Emergency Room Error Statistics

“Medical errors are estimated to cause 250,000 deaths per year in the US.” (2) Possible causes include poorly coordinated care, fragmented insurance networks, the absence or underuse of safety nets, and differences in physician practice patterns lacking accountability. (3)

“Diagnostic error increases mortality and length of hospital stay in patients presenting through the emergency room,” according to a research study conducted. The study concluded, “Diagnostic discrepancies are a relevant healthcare problem in patients admitted through the emergency room… and are associated with increased in-hospital mortality.” (4)

In an ER, the environment causes medical professionals to face regular interruptions. They often receive incomplete information. “Almost half of medical errors in the emergency room are due to problems with information processing.” (5)

Medical Errors

A medical error is what is called a “preventable adverse effect of medical care.” A medical error may harm a patient. Sometimes, the harm might not be evident. Besides misdiagnosis, possible problems frequently occur when medical professionals are treating patients.

These include: (6)

  • Adverse drug events.
  • Improper transfusions.
  • Under and overtreatment.
  • Surgical injuries and wrong-site surgery.
  • Restraint-related injuries or death.
  • Falls.
  • Burns.
  • Pressure ulcers.
  • Mistaken patient identities.
  • Suicides.

High error rates resulting in serious consequences are most likely to occur in emergency departments, operating rooms, and intensive care units. Very young patients and elderly patients also face a greater risk of experiencing a medical error. In addition, medical errors are more likely to occur when medical professionals are using new procedures and treating more serious and severe medical conditions. (7)

If you or a loved one suffered due to mistakes made in an ER, you may be able to sue for medical malpractice.

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Medical Complications

Generally, medical errors lead to these types of medical complications in the U.S.: (8)

  • Adverse reactions to medications.
  • Catheter-associated urinary tract infections.
  • Central line-associated bloodstream infections.
  • Injuries due to falls and immobility.
  • Adverse reactions to obstetrical events.
  • Pressure ulcers.
  • Surgical site infections.
  • Blood clots.
  • Ventilator-associated pneumonia.
  • Wrong site/wrong procedure surgery.

Also, five conditions are more frequently misdiagnosed than any other.

The issues are in these areas: (9)

  • Cancer.
  • Cardiac.
  • Neurological.
  • Urological.
  • Complications due to response time both during and after surgery.

Common Emergency Room Errors

With the ER specifically, medical errors can occur in many ways. Common errors include: 

Failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis. These types of errors can lead to severe harm. One example is with stroke. In fact, “The early signs of a potentially debilitating stroke — specifically dizziness and headache — are often overlooked in female, minority, and young patients.” As many as 165,000 patients could be harmed each year from this misdiagnosis alone. (10)

Improper monitoring of a patient during or after treatment. Doctors may miss something when examining a patient. Some doctors forget to examine patients altogether. (11)

Incorrect medication or dosage of medication. “Prescribing and drug administration appear to be associated with the greatest number of medication errors.” (12) These mistakes are common. They can lead to serious medical complications and longer stays in the hospital.

Surgery performed on wrong patient or wrong body part. Other common mistakes include retained foreign bodies, surgery at the wrong site, and performing the wrong procedure altogether. (13)

strong>Nursing and physician negligence. The ER culture and pace can increase the likelihood of human error. Doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel can make mistakes. (14)

Early discharge of a patient. Being discharged from the hospital early can sometimes result in serious complications or death. In fact, one study found 30 people out of 100,000 patients discharged from the ER died within seven days. Half of these were unexpected but somehow related to their ER visit. Roughly 60% involved a possible error. (15) (16)

Establishing Liability

Emergency room malpractice cases can fall under negligence. Mistakes made due to incompetence, understaffing, and unsanitary conditions also may be medical malpractice.

In legal terms, medical malpractice occurs when your healthcare provider has violated the accepted standard of care. You must have been injured due to the violation and your injuries resulted in recognized damage. (17)

“Liability for medical malpractice is based in tort law, specifically related to negligence.” (18) Basically, medical malpractice is when your healthcare provider was negligent in caring for or treating you.

Generally, you can hold any licensed medical professional liable for medical malpractice. Medical professionals include physicians, nurses, and chiropractors. Sometimes, you can even hold hospitals liable for the medical malpractice committed by the medical professionals they have hired. (19)

In a lawsuit, you must prove the medical professionals breached their duty of care. You may be able to sue multiple individuals, hospitals, and health care facilities depending on your specific circumstances.

Medical malpractice is complex. The attorney you hire can help you navigate the legal system.

Were you injured by a mistake made in an ER? You may be eligible for compensation.

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How W&L Can Help

You may need to sue for your injuries if you were seriously hurt, or a loved one died, because a medical professional made mistakes during your visit to the Emergency Room. If your illness was misdiagnosed, not diagnosed, or mishandled you may have grounds for medical malpractice.

If your treatment was delayed — or you were sent home and you should not have been — you could also have suffered from medical malpractice.

If so, contact a trustworthy law firm in your state, one with significant understanding when handling medical malpractice cases. An experienced attorney can help you explore your legal options.

Weitz & Luxenberg is based in Manhattan and has been successfully handling wrongful death, medical malpractice, and personal injury cases across New York State for over 30 years. Plus, we have a solid history of winning our cases.

Here are just two examples:

  • $2.2 million settlement — A woman underwent a tonsillectomy. Within just two weeks, her throat was hurting and she could not swallow. She went to an ER. The ER staff said she was dehydrated and admitted her to the hospital. They gave her antibiotics, IV fluids, and pain medication for several days, then released her. But she was still having the same problems she started out with. Within just two days, she died of blood loss. The surgical wound from her tonsillectomy had ruptured.
  • $500,000 – A young woman suffered irreparable damage to her uterus because health care providers at more than one ER made serious mistakes. She had an IUD implanted and developed an infection. She reported to one ER, where they misdiagnosed her, providing the wrong diagnosis, and released her. At another ER, doctors admitted her and removed the IUD. In a follow-up surgery to clear out infection, they damaged her internal organs. Our client suffered increasingly dangerous complications as surgeons tried to fix earlier mistakes. It ultimately resulted in irreversible and severe harm to her body.