Discharged with broken hand

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Discharged with broken hand

I was rushed into emergency room at unitas by an ambulance after a bike accident.
They didn’t take xrays of my upper body, no doctor even touched me. A nurse put a
plaster on my leg and they discharged me. Turns out my hand is broken and my arm
muscles were torn. My medical aid would not pay when I went to a different
hospital because it didn’t deem an emergency anymore, since I got discharged. I
suffered of pain. I want that hospital to learn to respect patients. Have I got a
case?

Asked on September 27, 2016 under Malpractice Law, Alaska

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

It may or may not have been negligent: it depends on whether, based on the symtoms you reported (e.g. did you talk about hand pain?) or visible signs of injury (e.g. any large contusions on your hand?) there were grounds for a reasonable doctor to feel that you may have had a broken hand. Hospitals don't X-ray everything every time--among other reasons, because too much exposure to X-rays is bad for you--so unless there was some reason to think you may have a broken hand, they would reasonably not X-ray it and would not be liable.
Even if they should have x-rayed your hand, it's questionable whether this is a worthwhile lawsuit. All you could typically get in a case like this is your additional, or extra, medical costs caused by the mistake--and not all the additional medical costs; just the part you paid out of pocket--and a *small* amount for pain and suffering (large pain and suffering awards are for essentially permanent or near permanent disability or life impairment, or shorter term disability/impairment which is much more extensive than a single broken hand). So the amount of money you could get is limited. Meanwhile, the cost of the lawsuit can be very high: you'd have to hire a doctor to write a report and testify, and that can easily run in the few thousands of dollars...even if you were to act as your own attorney, the need for a medical expert makes this expensive. You could spend as much or more on the case than you'd get back.
 


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