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Emergency Room Malpractice: Birth Injuries Caused by ER Mistakes


In the emergency room, every second matters.  Doctors, nurses and medical staff must be observant, attentive and prepared.  In that high-pressure atmosphere, medical providers must be ready to deal with problems at a moment’s notice.  At no time is that more important than when two patients, a mother and her unborn child, enter the emergency room.

In cases of emergency room negligence, the defendants could include a negligent physician and/or the hospital, as the employer of a negligent employee.  Hospitals also have obligations to have in place policies and procedures to guide care and prevent harm.  There may be separate medical malpractice insurance policies that apply to various entities working in an emergency room.

When malpractice happens in the context of the emergency room, a child can suffer lifelong and permanent injury, including cerebral palsydevelopmental delays or even wrongful death.  Likewise, a pregnant woman may suffer injuries including infection or death.

Types of Birth Injury Emergency Room Malpractice

When pregnant women present to the emergency room, medical providers must address the concerns of the mother and the baby.  Emergency rooms sometimes fail to live up to expectations and commit malpractice in the following areas:

  • Failure to Triage or Diagnose:  the waiting room delays in emergency rooms continue to rise as populations rise and many people are forced to use emergency rooms as their source of primary care.  In 2009, the average ER wait time was six hours (over 400,000 patients waited 24 hours or more). In an overcrowded waiting room, health care providers may not appreciate the presenting symptoms of a pregnant patient, which can cause a delay in treatment.
  • Delayed Treatment:  once a patient pass the hurdle of the waiting room and is placed in an examination room, the second phase of waiting begins.  Patients are frequently “misplaced” or forgotten; or else doctors become busy with other patients and fail to follow-up on the patient’s condition.
  • Failure to Order Specialized Care:  frequently, pregnant women who appear in the ER should be sent, either immediately or after preliminary treatment, to the hospital’s obstetrical unit (if it has one).  For example, after an automobile accident the baby may need to be monitored for several hours using Electronic Fetal Monitoring.
  • Refusal to Treat:  hospitals have an obligation to treat patients, regardless of ability to pay.  Some people are discriminated against based on race, perceived socioeconomic status, or income level.  Hospitals that receive Medicare funding must treat patients despite their inability to pay.
  • Medication Errors:  particularly in a fast-paced emergency room, prescriptions and medication can be incorrectly filled because of bad handwriting, poor communication or inattentive pharmacists or nurses.  The wrong medication can have disastrous consequences for mother and child.
  • Failure to Follow-up:  doctors often order laboratory tests and radiology scans in the emergency room, but if the results are not examined, life-threatening conditions can go undiagnosed.

Contact Us

If you or your child suffered an ER injury, contact our birth injury lawyers at (440) 252-4399, or send us an online request for more information.  We have experience in examining medical records to discover whether physicians or hospitals acted appropriately, and you or your child may be entitled to medical expenses and pain and suffering damages.

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