Emergency Room Errors: When Mistakes Count as Negligence

Emergency Room Errors: When Mistakes Count as Negligence

Pennsylvanians go to hospital emergency departments to take care of immediate medical needs. People expect they will receive quality care in the emergency room. However, hospital emergency departments often lack enough staff to quickly address all of their patient’s needs. When there aren’t enough medical staff members in an emergency department, it is easier for mistakes to occur. Since some people who go to the emergency room have urgent medical needs, mistakes can lead to serious complications or patient death. The medical malpractice lawyers in Philadelphia at Raynes & Lawn represent patients who have been the victims of emergency room malpractice.

Types of Emergency Room Errors

Some of the common errors in emergency departments include the following:


  • Misdiagnosis
  • Failure to perform necessary tests
  • Giving the wrong medications to patients
  • Delayed treatment
  • Failing to provide follow-up care
  • Giving improper doses of medication to patients
  • Failing to properly sterilize equipment


A misdiagnosis happens when a doctor diagnoses a patient with an incorrect condition by misinterpreting the patient’s symptoms or misreading the results of a test. Can you sue an emergency room for misdiagnosis? If a misdiagnosis rises to the level of malpractice, you can file a lawsuit based on it. Our malpractice lawyers in PA can review your case and help you understand whether your claim has legal merits.


A misdiagnosis can happen when a doctor fails to perform the necessary tests, including x-rays, CT scans, lab screens, or others. If the failure results in a patient not receiving a prompt diagnosis and treatment, it might amount to malpractice if the patient suffered serious harm as a result.


Because of the chaotic environment of a busy emergency department, medication errors sometimes occur. Medication errors might include administering the wrong medication to a patient that badly interacts with the medication a patient is already on or to which the patient is allergic. Medication errors also might happen when a nurse administers medication to the wrong patient or gives too high or too low of a dose.


Treatment delays can happen because of how busy an emergency department is. When a patient is suffering from an acute medical issue, a treatment delay can cause serious complications to develop. Treatment delays might also occur when the nurses incorrectly triage a patient and assess their symptoms as being less severe than they are.


Failing to provide follow-up care can also result in serious injuries or death. An emergency room should provide instructions for follow-up care to patients at the time of their discharge.

Types of Complications in Emergency Room Negligence Cases

Errors in the emergency room can cause a patient’s symptoms to worsen. Some common complications involved in emergency room negligence cases include the following:

  • Heart attacks
  • Infections
  • Strokes
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Internal bleeding
  • Other complications

Why Emergency Room Errors Happen

Most emergency room errors are preventable. However, because of the chaotic environment in an emergency department, things can quickly get out of control. Many emergency departments are understaffed, and patients might be passed from nurse to nurse or doctor to doctor several times during a shift. Poor communication between the various medical professionals can result in mistakes being made. Mistakes can also happen when the staff fails to get a full medical history from the patient, including any medications they are taking and their reported allergies. Some errors also happen when a pharmacist misreads a doctor’s prescription and fills a drug in the wrong dose. Failing to check a patient’s medical chart to confirm their identity can also cause the doctor to provide the wrong treatment to a patient.

When Do Emergency Room Errors Rise to the Level of Malpractice?

Not all mistakes made in an emergency room will amount to medical malpractice. In Pennsylvania, you will have to have a medical expert review what occurred to determine whether the doctor’s treatment fell below the expected standard of care and caused your injuries to have a viable claim. To prove a malpractice claim, you will need to prove each of the following elements:

  • You formed a doctor-patient relationship
  • The doctor provided substandard care as compared to what a reasonably competent provider in the area would have provided under similar treatment conditions
  • The doctor’s negligent care caused your injuries
  • You suffered actual damages

For example, if your loved one went to the hospital complaining of chest pains, and the hospital triaged them incorrectly and told them to wait, the hospital could be liable if your loved one suffered a heart attack and died without being seen. Similarly, if a doctor saw your loved one but failed to check them for a potential heart attack and instead sent them home, the doctor could be liable.

Can the Hospital Be Liable for Malpractice?

The hospital might be liable for emergency room errors in some cases. If the error happened because of inadequate or improper staffing, the hospital might be liable. A hospital might also be vicariously liable for malpractice committed by employees in the emergency room, including nurses and others. It might also be liable for the malpractice of a physician when the hospital knew or should have known that the doctor was incompetent but still contracted with them.

Compensation in Emergency Room Negligence Cases

Some of the types of damages that might be available in an emergency room negligence case include the following:

  • Cost of additional treatment needed because of the medical negligence
  • Income losses caused by the medical error
  • Pain and suffering
  • Reduction in the quality of life
  • Disability
  • Other damages

Talk to Our Medical Malpractice Lawyers in Philadelphia

If you or your loved one suffered injuries because of medical errors in an emergency department, you should speak to the attorneys at Raynes & Lawn. Call us for a free case evaluation today at 1-800-535-1797.





For the general public:  This Blog/Website is made available by the law firm publisher, Raynes & Lawn, for educational purposes. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law but does not provide specific legal advice. By using this site, commenting on posts, or sending inquiries through the site or contact email, you confirm that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the Blog/Website publisher. The Blog/Website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.


For attorneys:  This Blog/Website is informational in nature and is not a substitute for legal research or a consultation on specific matters pertaining to your clients.  Due to the dynamic nature of legal doctrines, what might be accurate one day may be inaccurate the next. As such, the contents of this blog must not be relied upon as a basis for arguments to a court or for your advice to clients without, again, further research or a consultation with our professionals.