Emergency Department Negligence Solicitors - Injury Compensation Claims

Our solicitors legal service specialises in helping patients obtain compensation for harm or loss suffered as a result of Accident and Emergency Department negligence. If you have experienced an adverse medical event, you should seek legal advice from an experienced medical negligence lawyer. Contact our solicitors today to find out how we can help you.

Medical Negligence Compensation Claims

The purpose of medical negligence compensation is to pay for your loss of income, loss of earning capacity, medical and hospital expenses, medication, therapy, domestic assistance, equipment aides and pain and suffering.

Depending on the type of negligence, a doctor, nurse, staff member, hospital (as an employer), and/or area health service, can be held liable for negligence which occurs in an emergency department. Compensation is paid by their insurance companies or through a government funded scheme. The majority of medical negligence cases settle out-of court.

Accident and Emergency Department Medical Negligence

Although Emergency Departments tend to be busy places, doctors and nurses are still required by law to conform to reasonable standards of care when diagnosing and treating patients. Mistakes often occur in Emergency Departments, and not all mistakes are legally actionable. To receive compensation for a medical error, the error, must have been the result of negligence on the part of the treatment provider. Negligence can be very difficult to prove and generally requires that the patients solicitor establishes that :-

  • The doctor or nurse or hospital breached their duty of care; AND
  • The breach in duty of care caused damage to the patient (‘causation’); AND
  • The patient has suffered damage or loss compensable at law. This includes the requirement to meet statutory thresholds with regard to damages.

Sometimes an error can lead to minimal or no physical harm or damage to the patient, in which case the patient will not be entitled to compensation. At best, hospital procedures may be revised with a view to preventing the same error from recurring. The hospital may or may not apologise to the patient.

In more serious cases, a negligent medical error may lead to devastating consequences such as permanent physical injury, illness, or death, and it is such situations where the patient should consider pursuing a solicitors compensation claim under the law of negligence.

If you have suffered a physical or psychological injury, or have lost a loved one as a result of a hospital error, contact our solicitors today to find out whether you are able claim compensation.

Emergency Department Errors

Examples of medical errors that often happen in emergency departments of hospitals :-

  • Diagnostic error.
  • Test or procedure performed on wrong body part.
  • Failure to perform a test.
  • Surgical / Procedure-related error.
  • Post-surgical error.
  • Inadequate monitoring.
  • Medication error.
  • Systemic failures.

Factors which contribute to emergency department errors :-

  • Overcrowded emergency departments.
  • Delays / long waiting periods.
  • Low staffing levels.
  • Inadequate supervision of junior staff.
  • Poorly trained staff.
  • Inadequate facilities and equipment (especially in rural hospitals).
  • Lack of communication (e.g. during handover / shift changes).
  • Illegible hand writing / poor documentation in hospital records.
  • Investigations / test results are lost or not reviewed.
  • X-rays or other tests are not ordered.
  • Overworked and sleep-deprived staff.
  • Inadequate medication administration procedures.
  • Failure to screen doctors and support staff.

Triage Errors

Triage is the process by which information is gathered by patients as they present to the emergency department, to assign a priority score. Patients with life-threatening or potentially life-threatening problems are seen before less severe cases. Potential problems can arise when :-

  • Patients who sit too long in the emergency department and de-compensate because of a failure to be reassessed.
  • Patients who are incorrectly advised to go home and see their local doctor, when their condition requires immediate attention.
  • Incorrect medical advice and misdiagnosis on the part of the triage nurse.
  • X-rays or other investigations are ordered but not followed-up on.
  • A patient is under triaged from their presentation to the emergency department and experience an adverse event whilst waiting to be seen by a doctor.

Triage nurses (or emergency nurses) must be properly trained, with solid assessment skills and a thorough knowledge of how to prioritise patients. A triage nurse must also take reasonable care when prioritising patients in the emergency department. Additionally, due to long waiting periods, some patients may need to be reassessed every hour or so; a repeat set of vital signs should be taken, and the patient asked to report any deterioration or change in their condition.

Examples of negligent triaging include: a patient’s chest pain is misdiagnosed as an asthma attack, and the patient has a heart attack while waiting in the emergency department. Another example- a patient presents with various symptoms including a severe headache and is told to go home and take panadol, when they are in fact having a stroke.

Doctor Errors

Doctors working in emergency departments have a duty of care to provide treatment in a manner that is “widely accepted in Australia by peer professional opinion as competent professional practice.”

Professional incompetence can come in many forms such as :-

  • Failing to appreciate the signs and symptoms of a serious or life-threatening condition.
  • Failure to admit a patient in critical need of care.
  • Failure to order necessary and appropriate diagnostic tests, such as EKGs, CT scans, X-rays or blood work.
  • Failure to review test results in a timely manner.
  • Failing to call in appropriate medical or surgical consults when needed.
  • Failures in performance of surgery and in treating post-operative complications.
  • Medication overdose.
  • Premature discharge of a patient from the emergency room.
  • Misdiagnosis e.g. failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis of heart attack, stroke, brain aneurysm, brain injury, spinal fractures, appendicitis, compartment syndrome, viral or bacterial meningitis, spinal cord compression, bowel obstruction, ectopic pregnancy, foetal distress.

Medical Negligence Solicitors

Our medical negligence solicitors run cases on a No Win No Fee basis, which means that you do not pay their professional fees unless you are successful in obtaining compensation in your case. You may however be asked to contribute to the cost of obtaining copies of your medical records and a medico-legal report. Our specialist medical negligence solicitors will fully explain and disclose the basis of their cost agreement should you choose to engage their services.

Contact our service today for advice on your rights to medical negligence compensation. This is a free service, and you are under no obligation to engage the services of the specialist medical negligence solicitors we recommend.

Time limits apply when making compensation claims, so you should obtain legal advice as soon as possible as your claim may otherwise become statute-barred which means that you will lose your legal right to sue.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here