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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Attorney
Category: Personal Injury Law
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Experience:  Attorney with significant personal injury experience
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Executive summary (Austin, TX) I checked into ER (uninsured)

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Executive summary (Austin, TX) I checked into ER (uninsured) with respiratory distress. Was discharged after a lot of tests could not find anything (anxiety diagnosis - and discharged thereafter). Still had the same distress on being discharged. Caught the next flight to India - saw a specialist and was diagnosed within 4 hours. The only test that the India specialist ran was a PFT (blow into a tube to determine blockage of any kind). Other tests later confirmed the blockage (bronchitis).

This simple test was not done at the Austin ER.

The situation was fairly serious - I was walking around with very little air for a few days - and had to eventually fly in that condition to get a proper diagnosis.

On writing to the ER about their failure to provide this PFT test, they responded with 'We offered it, but you did not want to do it'. This is clearly untrue - my wife and I both know that this test was not offered.

So - I was out of pocket a few thousand dollars (uninsured ER), there was absolutely NO benefit from the ER check in - incorrect diagnosis (the anxiety medicines did nothing - since there was a physical obstruction).

Do I have a case ? I'd at least want to recover my out of pocket expenses from this hospital - which I felt, left me in a critical condition due to their incompetent testing and diagnostic abilities.


Thank you very much for your question today. I am so sorry to hear about your unfortunate experience with this hospital and the fact you had to travel in such poor health due to the hospital's failure to conduct a basic diagnostic test.

While the circumstances are certainly unfortunate, legal claims against hospitals are incredibly difficult to win and extraordinarily expensive to litigate. If your chart reflects that the PFT test was offered, then there would be no possibility of a claim, simply due to the reality that jurors tends to believe chart notes over a patient's personal testimony as to the treatments rendered and offered.

Even if a PFT test was never offered and the hospital admitted to that, you would need to prove that the failure to administer such test constituted a breach of the relevant standard of care for ER physicians. This, in turn, would likely require the testimony of another ER doctor, and the money you would need to pay to obtain such an opinion would likely be more than the bill the ER hospital is now claiming you owe. This, of course, would not be a cost-effective remedy.

Finally, there is an issue here as to the actual damage you sustained. There is never a guarantee that medical services will fix your medical problem, and if hospitals only got to charge those patients who were cured or accurately diagnosed, medicine would never be a money making endeavor. Had you sustained some sort of physical harm due to the missed diagnosis, for example, you suffered brain damage, or your condition worsened in some quantifiable manner, then you may have sustained a compensable damage. Absent such an injury, however, your only damage is the cost of medical treatment, which as noted above is not typically recoverable under the circumstances.

Even though you may not have a legal basis to demand compensation in civil court, hospitals routinely negotiate medical bills and take into account circumstances such as what you have described. Thus, the best course of action would be to explain that you believe you received treatment that fell below the relevant standard of care and that, since you needlessly incurred medical expense during your visit at the ER, you should only be liable for a small fraction of their total bill.

I'd offer 33% and see how they respond. Be sure to also indicate that you are financially unable to pay the entire outstanding balance (if indeed that is true), as hospitals give consideration to the financial hardship of their patients when it coms to bill collection.

Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.

If you do not require any further assistance, please be so kind as to provide a positive rating of my service so that I may receive credit for assisting you. Very best wishes to you and thank you so much for coming to Just Answer.
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