Emergency rooms are notoriously hectic and crowded environments. Patients seeking care expect the doctors and nurses to tend to their needs as quickly as possible, but this doesn’t always happen.
When a delay in care causes harm—such as a brain injury or death—this can be a form of medical malpractice. At Gray & White Law, our experienced medical malpractice attorneys fight to protect the rights of Kentucky residents who’ve suffered significant harm due to ER triage errors and lengthy hospital delays.
Understanding the ER Triage Process
The triage process is intended to help doctors prioritize the needs of many patients seeking care at the same time. For example, a person who is unable to walk without assistance, struggling to breathe, or unconscious would be seen before someone who is uncomfortable but still able to answer questions about their condition.
In addition to being used in the ER, the triage process is also used to evaluate patients in a crowded urgent care clinic, emergency department, or hospital treatment room. The problem with the triage process is that symptoms of serious conditions can overlap with those that are less serious. For example, abdominal pain and nausea could be signs of internal bleeding—or they could mean that a person has the flu. If communication breakdowns occur, there is a real risk that a patient might not get the immediate care they need.
Causes of Delayed Treatment in Emergency Departments and Hospitals in Kentucky
Triage errors leading to delayed treatment have four main causes:
- Understaffing. Emergency rooms can be understaffed when positions go unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates, too many people are ill or absent during a particular shift, or managers schedule an insufficient number of people in an attempt to control operating costs.
- Staff fatigue. In the ER, providers must often work long shifts with little time for rest. Someone who is overly fatigued is more prone to errors in judgment.
- Lack of training. Inexperienced providers may mistake symptoms of a serious condition, such as a heart attack, for a less serious issue like acid reflux and thus assign the patient a lower priority.
- Failure to follow procedures. Neglecting to follow triage procedures and other safety precautions can happen when care providers are exceptionally busy or fatigued and decide to take shortcuts in patient care.
Delays can manifest in several different ways. Patients may be left waiting hours to see a care provider or be forced to wait for a specialist who never arrives. They may be told they would be seen shortly, but then never informed of the reason for the subsequent delay.
Liability for Damages When an ER Delay in Kentucky Causes Serious Injuries
Determining who is liable in a medical malpractice claim isn’t always easy. In cases involving delayed treatment, the doctor on call, the nurse who performed the initial assessment, or the facility itself could potentially be held liable for damages. At Gray & White Law, we will conduct a thorough investigation to determine if one or more parties should be held responsible for the malpractice.
Elements of a Successful Medical Malpractice Claim in Kentucky
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to simply believe you were forced to wait too long for medical care. You must be able to prove that you suffered serious and direct harm—such as a brain injury or the wrongful death of a loved one—as the result of the delay in treatment.
For example, someone suffering a stroke requires medical care as soon as possible. When treatment is not received promptly, irreversible brain damage can result. Since strokes most often occur in older adults, signs of stroke in a younger person may be initially viewed as symptoms of a migraine or another less serious condition.
In comparison, consider the case of someone who was forced to wait for treatment of a sprained ankle. He or she would be uncomfortable during this time, but no permanent harm would have resulted from the delay in treatment. The sprained ankle would need the same level of care regardless of when he or she finally received treatment.
Another important element in a medical malpractice claim is the standard of care. To have a valid case, you must be able to prove that the provider’s actions deviated from the accepted medical standard of care for your condition. This is typically done by consulting expert witnesses who are specialists in treating your specific illness or injury. Gray & White Law has access to a wide network of expert witnesses who can provide this vital evidence for your medical malpractice claim.
Your malpractice claim can include compensation for medical care, lost wages, and pain and suffering related to the delayed treatment. You’ll need to provide detailed records of all expenses you incurred, even if your medical care was initially paid for by your health insurance.
Families who lose a loved one due to delayed treatment at the ER or hospital may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent parties. Damages in a wrongful death suit include funeral and burial costs as well as the ones outlined above.
How We Can Help Kentucky Victims of Delayed Hospital Treatment
Malpractice law is notoriously complex, and you shouldn’t be worried about navigating the legal system when you’re seriously ill or injured—or if you’ve lost a loved one due to delays in treatment in the ER or hospital. The experienced attorneys at Gray & White Law can advocate for your interests, so you can direct your attention to your medical needs. We’ve gotten justice for victims across the state of Kentucky and can help you receive the settlement you deserve.
To learn more, call us at 888-450-4456 to schedule a free consultation. If you’ve suffered substantial, life-altering harm—or lost a loved one—due to a delay in treatment at an emergency room, hospital emergency department, or urgent care clinic, we can help.