Determining Liability for Medical Negligence During Treatment for a Car Accident

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Car Accidents May Cause Injuries that Need Medical Care. Learn More about Who is Liable when Medical Malpractice after an Accident Leads to Subsequent Harm.

A car accident most often leads to injury due to the physical force that violently jolts the bodies of the vehicles’ occupants. Passengers and drivers often wrench their necks forcefully, tossing their heads from front to back or side to side, depending on the location of the impact. The speed and weight of the moving vehicles affect the extent of injuries. The victims may also suffer bruises, broken bones, or lacerations from car restraints causing thoracic trauma, broken glass penetrating the skin, or jammed legs, knees, wrists, arms, shoulders, or heads against the interior of a vehicle. Even the impact of airbags can cause neck or spinal injury. Thus, accident victims often require medical attention. Sadly, negligent medical care can compound injuries and suffering following an auto accident. It may even cause death.

If you have concerns about who may be held liable for injuries or complications that you or a loved one suffered due to medical malpractice following a car accident in New Jersey, contact Fronzuto Law Group to speak with an attorney who can assist you. Call 973-435-4551 for a free review of your case anytime.

Common Injuries Requiring Medical Treatment after a Car Accident

Accident victims suffer various injuries from violent impacts, such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, or back injuries. Also, when a car catches fire, or the skin contacts steam or chemicals, a driver or passenger may suffer burns that require surgery and skin grafts. Internal injuries, broken bones, fractures, facial lacerations, and neck, back, knee, foot, shoulder, wrist, hand, and ankle injuries are common ways that passengers and drivers are injured during accidents. Even mild accidents may result in soft tissue damage, such as strains and sprains in the neck, shoulders, and back. 

How can Medical Negligence Occur During Car Accident Treatment?

Some medical treatment begins at the accident scene and continues in the ambulance, rushing injured victims to the hospital. Thus, negligence may first occur when paramedics make mistakes, misjudging the accident’s severity and taking too long to arrive on the scene, failing to maintain ambulance equipment, or forgetting to take a patient’s medical history. For instance, a patient may die when a paramedic cannot take an accurate blood pressure reading because they improperly measure the results.

At the emergency room, busy ER doctors may misdiagnose a condition, improperly perform or fail to perform a procedure or surgery, delay treatment, improperly treat an injury, make medication errors, and discharge a patient too early or without proper instructions. ER rooms are notoriously busy, crowded, and chaotic, so errors can occur when a hospital is understaffed, doctors are tired or not appropriately trained, and equipment needs repair. As for surgical errors, a doctor may operate on the wrong body part or lacerate an organ near the injury site.

Supporting medical staff, such as nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and lab technicians, also make inexcusable errors in failing to follow protocols about hygiene, doctors’ medication prescriptions, and communication with relief staff members at shift changes. For example, a nurse who forgets to document patient complaints on a chart before leaving the hospital may cause a delay in a patient’s treatment.

Moreover, a patient may receive the wrong medication, causing an allergic reaction or worsening the patient’s existing condition. Medication errors can often lead to a patient’s overdose or protracted suffering when complications occur. Further, anesthesiologists who perform poor workups may miss that the patient is allergic to certain medications, has high or low blood pressure, or has eaten a recent meal. Any or all of these negligent acts can cause brain damage, paralysis, or death to a surgical patient under anesthesia.

Likewise, radiologists who fail to transmit scan results to physicians or physicians who do not retrieve radiological results can cause a patient irreversible physical and emotional damage. Finally, ER physicians who do not refer patients to the appropriate specialists, such as orthopedists for broken bones or infectious disease specialists for burn victims, may be responsible for a patient’s misdiagnosis or delayed treatment. 

Notably, not all patients end up in the ER. Some leave the accident scene and schedule an appointment with their doctor or a clinic for a physical examination and pain medication post-accident. There, they may encounter similar medication, communication, or substandard medical care malpractice. For example, a clinician may refer patients to an incompetent physical therapist who exacerbates their injuries rather than helps them heal. No physician is exempt from making mistakes that harm patients due to inattention, disorganization, or fatigue. 

Who Can be Liable for Further Harm During Auto Accident Treatment?

Clearly, many different types of medical professionals may cause or contribute to a patient’s further harm after a motor vehicle accident. So, when it comes time for liable parties to compensate an accident victim who experiences further injury due to negligent medical care following their accident, the question of who is responsible for paying damages is critical.

Legal Distinction Between Car Accident Claims and Medical Malpractice Claims in New Jersey

Under personal injury law, a negligent driver who causes another person injury is liable to the injured victim for damages, including past and future medical costs, rehabilitation costs, nursing assistance, past and future financial losses, property damage, and pain and suffering from physical and psychological injuries. 

Typically, an insurance company pays for damages that the insured policyholder causes to someone else. However, an insurer is likely to balk at paying for the costs associated with extended care, permanent physical losses or disabilities, or the death of a patient due to medical malpractice during car accident treatment. The insurance company may insist that it should only be liable to pay for the damages caused by the accident and not for the negligent treatment of the accident-induced injuries. It may contend that medical malpractice is a supervening or interrupting factor that is not a foreseeable consequence of a car accident.

Tort law provides that in negligence lawsuits, the harm that the plaintiff suffers must be reasonably foreseeable from the negligent defendant’s actions. A defendant is not responsible for damages resulting from unforeseeable consequences. Thus, the question is whether medical malpractice is a foreseeable consequence of a car crash. Unquestionably, a negligent driver is responsible for the injuries that they cause by colliding with another vehicle and the treatment costs. However, avoidable mistakes and unforeseeable complications due to insufficient medical care or improperly performed medical procedures arise too.

Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit if Errors During Treatment for a Car Accident Cause Further Injuries

Unfortunately, medical malpractice occurs frequently. In fact, one study this year cites medical errors as one of the leading causes of death in the United States and a serious public health problem. When an accident victim suffers additional injuries or death due to a healthcare provider’s negligence, the healthcare provider or facility may also be liable for all damages when their malpractice sets in motion a series of events resulting in injury or death. 

When medical malpractice during car accident treatment occurs, an accident victim may also have a malpractice claim against negligent medical professionals. Any compensation to a victim of medical malpractice is configured based on the medical costs, past and future financial losses, and pain and suffering arising from medical negligence. In other words, a medical malpractice insurer may dispute responsibility for the injuries that the negligent driver caused and attempt to reduce or refuse to cover the associated costs. 

However, the common law doctrine of the eggshell plaintiff applies. That principle states that the negligent actor takes the plaintiff as they find them, no matter their frailty or preexisting conditions that make them more susceptible to extensive injuries. And so, although medical malpractice may cause a patient’s injuries or death, the injuries that preceded the death may be recoverable in a personal injury lawsuit. In some instances, a patient may have a medical malpractice and personal injury action, and each of the negligent parties may be apportioned a percentage of fault and corresponding damages to pay. 

Other Potentially Responsible Parties when a Person is Harmed During Car Accident Treatment

When faulty medical devices or equipment are not due to negligent upkeep but to defects in the equipment, other parties may be responsible for a patient’s worsened condition or death. Medical equipment manufacturers may be responsible for defective products they release into the market. So, when ambulance companies equip their vehicles with the proper and well-maintained equipment, the manufacturer may be liable for patient injuries or death when a critical medical device fails due to inherent flaws in design or manufacture. This is equally true for emergency rooms, hospitals, and other medical facilities accepting and treating victims who have been injured in accidents.

Let Our Attorneys Assist with Determining Liability and Seeking Compensation in NJ

Sorting out the complex scenario of medical malpractice after an injury accident is the critical role of your attorney. At Fronzuto Law Group, our decades of experience handling these complicated claims under the knowledgeable leadership of our founder, Certified Supreme Court Civil Trial Attorney Ernest P. Fronzuto, makes us an invaluable asset to your case. Our accomplished team of lawyers can answer your pressing questions, assist with investigating your claim, and determine liability for negligence, as well as the parties who may be held responsible for your damages. With our background and concentration in civil litigation, we are a formidable force when pursuing your claim against one or multiple defendants when your injuries have been compounded by medical negligence after a car accident. Contact our New Jersey offices for more information and a cost-free consultation at 973-435-4551.

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