Mistakes Made in the ER Can Have Devastating Outcomes in Trauma Cases Involving Pregnant Women

Trauma-Related Incidents Lead to Complications in 5-20% of Pregnancies: Holding ER Staff Accountable for Birth Injury or Wrongful Death Due To Medical Negligence in Trauma Cases

In 2013, Medscape published information presented by Steven D Schwaitzberg, MD, FACS Chief of Surgery, Cambridge Health Alliance about the number of women who suffer, or succumb each year due to complications during pregnancy caused by trauma-related incidents treated in emergency rooms.

Trauma includes violent acts committed against pregnant women, with gunshot wounds topping the acts of violent trauma list (23%), and stab wounds and strangulation tied as being the second leading violent acts (14%) pregnant women are treated for by hospital emergency rooms.

Second to intentionally inflicted violent trauma, are motor vehicle accidents which account for 21% of pregnant women who are treated for trauma injuries by emergency rooms throughout the United States. Unfortunately, vehicle accidents result in maternal death in 12% of these cases. In one level I trauma center in Miami, FL, motor vehicle collisions carried a sobering 72% mortality rate for pregnant women involved in car accidents.

Each year, it is estimated that 5-20% of all pregnant women in the U.S. are exposed to some sort of trauma that leads to pregnancy complications, and/or death of the mother, baby, or, both.

Hospitals are responsible for providing appropriate care to all their patients — including pregnant women who are received in an emergency room. Emergency room staff and medical personnel must make quick, accurate assessments involving the extent of injury to both mother and baby. Even after an assessment is made, treatment must carefully consider as any surgery, drugs, or medical procedures can affect the health and life of both mother and baby.

Issues of liability when it comes to hospital and ER negligence are particularly complicated and confusing, and having an experienced medical malpractice trial lawyer to guide you through the process is vital. While specific doctors, nurses, or technicians may be held responsible for negligence, the hospital itself may also be liable. The fact that the efforts of the hospital staff were unsuccessful is not necessarily grounds for a malpractice case, in a hospital negligence case, you must prove that the hospital staff acted unreasonably and that their conduct was a direct cause of an injury or death.

When a pregnant women suffers an injury, the treating hospital doctors will work to first stabilize the mother. The reason for placing maternal life above that of an unborn child is simple: a pre-term baby cannot survive outside the womb; if the mother dies, the baby’s chance of survival are either greatly reduced, or none at all.

Given the intensity of any situation involving a life and death trauma, the risk of medical mistakes increases, and this is especially true for pregnant women. In his publication, Dr. Schwaitzberg expresses concerns regarding the potential for mistakes:

…”Although the initial focus of management is always maternal stabilization, the approach to treating trauma is different in patients who are pregnant than in patients who are not pregnant. Unless the treating physician is aware of maternal physiologic adaptation to pregnancy, misdiagnosis and suboptimal treatment may ensue. On the other hand, a wide variety of obstetrical pathologies can obscure, confuse, and delay the diagnosis of intra-abdominal injury.”

He further emphasizes the degree of difficulty in treating pregnant trauma victims:

…”A central focus is balancing the health and well-being of the fetus against the mother’s need for surgery. When a surgical intervention is chosen, the effect of surgery on the fetus and the pregnancy often is very difficult to discern from the effects caused by the pathologic process (eg, trauma) that created the need for surgery. A demonstrable increase in risk to the fetus occurs from surgery alone, and the risk appears to be greatest in the first and third trimesters. The concern for the fetus adds to complexity of diagnosis and management of trauma during pregnancy.”

The degree of complexity involved in treating any patient, including pregnant women and their fetus’, does not alleviate medical care providers and facilities of the responsibility to provide appropriate and reasonable care. If medical negligence accounted for, or contributed to a loss of life or birth injuries, doctors, nurses, and hospitals can, and should be held accountable for their own actions regardless of whether or not they were the cause of the original trauma if their negligence resulted in an bad outcome for the mother and/or her unborn child.

Los Angeles ER Medical Negligence and Malpractice Trial Lawyers

If you, or someone you love has been involved in car accident, or suffered a violent trauma while pregnant, it is important to provide attending medical personnel with a complete medical history, and ask questions about the treatment being offered. In some cases, you may have time to seek a second medical opinion, but many trauma cases don’t afford patients, their families, or doctors the luxury of time. However, it is also important to understand that even the most accomplished and dedicated doctor or surgeon can make the wrong call resulting in the devastating, unnecessary loss of life, or lead to life-long complications.

For a free consultation, contact our law offices today to learn more about how we can help you and to see if you may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, hospital and medical bills, emotional distress, and loss of earning capacity. The sooner you call, the sooner we can start helping you get the compensation you need to help with your recovery process.