6 Common Lawsuits for Urgent Care Centers

Urgent care centers are becoming more popular due to their convenience and affordability. Unfortunately, like in all medical facilities, there is always the risk of something going wrong, and several centers have been sued by lawyers specializing in medical malpractice on behalf of injured patients.

Urgent Care – Emergency Room – Doctor’s Practice Rooms

Urgent Care Centers are an integral part of the medical diagnoses and treatment network in your community and was set up to relieve the pressure on ER’s from patients with minor illnesses or injuries. They are normally found in convenient locations such as shopping areas, have shorter waiting times, and are affordable.

Unlike your doctor’s practice that only operates during certain times and requires an appointment, you can walk into an Urgent Care Center at any time. It is, however, only set up to treat minor illnesses, such as coughs and colds, minor sprains, rashes, small foreign objects or minor wounds requiring stitches, for example. Fever in adults can be treated there; however, in babies and infants it is better to visit the ER. Any major illness or accidents should be seen in the ER.

Filing a medical malpractice suit against an Urgent Care Center can be very complex and is best handled by a personal injury lawyer. Examples of cases filed include:

1. Misdiagnosis

A doctor at the Urgent Care Center may have given you a clean bill of health, when your symptoms were, in fact, early signs of something more serious, and required further investigation that was not ordered.

2. Delayed Diagnosis

If a reasonably skilled doctor would have diagnosed your condition when you visited the center, but the doctor failed to do so, and the delay caused a worsening of your symptoms or made it no longer feasible to treat due to the delay, it may be malpractice.

3. Failure to Diagnose

Failure to diagnose may relate to your primary diagnosis, for example, the doctor failed to diagnose your symptoms as those typical of a diabetic and did not order tests for diabetes or refer you to a specialist for further investigation. Or, it may relate to a secondary diagnosis typically found in these cases, if he correctly diagnosed the potential diabetes (which can only be confirmed with tests), but he missed the fact that you are becoming acidotic and could go into a diabetic coma and should be sent to an emergency room for urgent treatment. This would also link to delayed diagnosis, as the near coma getting worse would trigger an ER visit in normal circumstances.

4. Failure to Treat

You may have been accurately diagnosed, and the diagnostic tests ordered, but the treatment offered was inadequate, or you were not referred for the correct treatment. In emergencies the urgent care center should transfer the patient by ambulance to an ER.

5. Equipment Malfunction or Human Error in diagnosis

Urgent Care Centers are not set up to do extensive diagnostic tests; they may have basic X-ray, ultrasound, and a few pieces of diagnostic equipment to analyze blood or other body fluids for standard tests. In sophisticated centers they will be interfaced with the medical records system but if not, people working in the lab could mislabel samples, and any equipment could fail from time to time. In this case the doctor is not liable for misdiagnosis based on faulty equipment, but you can sue the center. If tests were sent to an outside laboratory, you would have to sue that vendor.

6. Worsening Condition

If anything, the center or its personnel did to worsen your condition; you may have a case against both. For example, you visit the center due to difficulty to breathe from an upper respiratory tract infection, and you are administered a drug you have informed them of being allergic to, and your condition may worsen and require an ER visit.

Important points to consider

The patient has a responsibility to pick where to seek care, if you arrive at an Urgent Care Center with a major medical emergency, they cannot be reasonably expected to treat it as an emergency room would be able to. There is a difference between Urgent Care and Emergency care, based on the definition of a medical emergency.

Urgent care cannot deal with limb- or life-threatening conditions, but only with minor conditions requiring care in the next 24 hours. They are a good option when your primary care doctor is unavailable.

If you suspect a stroke or possible heart attack and fail to attend the ER, you cannot sue the Urgent Care Center for malpractice. You must be able to show duty of care, breach of that duty as measured against what a reasonable doctor with same or similar qualifications in same or similar circumstances would have done. You must be able to demonstrate direct causation of harm and actual harm.

Eileen Kroll, a Registered Nurse and Personal Injury trial attorney, at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., at 1-866-MICH LAW (1-866-642-4529), can assist you after an injury that you believe was due to your Urgent Care Center visit.

Nikole has a special interest in medical-legal issues and holds post-basic degrees in medical law and business. She has developed quality improvement and safety plans for many practices and facilities to prevent medical-legal issues and teaches several courses on data protection and privacy, legal, medical examinations and documentation, and professional ethics. She has been writing professionally on legal, business, ethics, patient advocacy, research and medico-legal issues in articles, white papers, business plans, and training courses for over thirty-five years.

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