Study finds diagnosis mistakes lead lawsuits against ER doctors

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

Emergency room doctors in New York and across the country face a number of challenges, including lack of staff, insufficient medical records and language barriers. A new study from The Doctors Company, a medical malpractice insurance provider, identified the difficulties of ER medicine and cited diagnosis problems as the top reason for lawsuits against ER doctors.

Looking at information from 332 claims against ER doctors between 2007 and 2013, the study showed that 57 percent of the claims arose from diagnosis issues. This category includes failing to make a differential diagnosis and not taking into account available clinical information about a patient. The likelihood that an ER doctor does not know a patient contributes to the errors made in assessing the patient’s condition.

Improper treatments that resulted in paraplegia accounted for 13 percent of the lawsuits studied. Mistakes with treatment and procedures caused 5 percent of the claims, and 3 percent of claims arose from failing to order proper medications on time. Upon reviewing the study, the medical director for The Doctors Company said that the problems identified should encourage ER doctors to take time to make a thorough diagnosis in order to reduce exposure to liability.

A person who has suffered an injury because of a medical error or missed diagnosis might have cause to make a claim of negligence against a healthcare provider. If the person’s records show that the doctor failed to make reasonable efforts to diagnose or treat the person, then negligence might have occurred, and the person could file medical malpracticelawsuit. An attorney familiar with medical cases could evaluate the situation and advise the person on the potential of a lawsuit. If successful, the lawsuit could recover compensation for medical bills, lost income and other expenses.

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