.
● 17% – Internal lack of communication. This includes failure to review the medical records, or speak with other nurses or physicians on scene about the patient.
● 14% – External lack of communication. This includes communication between the doctor and the patient’s family.
● 12% – Too much work, or understaffing, particularly in busy times, or holidays.

Certainly, the job of an ER doctor is a tough one, and neither patients, nor the law, demands perfection. Ultimately, the law requires doctors to act the way other doctors in a similar situation would act. In other words, a doctor’s standard of care can’t slip below that of others in the medical community. That’s not a huge burden to put on those that we trust with our lives.

There are many causes for medical malpractice. Make sure you have attorneys that can identify when malpractice occurs, and how to preserve your rights to recovery if it happens to you or your family. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your rights.