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Emergency Room Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Seattle

Medical Malpractice During Emergencies

Ironically, many patients are injured by medical errors made in hospital emergency rooms – the places we turn to when we urgently need medical care. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a recent study found that at least one preventable medical error occurred in 46 of 533 randomly selected emergency room patient visits. Researchers also found that patients seeking emergency care during peak traffic times suffered more than twice as many medical errors.

Emergency rooms may be busy and overcrowded, but physicians and facilities still have a duty to perform within a reasonable standard of care. When preventable medical errors cause injury and death to patients, responsible parties should be held accountable. Those who have suffered a worsened condition or have been injured as a result have the right to pursue compensation for all losses, both financial and personal.

Our Seattle medical malpractice attorneys at Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. are committed to helping our clients pursue the compensation they deserve. If you have been injured through a medical provider's negligence, we have the knowledge, skills, and resources to build a strong claim for compensation on your behalf.

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Causes of Preventable Medical Errors in Hospital Emergency Rooms


An article in Health Leaders Media discusses the link found in a recent study between the constant interruptions emergency room physicians experience, and a predisposition to committing medical errors. Researchers found that the average community hospital emergency room doctor may treat as many as 12 patients at once, and interact with up to 101 individuals in a normal two-hour period.

This study also found that emergency room doctors have very little direct patient interaction and spend the majority of their time in indirect patient care, which includes interpreting tests, reviewing medical records, and interacting with consultants. The average length of time spent directly with the patient was found to be only 6 minutes in community hospitals, as compared to 55 minutes spent on indirect care. As direct interaction facilitates communication, this discrepancy has become a significant cause for concern.

Researchers found that community hospital emergency room doctors deal with up to 19 interruptions in any given two-hour period. These frequent interruptions cause physicians to switch tasks and leave tasks incomplete, resulting in a higher potential for an act of medical malpractice.

Emergency room waiting times

Everyone knows that hospital emergency rooms have long waiting times – it's one of the reasons patients are often so reluctant to visit the hospital ER, even when they're in a great deal of pain and suffering. Although unpleasant, it's not uncommon for hospital emergency rooms to have an average of a 4-hour wait time before patients can see a doctor; and sometimes this can extend up to 8 hours or more. The fact is hospitals around the country need to be able to do better than that, as the consequences of these long wait times can be dire.

Imagine someone visits a hospital emergency room when they're just starting to feel an asthma attack getting out of control. If treated right away, the chances are very good that the patient would be just fine, and leave in an hour or so, breathing properly and going on with their day. However, these are often the types of patients that get left to wait in the waiting room. After just one hour of experiencing difficulty breathing, a number of other problems could arise, and the patient could be in the grips of a severe asthma attack, which is now harder to treat and could have much more severe consequences.

Asthma is just one condition that can get much worse if treatment is withheld for even a seemingly small amount of time. The chances for heart attack patients to fully recover and return to a normal life are much better if the attack is treated right away, instead of waiting. Although just about any condition or illness can get worse if left untreated, some of the most common ones found in emergency rooms are:

  • Strokes
  • Seizures
  • Shock
  • Diabetic emergencies
  • Aneurisms
  • Appendicitis
  • Aggressive cancer
  • Internal bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Injuries sustained from accidents

After experiencing a long delay in a hospital emergency room, patients often wonder why – especially if they've suffered additional damages and injuries due to the wait. There are a number of reasons for emergency room delays, but some of the most common are:

  • Improperly identifying symptoms
  • Failure to prioritize patients properly
  • Not enough questions asked in triage/not right questions asked in triage
  • Thinking patients are overacting or dramatizing their symptoms/not taking them seriously
  • Not stabilizing patients before asking them to wait
  • Discrimination
  • Bottlenecks occurring because hospital procedures are simply inefficient

For all of these reasons for hospital emergency delays and more, the hospital and its staff may be responsible to pay for compensation for any damages incurred due to long wait times.

Emergency room negligence

Of course you'd like to think that when you visit a hospital emergency room, you're going to get the undivided care and attention of the staff at that hospital. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. Emergency room negligence happens far too often, whether the nurses and doctors are aware of it or not. Some of the more serious medical errors that can occur as a result of emergency room negligence have been briefly touched on, but generally speaking there's a lot that go wrong in the emergency room, specifically:

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Failure to diagnose
  • Paramedic/EMT neglect
  • Surgical errors
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Contaminated blood transfusions
  • Failure to properly triage or telephone-triage
  • ER waiting room delay
  • Failure to admit cardiac (heart attack, myocardial infarction)
  • Failure to recognize stroke and administer timely PLAT or tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) in embolic or thrombolytic stroke
  • Failure to properly recognize hemorrhagic stroke and head trauma (use of tPA is contraindicated)

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Contact Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. Today

If you are one of the unfortunate patients who have suffered injury as a result of emergency room medical errors, contact us for a free case consultation. Our Seattle emergency room medical malpractice lawyers at Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. will review the facts in your case, and advise you how to move forward with a claim or lawsuit. Call today for help – you have limited time to file a claim, under the law. We can be reached at (888) 228-3860.

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