Cleveland Medical Malpractice Lawyers Fight to Get Full Compensation for Victims Injured by a Delay in Emergency Room Treatment
Delayed ER response and treatment leads to preventable tragedies
When you visit the ER, it’s typically because you, or someone in your care, needs critical or emergency treatment that cannot wait. But due to overcrowding, understaffing, lack of funds, and sometimes just general apathy and poor care, approximately 25 percent of patients in emergency rooms across the United States are not being seen and treated within a safe time frame. And, even more alarming, is that patients who are in need of urgent medical treatment are the most likely to experience a delay in treatment, often with terrible consequences.
When there is an unreasonable delay in emergency room treatment, and that delay leads to serious harm, those responsible should be held accountable, and those injured should to be taken care of and compensated. This is where the attorneys at The Eisen Law Firm excel. For nearly four decades, our Cleveland medical malpractice lawyers have been pursuing justice, holding responsible parties accountable for their negligence. Our sole focus as Ohio medical malpractice attorneys is acting as the voice of victims and families suffering from negligent healthcare practices through our zealous legal advocacy.
When is a delay in treatment in the ER malpractice?
Not every long wait in the ER represents medical malpractice. And this issue is complex, even when it is evident that a delay has caused serious harm. There are two essential criteria that must be present in order to even consider a malpractice claim: someone responsible for providing health care acted negligently, and this negligence caused harm or injury.
The first key in a delay in treatment case is to determine whether the delay was reasonable under the circumstances. If not, the delay was the result of negligence. In court, it is the burden of the patient to show that there was a deviation from the “standard of care.” That is just legal mumbo jumbo for the real question: was the delay reasonable under the circumstances?
In determining whether a delay was reasonable or unreasonable, the focus should be on the circumstances. Did the patient have signs and symptoms of a truly emergent condition such as a heart attack or stroke? How long exactly was the delay? Why was there a delay? Was the census in the ER unusually high (in other words, was there an unexpected surge of patients)? Was there an unexpected shortage of physicians, nurses, or equipment? Was a doctor or nurse chatting on the phone or surfing the internet instead of efficiently evaluating patients? Was the patient simply told to “wait their turn,” even though the patient clearly had an emergent condition?
Once it has been determined that a delay in treatment was unreasonable, the next step is to show that earlier treatment likely would have made a significant difference in outcome. That, too, can be difficult and requires expert testimony. Doctors and hospitals sometimes admit that there was an unreasonable delay but then claim that the patient was so sick that earlier treatment wouldn’t have made a difference. It is critically important for the patient’s attorneys to obtain expert testimony from well-credentialed experts in order to show that earlier treatment would have prevented significant injury or death.
What are some examples of medical malpractice in the ER?
There is no published guideline that sets forth reasonable time frames for addressing all the various complaints with which ER patients may present. There are guidelines for certain conditions such as chest pain and stroke, but for the overwhelming majority of illnesses and conditions seen in the emergency room, the line between “soon enough” and “too late” depends upon the specific facts of the case. The following are a few examples of extreme situations that represent unreasonable ER delays:
- A ruptured appendix that led to fatal peritonitis. ER treatment delayed because the medical staff ignored obvious symptoms and danger signs.
- A patient with an acute onset of facial droop and slurred speech (signs of a stroke) was forced to wait until the “golden window” for treatment with clot busting medications has “closed.”
- A patient suffered paralysis due to a fall that injured the spinal cord. The ER minimized the issue, assuming that the patient was drunk and should “sleep it off,” when in fact he was severely injured.
- Uncontrolled hemorrhage (bleeding) in the ER waiting room because the patient was ignored.
- A patient with chest pain was told to go elsewhere because the ER was too busy. He then suffered a heart attack in his car on the way to another ER.
- A patient with signs of vascular compromise (insufficient blood flow to his hand and fingers) was forced to wait for hours, until his fingers turned black and the hand had to be amputated.
Get honest, well-informed answers from knowledgeable Cleveland medical malpractice attorneys if you or a loved one experienced a delay in emergency room treatment
If you have questions about an ER visit where a delay in treatment led to a dangerous injury or tragic outcome, call 216-687-0900 to schedule a confidential case evaluation. The Ohio medical malpractice attorneys at The Eisen Law Firm provide compassionate representation to victims in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Lorain, Akron and throughout Ohio.
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