Truck Accident Multimillion-Dollar Settlement.

"M.A.," a 30-year-old man, was driving to work in New Mexico. Suddenly a commercial truck veered across the center line and struck his vehicle head on. M.A. died at the scene. The McNeely Stephenson firm was hired shortly after the crash to represent the family of the deceased.

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Indianapolis Pediatric Medical Errors in the ER

According to a study released in 2016, medical errors across all ages kill more than a quarter-million (251,454) people annually. That would make medical errors the third-largest killer in the U.S., behind heart disease and cancer. The study’s authors believe the true number is higher, because the figure mentioned does not include nursing home and at-home deaths.

Medical errors run the gamut from medications given at the wrong dosage, to X-rays read backwards, to surgeries performed on incorrect body parts or organs. Single mistakes are not usually the problem. Instead, it is often a “cascade of errors” because the safeguards to prevent the compounding of mistakes were either not present or did not work.

Emergencies create their own stresses and chances for mistakes by medical professionals. With a child in an emergency situation, some of these risks increase.

Errors in Two Pediatric ER Cases

The term “cascades of errors” means that, at each stage of treatment, each new medical professional commits one or more mistakes that compound the original error. For example, in 2012, a 12-year-old in New York died from toxic shock due to a streptococcal bacterial infection. Misdiagnosis of the real problem arose from the following errors committed in the ER:

  • Because gastroenteritis was already present, it was considered the likely reason for the girl’s symptoms.
  • Too much reliance was placed on the diagnosis given by the referring medical professional, and that diagnosis was assumed to be correct.
  • New information was not considered while diagnosing the patient, nor did the medical professionals listen to what the patient had to say.
  • The recorded vital signs did not include a temperature.
  • Abnormal lab results were not appraised or were not acted on.
  • The vital signs taken before discharging the patient were not reviewed by the doctor.

Each of these errors built upon the previous ones, confirming an erroneous diagnosis and an inappropriate discharge from the ER that led to the girl’s death.

In another ER case, a 17-month-old girl’s weight was listed as 25 kilograms instead of 25 pounds. As a result, she received antibiotic dosages that were twice the size they should have been until the error was caught by the child’s mother, a medical student. While the child ended up suffering no lasting harm in this particular case, it illustrates the problem of prescribing errors. Such errors can occur with children in the ER because medication dosages are often based on body weight.

Error #1: Prescribing Errors

Over 40 percent of fatalities related to medications are due to incorrect dosages in persons of all ages, but the young are especially at risk. Recording the weight of an infant or child incorrectly can cause a cascade of errors as the incorrect weight follows the child throughout the hospital visit. For that reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that children be weighed only in kilograms, and that electronic medical records (EMRs) be configured to allow weight entries only in kilograms. Additionally, a patient’s weight in kilograms should be specified on all prescriptions and on all documentation when the child is “handed off” from one medical professional to another.

Error #2: Laboratory Errors

In a paper published in the October, 2016, edition of Pediatric Emergency Care, laboratory errors of various types and severities in pediatric ERs were studied. Some of the results included the following discoveries:

  • Most of the pediatric lab errors occurred in the pre-analytic phase, meaning errors in specimen collection, mislabeled specimens, or lost specimens, which delayed obtaining results.
  • Approximately 17.4 percent of patients were harmed by lab errors and required treatment. That’s more than 1 patient in every 6.
  • Human factors were by far the most common reason for errors, showing up as the significant factor in 82.8 percent of lab reports.

Error #3: Diagnosis Difficulties

Admittedly, children can be more difficult to diagnose because certain symptoms, such as vomiting, can indicate a full range of medical possibilities, from the relatively mild to the lethal (such as meningitis or encephalitis). If children are not quickly and accurately diagnosed, they can deteriorate more rapidly than adults when they do not respond to ER treatments, reaching the point of no return and eventual death. Because of their size and physical immaturity, some dangerous ER situations that are often specific to children are:

  • The blood infection meningococcemia leads to death more quickly in those under 5, so a rapid diagnosis is essential.
  • Hypovolemic shock, or insufficient blood volume, is a leading cause of pediatric death. Infants and children cannot lose much blood without the risk of hypovolemic shock.
  • Children brought into the ER because of smoke inhalation or carbon monoxide poisoning can die more quickly than adults because their metabolisms run at a faster rate.

An inaccurate or delayed diagnosis is the root cause of some ER tragedies.

The Possibility of Negligence

Because errors in the ER can cascade, injury and death can be due to negligence on the part of one or more medical professionals. Incorrectly taken or incorrectly recorded vital signs, laboratory errors, incorrect or delayed diagnoses, medication errors, and inappropriate release from the ER instead of admitting the child to the hospital can all be considered negligent actions, depending on the circumstances. If you are concerned about an ER visit that resulted in harm to your child, we hope you’ll contact someone who cares—medical malpractice attorney Mike Stephenson.

real-life cases

“B.K.” was driving on a two-lane road one Sunday afternoon with his mother in the front seat and his brother and sister-in-law in the back seat when his life was forever changed. B.K. was struck head on by D.C.

D.C. had spent the day drinking with a friend and had stopped at a restaurant less than five miles from the point of the accident where D.C. had been served several drinks. D.C.’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

As a result of the terrible wreck, B.K. received devastating injuries, which included multiple broken bones, facial fractures, and loss of vision. B.K.’s mother, brother, and sister-in-law were all killed in the accident.

As one would anticipate, D.C. had virtually no insurance. Stephenson, through his thorough and detailed investigation, was able to prepare claims against the restaurant and those that provided the alcohol.

Stephenson pursued dram shop claims against those responsible CASE SUMMARY

D.H. was a competitive bicyclist who was riding in preparation for a cross-country fundraising ride. In the spring of 2010, D.H. was riding across an old steel-grated deck bridge in Shelby County when he hit a hole in the bridge and flipped over the handlebars of his bike. The impact to the bridge decking caused severe injuries to his face, teeth, tongue, and elbow.

Through the investigation, they were able to learn as early as 1998, the bridge inspection reports showed the bridge in question needed to be replaced. The county never authorized additional inspections. The county obtained $844,000 in funding for the replacement of the bridge in 2000, but the Historical Society and adjacent property owners wanted the bridge repaired rather than replaced.

This crash could have been avoided if the inspectors and county had done their jobs. CASE SUMMARY

Our client (“D.W.”) was a front-seat passenger in a vehicle that was struck by a UDF truck making deliveries. D.W. received broken arms and legs, as well as internal injuries. Stephenson was retained by D.W.’s personal counsel to prepare and try the case. Discovery determined that the UDF driver had multiple driving violations. Stephenson retained numerous experts to show the jury the devastating effects of the injuries. Before trial, the defendant’s company stated that a jury in a small southern county in Indiana would never return a verdict for $1 million in this case.

The defendant was correct; the verdict was twice that amount. CASE SUMMARY

When something goes wrong, we are left to wonder.

A skilled personal injury attorney, with the assistance of experts, will be able to scrutinize the medical records and events surrounding your child’s visit to the emergency room to determine whether his or her injury resulted from medical malpractice. Success in an Indiana emergency room injury lawsuit rests on the ability to show that the medical provider’s actions fell below a reasonable standard of care. Mike Stephenson, a partner with the Indianapolis firm McNeely Stephenson, is a skilled and caring personal injury lawyer who has been successfully litigating personal injury and medical malpractice cases in Indiana since 1982. He has the experience necessary to seek justice from the medical establishment and malpractice insurers. If you are worried about your child’s emergency room injury, hand the worry over to Mike Stephenson and let his firm’s resources back you up. Call 1-317-825-5200 or use our online form.

Personal Injury Lawyer
March 29, 2019 / Premises Liability, Wrongful Death
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