What are my rights if I was improperly examined by an ER doctor?

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What are my rights if I was improperly examined by an ER doctor?

I was taken by ambulance in severe pain to the local ER. I had been playing tennis when my back erupted in severe pain. Once at the ER the doctor came in ordered the nurse to give me pain meds by IV to ease my pain. He came back shortly thereafter when I screamed in pain. He again gave me IV pain meds. While the nurse was giving me the pain meds he tapped my left and right ankle on the inside of each leg and asked could I feel it. I replied yes. This was the only examination he conducted – no X-ray, CT scan or any other type of exam. He then hurriedly released me from his care to a significant other. A week later I found out I have suffered a herniated disk. Is his lack of an exam grounds for malpractice suit?

Asked on February 11, 2013 under Malpractice Law, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

The failure to examine you more thoroughly may be ground for a malpractice claim. For there to be a viable malpractice claim, you need two things:

1) There must have been medical care which did not meet currently accepted standards for such care; this creates liability. If you complain of severe back pain and the physician does not take an X-ray or similar scan of your back, that may very well be malpractice, since it would seem to be careless, or negligent, and not meet accepted standards for care.

2) There must be an injury caused by the malpractice; in your case, that means that the failure to diagnose you properly the first time caused the injury to become worse in the week before the diagnosis, with that worsening injury increasing your medical costs, delaying your recovery by a significant amount, and/or causing some longer-lasting or permanent disability or loss of function. That's because the U.S. legal system only provides compensation for actual injury or costs caused by malpractice, so if you suffered little or no additional costs or injury from the delay in diagnosis, there is no point to suing--malpractice suits are expensive (you need a medical expert on your side) and so you'd spend more on the lawsuit then you could recover.


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