If an ER failed to treat spider bite, is that grounds for a lawsuit?

UPDATED: Aug 28, 2011

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If an ER failed to treat spider bite, is that grounds for a lawsuit?

My roommate sought treatment at an emergency room for a 3 1/2 week old spider bite last Tuesday. The doctor there told him he was having a reaction to the OTC anti-biotic ointment and to keep it open, don’t wrap it or cover it and clean it only with water. At the time the wound was black with pus around it. 5 days later his entire forearm is swollen, red and bumpy and oozing with the black wound itself getting larger. He went to a different hospital’s emergency room and was admitted for tests and treatment. Are there grounds for a lawsuit for non-treatment of his wound and bite?

Asked on August 28, 2011 Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Here are the considerations to determine whether there is a lawsuit:

1) Was the first medical advice reasonable--i.e. something a competent doctor might, under those circumstances, have said or done? Doctors are not required to always be right; they just have to give competent advice, up to contemporary medical standards. So unless the doctor was careless, uninformed, negligent, etc., there probably is no cause  of action; if the treatment was reasonable, even if it worked out badly, there is likely no liability.

2) Is it worth suing? In a case like this, you can recover medical costs, lost wages, and *possibly* pain and suffering, if significant or prolonged. One week of a wound not healing (even getting a bit worse) and a hospital readmission may be worth suing about (if you could; see above)--but if it's only a few hundred dollars out of pocket, it's probably not, since medical malpractice cases are expensive to pursue.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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