Severe abdominal pains beset you. Or you suffer a traumatic abdominal injury. Both situations may require the services of the emergency department or those of a hospital. Like most Floridians, you trust that ERs and hospitals will provide adequate care. Yet, too often, mistakes are made by healthcare providers that cause severe injury or even death.
Sometimes, even the best of Florida hospitals offer a bumpy ride. We cannot expect the obligation of patient care to be perfect. However, every ER and hospital must meet the standards of care. If they breach that obligation and you are hurt as a result, you may be entitled to compensation.
Safety is paramount in hospitals. Standards of care, policies, and procedures are designed to ensure the health and well-being of every patient who walks through their doors. They also have to ensure doctors who practice under their umbrella are licensed and otherwise qualified to do so.
How often do violations of the standard of care happen in a hospital setting? Far too often. A Harvard study of medical negligence looked at hospital records of over 30,000 patients and found that 1 out of every 100 patients admitted to a hospital had a potential medical malpractice claim. This blog post discusses the ERs and hospitals' responsibility under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) and Florida law.
Standard of Care in the Emergency Department
Laws in the United States dictate that we can use a doctor's "standard of care" as an indicator to see if they are meeting their duties. For example, in a medical malpractice lawsuit, your lawyer would want to show how the doctor's actions of violating the accepted standard of care were crucial to your case. They can show the depths of a doctor's disregard for medical standards and how it creates a ripple effect in patient care that can be detrimental or even fatal to some patients.
In general, what makes up the standard of care will change from community to community and evolve. In particular, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act and Florida Statutes 395.1041 mandate that hospitals with emergency departments that accept payments from Medicare or Medicaid provide access to emergency services and care and guarantee a certain level of medical care to anyone who comes to them. EMTALA also governs some labor and delivery units.
Florida has hospitals that provide exceptional medical care for abdominal issues. But even great hospitals may make mistakes. Sometimes, great hospitals have poor doctors, and occasionally good doctors make bad mistakes. According to WebMD, over the last ten years, the most frequent EMTALA violations by hospitals were:
- The lack of a thorough physical exam. Under EMTALA and Florida laws, emergency departments must offer patients a timely medical screening exam.
- Unlike with triage, the medical screening must be done by a health care professional with a certain level of expertise - typically a doctor, advanced practice nurse, or physician assistant.
- Medical screenings are a necessary step in patient care and should be done as soon as possible. They cannot be delayed or denied for the sake of asking about whether they will be able to pay for it- so you should know that you were entitled to this care.
- Medical screenings should use all the hospital's resources, such as lab tests or CT scans.
- Failure to do an appropriate transfer. If a hospital cannot stabilize an ill or injured person, it must transfer them elsewhere. This standard includes all of these factors:
- Treatment to reduce the risks of transfer
- Taking steps to get consent from another hospital for the transfer
- Having qualified personnel and a transport vehicle ready for the transfer
- Failure to keep appropriate records on patients, including a central log of who came to the ER and what happened to them.
- Failure to offer to stabilize patients who are in a state of emergency.
EMTALA and Florida Statutes 395.1041 also mandate that hospitals with emergency departments:
- Hung up signs in the ER so people know how patient rights work.
- Have the contact information for on-call doctors readily available.
- Accept appropriate transfers from other hospitals.
- Do not take retaliatory action against any employee reporting a violation.
- Report within 72 hours any improperly transferred patients it receives.
Wrongful Death Arising From Failure to Treat Abdominal Issues
A breach of a doctor's duties to patients gives a cause of action for negligence against the doctor. In addition, the ER or hospital can be held liable for employee negligence.
To prevail in a wrongful death claim in this setting, you will generally need to show that the medical staff didn't act using the accepted standards and practices of the medical community and a family member died as a result.
The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to pursue damages that are meant to compensate the decedent's devisees, beneficiaries, and heirs. Compensation in a wrongful death claim is, in general, limited to close family members. Other individuals who could be plaintiffs are those who were financially and emotionally dependent upon the deceased. A personal representative who recovers wrongful death damages from medical malpractice holds the damages on behalf of the survivors who are entitled to the damages at issue.
Do You Have a Medical Malpractice Case?
Suppose you are suffering needlessly because an emergency department or hospital failed to meet EMTALA requirements when treating your abdominal issue. In that case, you need a legal team that can research your potential claim.
Generally, in medical malpractice cases, expert testimony is required to establish the appropriate standard of care:
- Your lawyer will consult a doctor specializing in emergency medicine
- The specialist will consider all evidence
- They will present their opinion on what kind of treatment would have been reasonable and competent under the circumstances
In order to file and win a medical malpractice lawsuit, you must prove that the professional's negligence caused foreseeable harm. This includes:
- Pain and suffering
- Cost of medical bills because of additional corrective treatment
- Loss of earning capacity
- Loss of enjoyment
When it comes to medical negligence, the odds of plaintiffs getting money in the form of settlements or verdicts are high - these odds of success increase in a hospital malpractice case. The increase is generated by the fact that medical centers are much more inclined to settle valid medical malpractice cases than individual doctors. Hospitals don't benefit from jury sympathy and have a reputation to maintain. That is why they will do anything in their power - including settling cases quickly with large malpractice verdicts.
Hospitals are easier opponents than doctors in a medical malpractice fight from a practical standpoint. Why? Because it's easier for a jury to blame the hospital than an individual doctor. According to interviews with various jury pool members in courtrooms across America, many jurors believe that non-doctor health care providers are more likely than doctors to make an error and cause a severe injury. The reason is that juries often see doctors as infallible.
The difficulty of a legal fight is less of a problem when suing an institution. However, medical centers have to worry about their reputation with patients and the media. When a hospital is hit with one of these multi-million malpractice verdicts, it does more than tarnish its healthcare brand; they make headlines and harm the public perception of that medical center for decades. Of course, insurance companies are more concerned with the financial bottom line than how a verdict tarnishes their doctors' reputation. But risk managers at hospitals always keep an eye on the reputation of their medical staff.
One last consideration: doctors are sometimes reluctant to settle because their individual malpractice rates will rise. Many malpractice carriers give their doctors a lot of latitude in deciding whether to make a settlement offer.
The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary has recovered millions of dollars in medical malpractice lawsuits against hospitals in Florida. The death of a loved one or serious injury can be life-altering. You need the help of an experienced lawyer to make sure you get what is rightfully yours after such tragedies. We have an online form to fill out for your first consultation. Fill it out, and we'll be happy to get back to you as soon as possible.
How Can The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary Help When You Have Been Deprived of Care for Abdominal Issues?
The team at The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary knows how to find out what happened - not just the medical records but also any relevant information that may have been overlooked by other parties involved in your care. Our legal team challenges hospitals to explain why they did what they did. In addition, we identify violations of EMTALA and Florida Statutes 395.1041.
Regarding the potential settlement value of a hospital malpractice lawsuit, the primary factor that drives it is how badly you were injured. The medical negligence settlement value will vary based on the severity of your injuries. If a lack of care caused severe, life-altering injury, then your case may be worth more in the long run.
Another factor that affects the potential value of your hospital malpractice case is what jurisdiction your case gets filed in. If your malpractice case is filed in a plaintiff-friendly jurisdiction, the case's value will be much higher. Our law firm earned multi-millions in verdicts and settlements against hospital defendants. Unfortunately, the terms of these confidential settlements have prevented our law firm from disclosing any details about the settled out-of-court cases.
To conclude, hospitals and ERs are responsible for providing adequate care for their patients. If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, call our office to find out how we can help. We have a team expert in this area and happy to help you find out what legal remedies might be available in Florida under EMTALA and state law.