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Emergency Room Malpractice Cases

Medical Malpractice Attorney Describes ER Negligence

Video Transcript:

Tad Thomas:

We're talking about the holding people accountable to make sure that the care they give in every setting is appropriate.

Rob Rosenthal:

Do you know what ER negligence is, and how do you get help if you have suffered from it? Well, we're going to find out today because that's what we're going to ask the lawyer.

Hi, again everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with askthelawyers.com, and my guest is Kentucky attorney Tad Thomas. Tad, as always it's good to see you. Thank you for helping us out again.

Tad Thomas:

Happy to be here.

Rob Rosenthal:

Well, let's just start legally; what is ER negligence?

Tad Thomas:

So every doctor, when they treat a patient, has to work in what they call the standard of care; it's what a reasonable doctor would do under the same or similar circumstances. So an emergency room physician, when they see a patient, has to treat that patient the way a reasonable physician would. So what we see sometimes is that ER physicians deviate from that standard of care and they fail to diagnose important dangerous conditions that result in patients being harmed or even death.

Rob Rosenthal:

Can you give us an example of a case or two you handled like this?

Tad Thomas:

Sure. I'm working a case right now where the ER physician missed a pulmonary embolism in a mother, and she was in the hospital for two days and unfortunately passed away before the pulmonary embolism was diagnosed.

Rob Rosenthal:

When people go to the hospital and they go to the emergency room, Tad, sometimes things just don't work out. Sometimes things go poorly. How do you determine what's just a bad outcome and what is actual negligence?

Tad Thomas:

Sure. In medicine, it’s as much of an art as it is a science. And that's why the standard for a physician is what a reasonable physician would do because in some circumstances, there's just going to be a bad outcome; the condition is such that it's not survivable. I tried a case once where a woman went in and she had a heart attack that was not diagnosed, and the jury came back and said, “The heart attack she suffered from was going to happen anyway, and it was going to be so catastrophic she would have passed away because of that.” So that happens. So the standard is what a reasonable doctor should do.

Rob Rosenthal:

With everything going on right now, I would imagine emergency rooms are pushed to the limit with way more patients than they're used to and that sort of thing. Does that change the standard of care?

Tad Thomas:

It absolutely does. Because you think, “Okay, well, what's a reasonable physician going to do when it's a slow day in an emergency room and they have 50% of the patients they normally have.” And what physicians are dealing with now is they have 150% of the patients they would normally have to deal with. So, because you're fighting for time in the cath lab, you're fighting for time in different kinds of testing, what is reasonable under conditions today in the middle of COVID is quite different than what it would have been a year and a half ago.

Rob Rosenthal:

It would seem to me, Tad, that these situations, they're tragic oftentimes, and Joe the average person who had to go to the emergency room, they don't know whether it was a bad outcome, or ER malpractice or negligence. What do they do? How do they find out if they even have a case?

Tad Thomas:

Sure. You’ll call a lawyer that specializes in medical negligence. Any lawyer that specializes in this area works on what we call a contingent fee basis, which means they don't charge you for the first consultation and they shouldn't charge you unless they're successful in litigating a case. So pick up the phone and call a lawyer who knows this area, because you can call me and I can tell you a lot of times in the first call, whether it's potentially a case or not. Sometimes it takes us getting the medical records and doing more of an investigation, but it doesn't cost you anything to call and reach out and talk to someone who knows this area.

Rob Rosenthal:

Should people expect someone from the hospital to let them know if there was negligence on their part or an employee's part?

Tad Thomas:

No. Most of the time, the physicians and the nurses are under instructions not to say anything even if there was. In some states, and I've actually advocated for this in Kentucky, some states that have what's called an apology law; so if there is negligence, it can't be used against a physician to come and apologize and explain to the family what happened, but that's very rare. So don't expect a doctor or physician to tell you if there's been negligence. Reach out to an attorney.

Rob Rosenthal:

Tad, from the other side, some people say, “Well, medical malpractice suits harm doctors; they harm hospitals; they run up insurance costs.” What are the benefits of these kinds of claims?

Tad Thomas:

Sure. Think if you never prosecuted someone for speeding; everyone would speed. Everyone would be reckless. So it's important to have these suits to hold bad physicians accountable. Good physicians, they rarely get sued and those suits get thrown out. We're talking about holding people accountable to make sure that the care they give in every setting is appropriate.

Rob Rosenthal:

And people like yourself, personal injury attorneys are really the only ones that are going to hold them accountable.

Tad Thomas:

Right, sure. I've seen the medical licensure boards; they take little action or no action quite a bit of the time. The hospitals typically don't do it, and a lot of times they don’t even investigate it. So it takes filing a lawsuit, getting expert witnesses, doing the investigation and advocating on behalf of our clients for real change to happen in the facilities.

Rob Rosenthal:

Lots of helpful information as always, Tad, thank you for making some time and answering our questions.

Tad Thomas:

Thank you, Rob.

Rob Rosenthal:

That's gonna do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been Kentucky attorney Tad Thomas. Remember, if you want the very best information or you want to make sure you can choose a lawyer that lawyers choose, make sure you head over to askthelawyers.com. Thanks for watching, I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers™.

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