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Emergency Room Errors

It’s a place no one wants to find themselves. A visit to the emergency room likely means that you, or someone you love, is in need of immediate medical attention. Fortunately for most people, the issue that prompts a visit to this hospital ward is either minor or results in treatment that prevents any long-term damage. However, a certain group of patients presenting themselves to the emergency room require prompt diagnosis, particular treatments, and/or careful monitoring to avoid serious injury or permanent disability.

An emergency room is a fast-paced environment which must deal with an intense volume of patients. Decisions must be made about how to triage patients in order to deal with the most pressing needs first. Medical staff must carefully gather information and communicate it clearly amongst each other to avoid critical errors in deciding whether to admit and/or how to treat a patient. Finally, if a patient’s history and a physical exam are insufficient to determine what’s wrong, other diagnostic tests must be ordered, analyzed properly, and the results communicated to emergency room staff in a timely manner.

Sadly, mistakes do sometimes happen. While doctors, nurses, medical technicians and other hospital staff are not held to a standard of perfection, they are expected to follow best practices and provide the appropriate standards of care. If these standards are breached due to negligent actions or inaction and you or a loved one are seriously injured as a result, you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim.

Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers helps victims of emergency room errors and their loved ones to seek compensation and damages for the hurt and harm caused by another person’s negligence. With a track record for results and our renowned commitment to full-circle client care, you can trust the Gluckstein medical malpractice lawyers team to be your advocate during this difficult time.

Why do common emergency room errors happen?

Emergency room medical staff see people from all walks of life and with all types of medical conditions or traumas every day. Determining which of these people get priority happens as soon as a patient checks in and explains what brings them to the hospital. Admitting staff will ask if the patient is experiencing particular symptoms which would require immediate attention. If the patient is deemed to have a less urgent issue, they will need to wait according to their level of priority and the resources the hospital has available at the time. An error during the admissions process usually involves neglecting an obvious warning sign for a serious injury or condition, or a miscommunication between admitting staff and medical personnel, which causes an unreasonably long delay in treatment.

Once a patient is under the care of the doctors and nurses within the emergency ward, other common errors are possible. Failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, and delayed diagnosis can each contribute to a serious condition worsening before the appropriate treatment begins. Sometimes problems with diagnosis result when a medical practitioner declines to order diagnostic tests that could rule out certain conditions. Other times, even if these tests are ordered, the medical provider may misread results or fail to correctly analyze the results.

If medication is required to treat the condition, the medical team must be sure to provide the correct medicine at the correct dose, to the correct person. Moreover, if the patient is taking other medications or likely to take other medications while being treated, the medical providers must ensure there are no foreseeable drug interactions or allergies.

Finally, important information must be communicated to the patient regularly. The medical provider must explain to the patient how to manage their own care once they leave the hospital. Instructions on how to take medication, what follow-up visits are required, how to monitor symptoms and what red flags would necessitate a return to the hospital, must all be clearly communicated and understood.

What are the errors in emergency rooms?

Some of the most common emergency room errors lead to serious health consequences from missed injuries. For example, if a patient presents with a laceration (cuts), the medical team may stitch up the skin and tell the patient to watch for signs of infection. However, if the laceration causes a nerve injury that is not repaired quickly, it can lead to a poor outcome or permanent injury. 

Back pain is a common complaint that is most often not indicative of a medical emergency. Pulled muscles, slipped discs, and other conditions can often be treated with rest or physiotherapy. Rarely, the back pain may be caused by something more serious such as a spinal epidural abscess or cauda equina syndrome. If not treated immediately, these types of conditions can lead to permanent nerve damage or even death.

Early symptoms of a stroke often prompt emergency room visits. However, some of these symptoms, including altered mental state, nausea, vertigo and dizziness, are non-specific and may be misdiagnosed as something less serious.Research has found that misdiagnosed stroke patients were often triaged into a lower priority pool of patients, clinically assessed as Face, Arm, Speech and Time (FAST) negative, and received delayed imaging tests. Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis generally lead to worse outcomes and higher rates of mortality.

Other common injuries include:

  • Missed ischemic limb or ischemic bowel.
  • Unidentified or untreated infection causing sepsis.
  • Mild heart attack symptoms.
  • Pulmonary embolisms.
  • Pneumonias.
  • Abdominal bleeding.

Why are some serious conditions missed?

Medical staff are professionals, but they are also human and can be prone to the same kinds of bias as elsewhere in the general population. If they allow this bias to impact their diagnostic or treatment protocols, serious injuries or death can occur.

Sometimes medical staff may view a patient’s mental health as prompting an emergency room visit as opposed to an underlying medical pathology. If a patient is known to frequent the emergency department for mental health concerns, emergency room staff may triage that patient at a lower priority or be less likely to accept the patient’s description of their symptoms.

Other marginalized groups in the general population may experience similar profiling or bias. 

These groups include:

  • Racialized people.
  • People from diverse cultural backgrounds.
  • People from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Women and transgender-identifying individuals.

Members of marginalized groups are often very aware of the discrimination they face in other aspects of their lives, but may not think about possible medical bias if they are experiencing acute pain or otherwise focused on frightening symptoms.

Within the medical system, unfortunately sick patients must often act as their own advocates. Whenever possible, ask for another person to come with you to the emergency department. Not only can this person be a witness to your treatment, but they can also monitor you and your symptoms if you are mistakenly put into a lower priority pool for triage.

You or another person with you should take notes about when you arrived, how long you waited to see a doctor, whether your symptoms worsened and what was discussed. These notes will help in the event that you experience an error leading to an adverse outcome. But they will also help you to remember any instructions communicated to you for post-visit care.

If you visited an emergency room and were discharged, an unscheduled return visit to the emergency room within 72 hours should be considered a red flag for both you and the medical team. Be sure to clearly communicate that you had been recently seen but were now back because your condition either stayed the same or became worse. Studies have shown that a return-visit within this window of time is a serious marker for adverse outcomes.

What can I do if I’ve been seriously injured by emergency room negligence?

If you believe that you or a loved one suffered serious harm due to delayed treatment at a hospital’s emergency department, a medical error during your visit, or inappropriate after-visit care, you may be able to make a claim for damages for your injuries.

Gluckstein’s medical negligence lawyers are ready to help you seek the compensation you deserve. As one of the country’s top personal injury firms, we have the knowledge, experience and skill to handle these complex and challenging matters.

When you contact our team for a no cost, no obligation consultation, we will listen to your story with empathy and interest. After explaining your rights and various options, if you choose to pursue a medical malpractice claim through us, we will begin building a strong case based on your medical records and independent expert opinions. 

As a firm committed to full-circle client care, you can count on our emergency room errors medical malpractice team to be your trusted legal advocate and a compassionate supporter as you and your loved ones recover and look for closure after this unimaginable difficult time in your life.

Ontario Emergency Room Errors Lawyers.



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