Being Discharged Early from the Hospital is Common, but in Some Cases, Wrongful Discharge can Lead to Serious Complications
Of course, not all early discharges are considered medical malpractice. Sometimes a doctor discharges a patient because they seem stable enough to leave the hospital. And yet, the physician may be liable when they release a patient that is still suffering symptoms or has an undiagnosed condition. A premature hospital discharge may cause complications from an existing medical issue. In the worst cases, it may even lead to patient death. Understanding the unique complexities of premature hospital discharge cases is important if you or someone you love experienced harm as a result of being discharged too soon in New Jersey. Likewise, having an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who can review your case for potential negligence by the hospital, treating physician, or staff is crucial in order to find out if you may be entitled to compensation.
What it Means When a Patient is Prematurely Discharged from a Hospital or Emergency Room
Common Examples of Early Discharge from the Hospital
Medical malpractice arising from early discharge may be due to a physician’s failure to schedule follow-up care, a delayed diagnosis and treatment, inadequate testing before discharge, or negligence in releasing a patient before they are medically stable.
Top Reasons that Hospitals Prematurely Discharge Patients
A doctor may not wish to keep you in the hospital for various reasons. They may believe your symptoms do not require medical observation or you are stable after suffering symptoms of a condition they believe can resolve at home. The hospital may be too busy for every patient who enters the emergency room. Sometimes, overcrowded hospitals need more beds, so physicians send patients home when they are not ready to leave. Alternatively, an uninsured patient may get rushed out the door, or financial incentives to treat as many patients as possible may motivate premature patient discharges.
Unfortunately, newborns are most often victims of wrongful discharge. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, newborns should stay in the hospital minimally 48 hours after a vaginal birth, but longer when infants have health problems, or up to 96 hours for a cesarean section birth.
Risks Associated with Prematurely Leaving the ER or Hospital
When early discharge happens, the hospital staff may have yet to diagnose a condition fully, run sufficient tests, treat the symptoms, or stabilize a patient before sending them home without the proper medication or follow-up appointment. The patient may not receive instructions for home care or lab or test results, despite experiencing ongoing symptoms.
Types of Injuries and Complications that may Arise from Premature Discharge
Studies show that early discharge of newborns (less than 30 hours after birth) leads to a higher risk of readmission for various illnesses, especially infection, up to one month after birth. Thus, releasing a premature baby in a crowded neonatal intensive care unit before the newborn is stable or at least their gestational age may be considered medical malpractice.
Or perhaps an emergency room doctor sends you home after stabilizing your irregular heartbeat. You may have a medical malpractice claim when tests that the doctor never ordered would have detected the A-fib and resulting heart attack that resulted from an improper or delayed diagnosis.
When are You Able to Sue for Medical Malpractice in Premature Hospital Discharge Cases in New Jersey?
When early discharge amounts to wrongful discharge, this may be considered medical malpractice depending on the situation. Avoidable mistakes physicians make that injure a patient may be medical malpractice, specifically when a physician fails to diagnose and treat you according to the standard of care expected of similarly situated, educated, and experienced physicians. As such, when the standard of care is for an emergency room physician to run tests, such as an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, or other heart monitoring test before releasing a patient with arrhythmia, a physician that fails to do so may be negligent and liable for the patient’s subsequent damages.
The question for a jury in a medical malpractice lawsuit may be whether an ER doctor with the same skill, experience, and education in that situation would have run tests or taken additional steps to diagnose or treat the patient’s condition. When the answer is yes, the defendant physician is likely to be guilty of medical malpractice when the patient’s injuries result from their negligence. Thus, the patient who returns to the ER the next day when their condition worsens may have a malpractice claim when another ER physician runs tests that diagnose and help treat the patient for heart failure. The medical malpractice claimant then must prove the previous ER physician’s premature discharge caused the patient to suffer heart failure due to the delay in diagnosis.
To prove malpractice, you need an expert opinion about the viability of your claim against a medical professional. This must be a qualified medical expert who can attest to the standard of care in the physician’s practice or specialty, the appropriate actions given the situation, and that the early discharge or patient abandonment fell below the appropriate standard of care for a patient in your circumstances.
Seeking Compensation for Premature Hospital Discharge in NJ
When the delay in getting the proper diagnosis or treatment, receiving inadequate treatment, leaving in a medically unstable condition, or another situation arising from premature discharge from the hospital or emergency room results in a worsened condition or further injury, the negligent physician and hospital may be liable for your damages when you wind up in the hospital again. Experiencing health consequences or even the wrongful death of a loved one due to wrongful discharge may entitle you to compensation for medical malpractice in New Jersey.
Medical malpractice damages awards include economic and non-economic damages to compensate you for your losses. For instance, medical bills reimbursement and payment for future medical bills are monetary damages, as are any earnings you lost due to your worsened condition and future ability to earn income. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering for your injuries due to early discharge from a doctor’s care or the hospital. And when medical malpractice results in patient death, the surviving family members may file a lawsuit for the wrongful death of their loved one. In that instance, they may sue for their losses due to the death of their loved one, such as financial and emotional support.
Investigating a Case of Wrongful Discharge from a Medical Facility
Once your attorney assesses the validity of your case from a legal standpoint, they can guide you through the extensive process of preparing a medical malpractice claim. Along with your account of the events, your attorney must conduct a preliminary investigation of your medical records and damages, including your financial losses documented by wage or salary loss verification, sick and vacation pay losses, and, in severe cases, future incapacity to earn wages. These losses can touch all aspects of your life, whether your child suffered harm from early discharge and is now cognitively delayed, your spouse suffered a stroke leading to permanent disability, or someone you love can no longer support your family after their death due to premature discharge.
Proving such damages takes persuasive evidence, along with establishing the appropriate standard of care, working with the most qualified medical experts, and showing a clear link through which a medical professional caused your injuries and losses.
Discuss Your Unsafe Hospital Discharge Case with an Experienced NJ Attorney at Fronzuto Law Group
Discuss your case with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer at our firm when you have a wrongful or premature discharge situation in New Jersey. Since the law requires a clear showing of the medical professional’s negligence and your injuries, it is essential to receive an experienced professional’s analysis of your claim. Our New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys at Fronzuto Law Group can give you our assessment of the validity of your claim, and if you have grounds to sue, we can gather all of the evidence to ensure the case withstands the scrutiny of a judge, jury, and opposing party. We are committed to medical malpractice law in New Jersey and have spent decades advocating for clients across the state in these cases. Contact our team at 973-435-4551 for a no-cost review of your potential premature hospital discharge claim.