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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 Standard of Care

When patients suffer further injury in a hospital or medical facility setting the typical response is to assume medical malpractice. However, there are specific circumstances that constitute medical malpractice, and further injury alone is not necessarily enough to warrant a personal injury medical malpractice claim.

Two specific factors must be established in any medical malpractice case (assuming, of course, that the patient can establish that they were, in fact, under the care and treatment of the medical professionals they attribute fault in their medical malpractice claim). The claimant must demonstrate that: (1) the medical standard of care required for the given circumstances surrounding their treatment (and therefore subsequent injury) was not achieved; and (2) they were in fact injured as a result of said treatment (or lack thereof).

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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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Nursing Malpractice

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Just like physicians, nurses have a legal responsibility to maintain standards of quality in patient care. As such, states recognize when a nurse's failure to live up to those responsibilities and patient harm results. We lay out several instances where Illinois recognize nurse malpractice and allow for recovery of damages. 

Failure to monitor 

It's commonplace in a hospital setting that nurses monitor and even assess the patient before a doctor makes his or her own evaluation. If a nurse fails in his or her duty to monitor their patient and the patient suffers harm as a result, the patient may indeed be able to file a medical malpractice claim.  Some examples of this include a failure to address a change in vital signs, a failure to take appropriate corrective action when a patient is in distress, and the failure to notify a physician when necessary.

 

Procedural Errors

With the wide array of medical procedures nurses perform (i.e., inserting catheters, drawing blood and starting IVs), nurses are held accountable for errors made when carrying out their duties. Not all errors are considered medical malpractice. However, as with physician malpractice, where doctors must act in ways that a reasonable physician would under the same circumstances, nurses must also behave in a way a reasonable nurse would also in circumstances similar. Typically what is reasonable is attested to by a medical expert. But remember, not only must the nurse be in error, those errors must be responsible for a patient's injuries.

 

Medication Errors

It is also rather commonplace for nurses to administer medication to patients. If the wrong medication or dosage is given, serious medical injuries or even death can result. Furthermore, if a patient is given a medication that poses a danger in light of a known or documented allergy, serious consequences can occur. Some medication error injuries can be long-term and some can be life threatening.  Additionally, if an administration of a medication has caused injury, an experienced personal injury attorney will investigate the medication itself. Improper instructions provided by the manufacture or a defect in the medication itself may yield product liability damages against the manufacturer.

Documentation Errors

Nurses are often responsible for accurately documenting a patient's condition as well as symptoms and treatment. This documentation is critical to appropriate and reasonable care. When a nurse improperly records details of a patient's care and condition and that causes harm to the patient (i.e. over-dosage due to inaccurate documentation of medication administration), the patient may be able to recover medical malpractice damages.

The critical issues raised in these examples often lead to complex personal injury cases. It takes an experienced personal injury attorney to navigate the documenting of evidence in the case, obtaining expert testimony and identifying the responsible party(s) (whether that is the hospital and/or the physician. If you have questions about a possible nursing malpractice case and would like to speak with an attorney, call Panio Law Offices at 800.799.7561. We have a wealth of experience recovering large awards for our clients. We can help you.

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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