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Emergency Room Error

When a patient visits an emergency room, they are often scared, fatigued, and stressed. Emergency room physicians and medical staff treat a wide variety of medical conditions throughout their shifts ranging from high fevers, trips and falls, and heart attacks to catastrophic accidents. Unfortunately, the chaotic environments and notoriously understaffed nature of the ER can lead to life-threatening mistakes for individuals who may already need critical care.

Fortunately, Iowa laws protect patients who are injured due to emergency room errors committed by doctors, nurses, and emergency room staff. Claims involving injuries stemming from emergency room treatment may arise under legal theories such as torts, negligence, contract law, or by statute.

Iowa Emergency Room Error Attorney

If you have suffered injuries due to an emergency doctor’s error or you have lost a loved one because an ER doctor failed to deliver the proper standard of care, you may be entitled to compensation. In a critical time such as this, it’s important to seek the help of an experienced attorney who can protect your rights and fight to obtain the damages you deserve.

McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. serves clients in the greater Des Moines area including Polk County, Dallas County, Warren County, Madison County, Jasper County and Marion County. Contact us for a free consultation at (515) 279-9700.

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Information Center

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Medical Malpractice Rules Apply to ER Errors

Despite the chaotic and fast-paced environment of an emergency room, hospitals, physicians, and in some cases, additional medical staff, are not immune to medical malpractice suits. If injury or death results from negligent emergency room care, compensation may be available. In Iowa, a claimant would need to show by a preponderance of the evidence that a physician or medical professional failed to exercise the required degree of skill, care, and learning which would have been exercised by professionals in similar circumstances, and that this failed duty then caused the patient’s injuries and damages.

In emergency room claims, however, it’s important to understand that while physicians and staff may be sued for their professional negligence, hospitals are often sued as well as employers of the medical staff. A physician’s employment status as an independent contractor or staff employee for example can affect a plaintiff’s ability to sue a hospital. Therefore, potential claimants should meet with a qualified malpractice attorney in Iowa to fully understand their ability to recover against individuals and entities who may be liable for their injury. Furthermore, there may be claims which can be brought solely against a physician versus a hospital and vice versa, which depend on a variety of factors including federal funding.

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The Emergency Medical Treatment And Labor Act

Under The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (“EMTALA” ”) 42 U.S.C. 1395dd, a federal law passed by Congress in 1986, claimants can sue hospitals participating in Medicare funding as well as offsite urgent care facilities owned by hospitals. EMTALA was codified as a response to the unavailability of emergency health care services for low-income and uninsured individuals. Under EMTALA, any hospital/off-site urgent care facility that receives Medicare payments must ensure patients receive proper medical screening and stabilizing treatment, regardless of their ability to pay for care. These requirements are so stringent that under EMTALA, hospitals with specialized capabilities (cardiac units, etc.) are obligated to accept transfers from hospitals that otherwise lack the capability and resources to stabilize a patient.

Hospitals that violate the stringent requirements of EMTALA can face serious financial fines. Unfortunately, in a study published by Amis Public Health, while most EMTALA fines were concentrated in the western United States, Iowa stood out as a state with larger than average per-capita fines in the Midwest. Patients who desire to bring a claim under EMTALA must show that the hospital either failed to screen them or failed to provide the necessary stabilizing medical treatment.

Patients who feel that they may have been improperly turned away from a hospital or refused stabilizing medical treatment should speak with a medical malpractice attorney to discuss whether a claim under EMTALA can be pursued. Civil actions under EMTALA must be brought within two years after the date of the violation. Possible claimants should consult with attorneys immediately to ensure they do not miss this deadline.

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Emergency Room Errors

Diagnostic Errors

Malpractice in emergency rooms can come in the form of failure to diagnose and misdiagnosis. Diagnostic errors take place when medical professionals are unable to identify the classic or even atypical signs and symptoms of a medical condition and therefore misdiagnose the patient or discharge them without receiving proper care. In the instance of emergency room patients, diagnostic errors can be incredibly serious as most people present with symptoms to the emergency room because they feel as though they cannot wait to meet with their primary care physician. If these symptoms are overlooked or ignored, a patient’s already serious condition can be aggravated, and the patient can suffer serious injury as a result. Diagnostic errors are more common than not among medical claimants. In fact, according to the Heartland Health Research Institute, 55% of Iowans experiencing medical error report that their condition was misdiagnosed. Examples of diagnostic errors include:

  • Wrong diagnosis: occurs when medical staff does not properly diagnose a patient’s symptoms, such as a heart attack patient being told their pain is the result of acid reflux.
  • Delayed diagnosis: occurs when a diagnosis should have been made earlier, such as a patient presenting with a headache who is diagnosed with a migraine rather than screened for a stroke.
  • Failures in interpreting blood work, X-rays, CT Scans, and MRI studies: occur when obvious concerns on imaging and studies are overlooked or misinterpreted, for example, failure to view foreign ingested items in children on images.

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Other Common Emergency Room Errors

Aside from diagnostic errors, common medical errors in the ER may include:

  • Improper injection of medicine or antibiotics
  • Failure to administer antibiotics properly in patients with open fractures
  • Failure to properly explain discharge instructions
  • Failure to timely secure an airway for patients with extreme injuries

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Proving Medical Negligence In An Emergency Room

Patients who feel they have been injured because of a medical provider’s negligent actions in an emergency room deserve justice and should immediately seek the assistance of an experienced medical malpractice attorney. While many hospitals and physicians will try to raise defenses to counter a patient’s claims, qualified attorneys with the requisite technical skill and knowledge required in medical malpractice claims can establish that a medical professional breached their duty of care and caused injury and damage to their patient as a result.

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Additional Resources

Medical Errors in Iowa – Click the link to view a study provide by the Heartland Health Research Institute on what types of medical errors do Iowans most often experience.

Medical News Today: Medical Malpractice – Access the official website for Medical News Today to read information on medical malpractice.

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West Des Moines Emergency Room Error Lawyer | Polk County, IA

If you believe you were injured due to an emergency room error in Iowa, it is imperative to speak to a qualified personal injury as soon as possible. If you delay too long, your case could be barred, leaving you without access to the damages you are entitled to.  Give yourself an advantage and call an attorney at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. today.

We accept emergency room error cases in the City of Des Moines or the surrounding areas of West Des Moines, Windsor Heights, Waukee, Urbandale, Pleasant Hill, Norwalk, Johnston, Grimes, Clive, Carlisle, Bondurant, Ankeny, or Altoona. To schedule your first consultation, call (515) 279-9700.

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