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Urgent Care Malpractice: Can You Sue Urgent Care for Misdiagnosis or Mistakes?

Updated October 5, 2023 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

Urgent care centers are more popular than ever. Their rapid growth has been attributed to their convenience, the high cost of emergency room visits, and gaps in primary care. For many people, urgent care is the first place they consider when they have an urgent medical need, especially if they can’t get into their primary care doctor. 

However, urgent care centers are not perfect. They are subject to many of the same pitfalls and errors as other doctors or facilities. And an urgent care center’s busy, crowded atmosphere can lend itself to a unique set of problems, leading to urgent care malpractice.

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Urgent Care vs. Emergency Room Medical Malpractice: What’s the Difference?

Many cities have urgent care centers open because there is a need for quick and affordable access to treatment that is going unmet by the local emergency room. Because of their ability to treat acute problems relatively quickly, emergency rooms and urgent cares treat many of the same conditions: respiratory illness, sprains and strains, and infections. 

Urgent care centers may face the same pitfalls as emergency rooms  due to their similar environment, such as rushed treatment, failure to triage patients appropriately, failure to communicate, and inaccurate diagnosis.  

Emergency Room Malpractice

Urgent care centers often do not have the same equipment and resources as emergency rooms. Emergency rooms can treat life-threatening conditions because they have access to a full laboratory, a wide range of medications, surgical interventions, and medical staff trained to treat various problems. They can treat everything from heart attacks and strokes to gunshot wounds and severe burns. 

Urgent Care Malpractice

On the other hand, urgent care centers can perform limited lab tests, limited imaging, and limited treatment. Typically, they are best suited for people with minor illnesses or injuries needing treatment within the next 24 hours. 

This unique environment can lend itself to different types of malpractice claims. When an urgent care patient has a medical issue requiring emergency treatment, it’s often best to transport the patient there via ambulance. If the patient’s symptoms are not accurately recognized, assessed, and/or addressed by the medical staff, the patient might have a basis for a medical malpractice claim.

Why Do People Go to Urgent Care Instead of the ER?

There are many reasons that people choose to visit urgent care instead of the ER.

  • Urgent care can be less costly. Many private insurances charge lower copays for urgent care visits than ER visits. 
  • Urgent care can be less crowded. Depending on where you live, your local emergency room may be packed all day and night, especially during cold and flu season. Urgent care centers can be less crowded. 
  • Urgent care may have shorter wait times. Because urgent care centers can be less crowded, patients may not have to wait as long to see a doctor. 

What are the Most Common Urgent Care Malpractice Cases?

Misdiagnosis, Delayed Diagnosis, and Failure to Diagnose

The leading cause of urgent care malpractice cases is the provider’s failure to properly assess and diagnose the patient’s condition. This can include misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and failure to diagnose. 

  • Misdiagnosis involves mistaking the symptoms of one condition for another. For example, if you went to urgent care with pain in your abdomen that was misdiagnosed as a UTI when all signs pointed to appendicitis, you may be able to sue for urgent care misdiagnosis. 
  • Delayed Diagnosis happens when a provider misses immediate and obvious signs of a condition. If treatment is delayed longer than is typical or standard, and the condition worsens, one may have a possible malpractice claim.
  • Failure to Diagnose occurs when the provider does not recognize the common symptoms of a specific disease, such as diabetes. The patient is sent home with no treatment or incorrect treatment, and the patient’s condition worsens. 

Failure to Treat

If your doctor diagnosed you correctly but gave you the wrong or ineffective treatment, you may have a malpractice claim. To sue the provider, the patient must prove that the treatment was inadequate and outside the typical standard of care for the diagnosis, and that it contributed to cause your damages or injuries complained of. 

Diagnostic Equipment Failure or Misinterpretation of Test Results 

Although urgent care centers don’t have as much diagnostic equipment as the ER, urgent cares still use equipment and lab tests to diagnose conditions. A patient may have a potential malpractice, or product liability, claim if the tests malfunctioned or if the provider misinterpreted the results. 

Worsening Condition

If the urgent care staff failed to improve your condition and actively made your condition worse, their actions may constitute malpractice. 

Can You Sue Urgent Care for Misdiagnosis in Indiana?

Yes. Like all medical providers, urgent care centers in Indiana can be sued for medical malpractice. They must have caused harm to the patient by failing to provide adequate treatment or providing treatment that falls outside the established standard of care.

Who is Responsible in an Urgent Care Malpractice Case?

Usually, in a medical malpractice case, the doctor or nurse practitioner is responsible for the injury, especially if they are the ones who failed to misdiagnose your condition. However, there are some circumstances in which the urgent care facility or another medical entity is held responsible. For example, an urgent care center may be susceptible to a medical malpractice claim if the in-house laboratory staff mishandled your blood sample or the intake staff failed to refer you to the emergency room for something like stroke symptoms. 

Most healthcare facilities are required to carry malpractice insurance, and they factor the urgent care malpractice insurance costs into their business expenses. If the urgent care is found responsible, the urgent care malpractice insurance likely pays the damages.

What Should the Victim of a Malpractice Case Do?

If you believe you’ve been a victim of medical malpractice, do not hesitate to contact a lawyer to review your case. The experienced malpractice attorneys at WKW can help you in reviewing your claim, building your case, and filing your claim against your provider. If your claim is successful, you may receive compensation for medical costs, lost income, and pain and suffering. Contact WKW today at 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation. 

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