What Happens If an Emergency Room Misdiagnoses Me?
Emergency rooms are stressful environments that require quick decisions. Unfortunately, some of these quick decisions lead to medical errors. An emergency room error may be a form of medical malpractice that could entitle you to financial compensation.
One of the most common errors is an incorrect diagnosis, where doctors dismiss you from the emergency room even though your medical condition calls for more medical attention. With the help of a skilled attorney, you can pursue financial compensation.
Nevertheless, not all medical misdiagnosis cases are malpractice. It’s important to understand how medical malpractice fits into personal injury law if you intend to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit. Patients have rights just as the doctor making decisions has responsibilities. Find out whether your misdiagnosis case could result in compensation.
You May Be Able to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit After a Wrong Diagnosis
A wrong diagnosis may be considered negligence, which could entitle you to compensation. Misdiagnoses can happen for a number of reasons. A diagnostic error in the lab could result in a misdiagnosis. A delayed diagnosis could cause a condition to worsen.
Sometimes patients have symptoms that match several conditions, so a differential diagnosis is used to discard possible problems. However, these methods sometimes fail to provide the correct diagnosis.
Do All Misdiagnoses Qualify?
Medicine isn’t perfect, so there is a degree of tolerance in personal injury law for misdiagnosis cases. Sometimes the hospital emergency room or a doctor makes a mistake but corrects it quickly.
In other instances, it may be extremely difficult to diagnose a condition properly, and doctors may not be able to provide treatment immediately. However, Missouri’s civil code outlines where mistakes could allow a patient to sue. Consider the conditions necessary to file a claim.
When Is It Possible to File a Medical Malpractice Claim?
There are several conditions required to pursue a medical malpractice case in court. First, the patient must have suffered harm because of the error. Second, the error must be the result of negligence. Missouri law specifically states that if a doctor fails to provide the proper treatment that a reasonable and careful medical professional would have provided, then there is just cause for a lawsuit. Another doctor needs to support your claim of negligence.
Finally, your medical malpractice case must be filed within the statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is a legal rule that limits the time that can pass before filing a lawsuit. If the patient meets all of these criteria, then the doctor or hospital that made the mistake may be held responsible for your injury. Let’s examine each of these items in greater detail.
The “Harm Caused” Requirement
Proving harm, or damages, to the patient is the first step in any malpractice case. Damages are determined by first looking at the financial harm of the injury. For example, if you got treatment for a condition that you didn’t actually have because of a misdiagnosis, the cost of that medical care could be considered as part of your damages.
If your condition worsened because it was not being treated, you may have required more medical care and, therefore, more damages. In some cases, a wrong diagnosis could actually create new problems as severe as a heart attack. For example, this can happen with medication errors where a patient receives the wrong medicine. The cost of any treatment related to the incorrect diagnosis can be reclaimed in your lawsuit, even after your emergency room visit.
The “Failure to Provide Proper Treatment” Requirement
In addition to showing harm from a wrong diagnosis, the patient also has to demonstrate that the hospital or doctor deviated from medical standard procedure. If your doctor did what any other doctor would, there is no malpractice case. Since you are not a medical professional, you may not know what the medical standard of practice is, and an experienced medical malpractice attorney can help.
However, there are some obvious situations that you may be able to evaluate on your own.
For example, if your medical history or family history clearly indicates a predisposition for a certain condition, and your doctor did not test for that possibility, that would be a clear example of medical negligence. A competent doctor would first review your medical history.
If emergency room doctors did not administer the appropriate tests to determine your condition, they could also have misdiagnosed you, resulting in emergency room malpractice. These are just some examples of emergency room errors.
You Need Another Medical Professional’s Testimony
To prove misdiagnosis, a patient needs a second opinion from another doctor. Other doctors can testify that the medical professionals that mistreated you made mistakes in their emergency care. A written statement from another doctor is a requirement to file a lawsuit for malpractice in Missouri.
If you don’t know another doctor, don’t worry. You can contact a law firm, and they can reach out to healthcare professionals to get a statement on your behalf. You will need to explain your emergency room treatment in detail, including the events leading up to the incident that required treatment.
Share your medical history and any documents you have from the hospital, including medical bills, details of the emergency room services provided, lab results, and any medicine that was prescribed. If you do not have these documents, ask the hospital to send an itemized list to you. Many hospitals don’t itemize everything when they first send a bill.
The Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice Claims
The final requirement is that your claim be brought to court before the statute of limitations expires.Missouri law imposes a two-year limit on most medical malpractice cases.
However, this does not mean that you must file suit within two years of your emergency room injury. A doctor or hospital can be held responsible for up to two years after the discovery of the initial negligence. What does this mean in practice?
Extending the Statute of Limitations
If a patient was misdiagnosed and one year later became aware of their true condition, the two-year limit starts from the date of discovery. This may happen because the patient didn’t receive test results or because of a doctor’s negligence.
Likewise, the hospital may have made a clerical error, such as a typo in the patient’s email or phone number. In many cases, the patient’s condition worsens, and they discover the error upon their next visit.
What Can a Medical Malpractice Attorney Do to Help?
An experienced lawyer from a reputable law firm is vital if you intend to pursue compensation for medical negligence. Only a lawyer truly understands your legal options. A hospital will tell a patient that emergency room errors occur sometimes and that there’s nothing that can be done. A lawyer will hold emergency room medical professionals accountable and seek justice for the patient. Look for a law firm that offers a free consultation so you can speak to a lawyer now.
Even though the doctor-patient relationship implies confidentiality between the two parties, you get the same relationship with your lawyer, which means you can share any information you deem relevant. Doctors have a legal obligation to provide information you request regarding emergency room errors or diagnostic errors. This legal basis makes it possible for your lawyer to help you. Consider a few of the ways lawyers help patients with their medical malpractice cases.
Documenting Emergency Room Errors
An experienced attorney in the field of medical negligence is familiar with standard operating procedure in the emergency room. They can review your documents and identify areas to investigate further. As mentioned before, there are several criteria to determine if a lawsuit is possible, and your lawyer can quickly make that decision to get the process started.
If you need more documents, a lawyer can formally request them from the emergency room staff or the medical professionals involved in your case.
Investigating the Hospital
Experienced lawyers can also gather data on previous emergency room errors from the same hospital. Emergency departments with a history of negligence or serious emergency room errors, like wrongful death or failing to identify life-threatening conditions, are much easier to pursue in court.
Calculating Damages From a Patient’s Injury
A patient that suffered harm is entitled to receive full compensation for their damages. Most emergency rooms will not offer patients anything when mistakes happen. At best, they may lower the bill. A lawyer can analyze bills from emergency rooms and other medical professionals and help you determine the total damages and recover from the malpractice.
And that’s not the only kind of damages you can pursue. There are also non-economic damages.
Besides economic damages, patients can also recover additional damages in the form of “pain and suffering,” also known as non-economic damages. There are limits to how much you can claim in non-economic damages, though. Hospitals will try to deny that the emergency room error was their fault but may be willing to accept a settlement in your favor.
Carrying Your Case to Court
Although most patients will settle their case out of court, you may find that the hospital’s settlement offer isn’t enough to compensate for the emergency room errors and the damage they’ve caused. Your lawyer may advise pursuing the case further in court. Going to trial means that patients will have to wait longer, and there is a chance that the jury will side against you, which would result in no compensation at all. Patients only win about 20% of trials.
If you’re a patient that has experienced a misdiagnosis, contact Wendt Law Firm P.C. at 816-542-6734 to schedule a free consultation with one of our expert personal injury attorneys.