Hospital emergency departments are notoriously known as malpractice magnets. A doctor’s greatest fear is being sued as a result of attempting to provide care for a patient; residents also face this fear. Emergency Medical Residents are not exempt from medical malpractice and they have been sued for it.
Residents Sued For Medical Malpractice
We have seen in recent cases that residents may be held to the same standards as the attending in their field. Often, when the resident is sued for medical malpractice, the attending is also sued because he or she is ultimately responsible for the supervision of the resident. The primary responsibility of caring for the patient, typically, falls on the attending. In some cases, the patient will even sue the residency program or medical school for improper training. The resident might also attempt to divert the blame as insufficient training.
Many malpractice claims are actually caused by non-emergency medicine groups as a result of incorrect diagnosis and delay of admission, consultation and/or treatment. According to “An Epidemiologic Study of Closed Emergency Department Malpractice Claims in a National Database of Physician Malpractice Insurers”, only 19% of malpractice claims were caused by emergency medicine physicians.
Risk of Medical Malpractice Claims
While no physician wants to be sued for medical malpractice, a majority of these claims are withdrawn, dropped, or dismissed without payment because the doctor was not found negligent. In one study, only 1% of medical malpractice claims found a verdict for the plaintiff and only 29% were settled with some form of payment. The majority of emergency medicine malpractice claims do not go to trial and most do not require payment to the patient.
Best Medical Malpractice Defense
It all begins with consent. When a patient signs a consent form which states that they have been adequately informed of the risks of a procedure by the physician, the physician may not be liable for negligence should there be a negative outcome to the procedure.
After that, contributory negligence is a common defense. If the patient fails to follow the physicians medical advice, does not follow the discharge instructions, withholds information or fails to follow-up and suffers as a result, the physician may be found not liable due to contributory negligence and the patient will not receive payment.
Avoiding Medical Malpractice Claims
All physicians and residents should stay updated with current practice guidelines and care for their patients to the best of their abilities. Any tests that are ordered in the emergency department should always be followed up on even after the patient leaves the department. The patient and their primary physician should be informed of any incidental findings in any test and the physician should document that all parties were informed. Make sure that a consent form is completed before all procedures and that you have thoroughly explained the benefits and risks of the procedure to the patient.
At Gutglass, Erickson, Bonville & Larson, we understand the challenges of dealing with medical malpractice claims and we are here to help. Give us a call and we will be happy to answer all your questions. Call us today at (414) 273-1144.