Legal Blog

Can I File a Suit Against an Urgent Care or Freestanding Emergency Room?

Attorney David I. Fuchs


Attorney David I. Fuchs


Jun. 19, 2018



Despite being in charge of thousands of patients’ lives and well-being, not all urgent care centers and emergency rooms (ERs) fulfill their duties in terms of proper patient care. Acts of negligence such as turning patients away for financial reasons, misdiagnosing patients, rushing evaluations, and misinterpreting test results can all put patient lives in danger. If you or a loved one suffered because of a healthcare center’s malpractice, contact a Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney. You could be eligible to file a lawsuit against the establishment.

Urgent Care/Freestanding Emergency Room Duties of Care

All medical facilities – regardless of type – owe strict duties of care to patients. The list of duties is long and detailed. The main responsibility, however, is to do what is in the best interests of the patients. All physicians, surgeons, and nurses must take an oath swearing to uphold certain ethical standards when practicing medicine. Any breach of these duties, intentional or not, that causes harm to patients, is medical malpractice.

Examples of medical malpractice at urgent care centers and freestanding ERs include:

  • Hectic, disorganized emergency centers.

Urgent care centers are different environments than standard doctor’s offices and hospitals. Urgent care centers may get an influx of dozens of patients at once. They receive emergency cases that require immediate medical attention. The bustle in an urgent care facility could result in mix-ups and miscommunications that put patients’ lives at risk.

  • Refusing patient care.

No urgent care or ER facility may refuse to treat a patient because he or she doesn’t have insurance or cannot pay for services. It is the law for healthcare centers to treat all patients, regardless of financial station, race, religion, gender, disability, age, or other station. Doing so is an illegal breach of duty that qualifies as malpractice.

  • Treatment and surgical errors.

Physicians and surgeons can make mistakes during the treatment of patients in busy emergency rooms. Emergency health situations increase the risk of errors and complications, including uncontrollable bleeding and intubation errors. If the medical team miscommunicates or makes a mistake that a reasonable medic would not have in the same situation, it is malpractice.

No urgent care center can operate with 100% accuracy 100% of the time. They must, however, do their best to uphold their duties to patients according to accepted medical industry standards. Any breach of professional duty that causes patient injury, illness, or death, is medical malpractice. If the patient can prove this breach of duty, he or she can win a lawsuit against the urgent care center or freestanding ER.

Vicarious Liability for ER Staff Members

In many medical malpractice cases, it is not the healthcare facility itself that caused the patient’s harm, but one of its staff members. Due to the laws of vicarious liability, a healthcare center will be liable for the actions, behaviors, and malpractice of its employees. Physicians, however, might not be employees. Physicians in emergency rooms are often independent contractors. If this is the case with the physician that caused or contributed to your injuries, you may only have grounds to file a lawsuit against the individual doctor, not the facility.

An employee who makes a mistake, however, could result in vicarious liability to the establishment. The other scenario in which a patient could file a claim against the facility is if it is responsible for the incident. For example, if an urgent care center failed to properly maintain its equipment, it would be liable for a related equipment failure that results in a patient’s death. Contact a medical malpractice attorney in Florida if you believe you have grounds to file a lawsuit against an urgent care center or freestanding emergency room after any type of incident, injury, or the death of a loved one.