Common ER Mistakes | Scartelli Olszewski, P.C.
Common ER Mistakes

Common ER Mistakes

Rachel Olszewski
Rachel Olszewski

Most Common Emergency Room Mistakes

The emergency room is a busy, fast-moving place. In fact, 139 million people visited the emergency room in the United States in one recent year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Emergency room doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals are highly trained and skilled in handling a high caseload and providing people the emergency treatment they need. However, in this fast-paced environment, mistakes can and do happen.

What’s scary is that almost half of medical errors in the emergency room are due to problems with information processing, according to a new study published in De Gruyter’s Journal Diagnosis. This issue is not related to technology — it’s a cognitive shortcoming, and accounts for 45% of all ER errors. In other words, doctors have the right information, but might not act on it in the best way.

The study, Emergency Medicine Closed Claims Study, examined 332 closed claims where patients had sued a hospital because of negligent care received in the emergency room. Having examined the claims, researchers identified that most claims fell into four categories:

  • Errors in diagnosis: About 57% of the claims stemmed from some kind of error in the diagnostic process, including delays in diagnosis or misdiagnosis
  • Treatment management failures: Errors made during the treatment process made up 13% of the claims. An example of this type of error included failure to adequately stabilize a trauma patient’s neck, leading to paralysis
  • Wrong treatments: Surprisingly, treatment that was inappropriate for the patient’s condition was present in only 5% of claims
  • Medication failures: The emergency room provider failed to order necessary medication (e.g. antibiotics for an infection) in 3% of claims

How can Patients Prevent Emergency Room Mistakes?

  • When possible, come prepared with a complete list of your doctors, recent medical test results, a list of the medications you are taking (you can bring the pill bottles), and information regarding any medication allergies
  • Some emergency rooms are better equipped than others to address your specific medical situation, and a little research before the need to visit an ER arises can make a big difference in the care that you (or your loved one) receives. For instance, if you are bringing a child to the ER, it may be best to go to an ER that has pediatric emergency specialists on staff
  • When possible, call your doctor before proceeding to the emergency room. If your doctor believes that you need immediate treatment, he or she can call the emergency room and apprise the doctors of your situation, medical history, medications and other crucial information.
  • Bring a friend or relative. If you need emergency room care, you are not at your best. A friend or relative can help provide vital information and can also ask questions and help ensure that you understand all instructions.

Contact Us

If you were injured or otherwise harmed due to an error in the emergency room, the attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. can review your case and explain your legal rights. These types of cases are complicated, and we have helped secure maximum recoveries for victims and their families. Contact us at 570-346-2600.


An epidemiologic study of closed emergency department malpractice claims in a national database of physician malpractice insurers.

Medical Error

Emergency Department Visits

Preventability of malpractice claims in emergency medicine: a closed claims study

Rachel Olszewski
Rachel Olszewski

Rachel D. Olszewski, an attorney at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C., is a dedicated advocate for clients who have suffered unjust harm. Following the legacy of her esteemed family members, Rachel specializes in personal injury, medical malpractice, and criminal defense. She is actively involved in professional associations and serves on the board of the Luzerne County Bar Association Charitable Foundation. Rachel is admitted to practice in Pennsylvania state courts and the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
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