The Hospital ER Made Me Wait Forever! Can I Sue Them? Not So Fast!

A long wait for care in the emergency room (ER) may occur for many different reasons. People frequently call and ask: Can I sue the hospital for making me wait four hours before treating me? The answer is: “Maybe, but only if the delay of care was unreasonable and caused you further injury, something more than you went to the hospital to in the first place.”

If you were refused care in a true emergency situation, you may have grounds for a lawsuit against the hospital. You should immediately contact an experienced hospital negligence lawyer to discuss the possibility of a case.

The real question is whether or not there was a true “refusal of care” or was it an issue of triage where other patients had a condition or injury more serious than yours such that they were placed in line for treatment ahead of you? There are guidelines that govern a patient’s rights to receive medical care. A hospital has a duty to take quick action in emergency situations. For example, if you are brought to the emergency room in the middle of a heart attack or you are bleeding profusely following an accident, the hospital has a responsibility to stabilize you and see you before less serious cases no matter how long they have been sitting in the ER waiting for treatment.

On the other hand, if your condition is not an emergency – for example, you have a broken bone, the flu or a non-life threatening allergic reaction – you may be asked to wait your turn in the ER, sometimes for a while. Delay in this situation is not grounds for a lawsuit. In this situation, here’s how it may go:

When you arrive at the ER, you sign in and get called in to see the triage nurse. He or she will take your vitals, find out what’s going on and determine the severity of your illness or injury. Conditions that are more emergent will be called in to see the doctor first. This is true regardless of when you arrived. Emergency rooms are not “first come, first served” situations. You may come in and be No. 2 on the list to go back to get care when someone in cardiac arrest is brought in. You are now No. 3.

Be aware, however, that triage isn’t a refusal of treatment, it’s the hospital’s procedure to manage patients’ care. Just because you’ve been triaged and made to wait, though, doesn’t mean you weren’t wrongfully neglected.

When it comes to possible negligence, there are two questions to answer:

  1. Can you make a legitimate claim that you were made to wait while others with less severe conditions were taken ahead of you – even though they arrived after you did?
  2. Did the long wait cause your condition to worsen?

Again, you may very well have a claim if either of these two negligent scenarios are the case. Contact seasoned trial lawyer Barry Sugarman to discuss the circumstances of your situation. He protects the interests of patients who have been victims of abuse or negligence in hospitals and nursing homes. He will fight for your rights.

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