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Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer | Panio Law Offices

Who is Liable in Emergency Situations if Something Goes Wrong?

Medical malpractice is never really a cut and dry legal matter. As discussed earlier on this blog, a variety of factors must co-exist for valid medical malpractice claim. First, a "medical standard of care" must be adhered to, and the patient must be injured if the care provided did indeed fall below that standard.

However, in situations where there is a medical emergency, circumstances are such that the standard of care has to be relaxed when compared with most controlled medical treatment settings. As such, there are actual strong protections from lawsuits in place for first responders (fire, police, EMT professionals, and others first responding to an emergency situation). Lawmakers also provide for these protections in an effort to preserve emergency services for the state. These protections do not typically extend to emergency room treating physicians, nurses and other medical staff.

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Medical Malpractice and Early Discharge Complications

When a patient is discharged early from a hospital, it can often have devastating repercussions. Hospitals have, at times, been known to discharge patients before they are medically stable enough to go home to finish their recuperation. This occurs for many reasons from overcrowding to a shortfall in capacity to manage surgical volume. The fact is, however, when a patient is discharged and then shortly thereafter re-admitted, it may by definition be a case of medical malpractice if that readmission was due to complications resulting from the early discharge.

Of course, in order to prove medical malpractice the early discharge must fall below the medical standard of care. (Would a competent physician in the same circumstance have demonstrated the same action or inaction?) In addition, a malpractice claim must also demonstrate that the patient suffered harm as a result of the action or inaction (in this case the early discharge). Further, the claimant should consider these questions:

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Medical Malpractice: Lack of Informed Consent


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When a patient undergoes a medical procedure, in most cases, there is always some element of risk involved. Before the patient is treated, it is the doctor's and/or hospital’s responsibility to educate the patient about the specific treatment, procedure, or test, including all of the primary risks involved, so that the patient has a clear understanding of what he or she is getting into.

When doctors and hospitals establish this "informed consent," the patient acknowledges they are aware of the risks and essential information surrounding their particular treatment or procedure. When informed consent is not established and the patient suffers harm as a result of the procedure, the treating hospital or doctor could potentially be held liable for any side effects or unexpected injuries.

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Nursing Malpractice

Most of the time, when people think of malpractice cases, they think of physicians or hospitals as being the responsible party. And it's true that typically a doctor or hospital will be held responsible for damages in malpractice cases, but nurses can actually cause the harm or injury that leads to malpractice.

Nurses are a doctor's or hospital's front line for patient care. It is a nurse's responsibility to monitor a patient's condition and it's typically a nurse that notices first when something goes wrong with patients under their care. Nurses also administer drugs to patients and operate medical equipment in the administering of patient care.

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Medical Malpractice: Missed or Delayed Diagnosis

Medical malpractice lawsuits occur when a patient is harmed in some way (by actions, acts of omission, neglect or incompetent) of a medical professional responsible for their care. One area of medical malpractice people don't always understand clearly is misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.

For instance, every patient that has received a misdiagnosis of a prevailing medical condition or a delay in the correct diagnosis is not necessarily entitled to medical malpractice damages.

In fact, it is not uncommon for competent doctors to misdiagnosis their patient's conditions or delay in the diagnosis of their patients. The fact is these kinds of errors occur in hospital emergency rooms with some real measure frequency. To bring a medical malpractice claim against a medical professional or institution, certain factor must be proven.

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