You put your trust in medical care providers to treat and advise you in health matters professionally and without causing you undue harm. Sometimes, though, medical care providers violate that trust and act in a negligent way that worsens your condition. In some cases, the negative impacts of medical malpractice can have life-long repercussions.
Do you have a case for medical malpractice? If you have suffered serious injuries or losses that you believe were caused by a medical provider, contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your legal rights.
An attorney will ask several questions to determine whether you have grounds for a medical malpractice claim and assess how you can move forward in your quest for compensation. Below is a general outlay of the considerations that come into play in determining whether or not you have a case for medical malpractice.
1. Did The Care Provider Owe You a Professional Duty?
To have grounds for a medical malpractice claim, you need to show that a relationship existed between you and the medical care provider. Suppose, for example, that you went into the emergency room for treatment for an injury to your arm.
If your care provider failed to treat the limb properly, causing you to sustain further injuries, you may have a strong medical malpractice claim against that provider.
In accepting to treat you, the care provider automatically created a relationship with you that imposed on them a duty to provide a high level of care expected of medical professionals. Such a relationship and consequential duty can arise in your interactions with a doctor, a nurse, or a medical facility generally.
2. The doctor committed an act of negligence in your treatment.
To establish grounds for a medical malpractice claim, you need to show that the medical professional or facility acted contrary to the standard of care to which they are held—i.e. they acted negligently.
Negligence giving rise to a medical malpractice claim can take many forms. The following are some common scenarios of negligence in medical care.
Failure to Diagnose
You may have presented your symptoms to the doctor and explained them clearly but, despite evidence a reasonable and competent doctor would have noticed as the sign of a condition, the doctor failed to diagnose it. Failure to diagnose a condition can leave you struggling to continue to deal with the symptoms that sent you to the doctor in the first place. Over time, those symptoms tend to worsen and cause more problems. Because you have trusted your doctor, you might not seek another medical opinion for a while, putting off the medical treatment you need and resulting in pain and further harm.
Rather than merely failing to diagnose a condition, a doctor might incorrectly diagnose you with an illness or condition. Misdiagnosis not only means that a patient might end up not receiving treatment for their actual ailment, but that they receive treatment for a condition they do not have. The incorrect treatment often has negative side effects. In some cases, that treatment worsens the symptoms of the original ailment.
Drug errors can take many forms. A doctor may prescribe or a nurse may administer the wrong drug or dosage. Medications for infants, in particular, require careful measurement to ensure that they do not cause harm. In other cases, a doctor may prescribe a drug that interacts negatively with a patient’s allergy or a different medication the patient is already taking, which often harms the patient.
Pregnancy and Birth Injuries
During pregnancy and childbirth, both the mother and child are substantially vulnerable. Doctors must carefully monitor the progress of a pregnancy and delivery to ensure the safety of both the mother and the child.
Sometimes, birth injuries occur because a doctor pushes an unnecessary intervention, harming the mother or child. On the other hand, birth injuries result from a doctor’s failure to make necessary interventions, such as allowing a woman to continue to labor on her own when the infant shows obvious signs of distress. Birth injuries can lead to lifelong complications or even the death of a mother or child.
“Never events” include those things that should never occur under a medical provider’s care: serious errors that result from egregious distraction or negligence on the part of the care provider. Never events may include things like operating on the wrong side of the body or organ, leaving items behind in the body after surgery, or otherwise causing serious injury to the patient during treatment or surgery by negligent conduct.
Failure to Inform
One of a medical care provider’s responsibilities is to properly inform patients about the risks they may face when undergoing certain medical treatments. For instance, many medical procedures can result in severe complications or have the potential for additional side effects.
A doctor must inform a patient of those risks before going forward with a treatment or procedure, allowing the patient to make an informed decision about whether or not to go ahead with the treatment or procedure. If a doctor fails to provide a clear explanation of all the potential consequences of a treatment or procedure to a patient, and the patient experiences an adverse outcome as a result, the doctor may be liable for medical malpractice.
Note that a doctor does not have to inform a patient who requires immediate life-saving attention, particularly if the patient cannot consent to care due to unconsciousness.
Failure to Treat
If a doctor fails or refuses to treat a patient, including failing to issue the logical treatment for a patient’s condition based on the information provided, the doctor may bear liability for any harm the patient takes as a result of those actions.
3. The doctor’s negligence in your treatment led to a specific injury or type of suffering.
Making a medical malpractice claim also requires a showing that the care provider’s negligence led to some type of suffering or injury.
Suppose, for example, that a doctor errantly prescribed medication with known interactions to a medication you take regularly. However, the pharmacist catches the error and recommends that you not fill the medication. This allows you to choose an alternative course of treatment, which means you do not sustain an injury or side effects from that medication. As a result, you would not have grounds for a medical malpractice claim against the doctor.
On the other hand, if the pharmacist did not catch that error and you took the medication, leading to serious complications or side effects, including potentially long-lasting side effects, you may have the right to file a medical malpractice claim.
A medical malpractice claim generally seeks to recover compensation for harm done. Thus, even if a medical provider has acted negligently, you cannot bring a claim for medical malpractice unless their negligence caused you some harm for which you may seek compensation. The more severe your injuries, the higher your costs related to that act of negligence may rise, and the more compensation you may have the right to claim for your injuries. On the other hand, if you sustain relatively minor injuries, you may go through comparatively less suffering and have lower overall expenses associated with that act of negligence; in such a case you would recover less compensation for your injuries.
An attorney can help identify expenses and losses you may have experienced after a medical provider’s negligence, and help you determine how much compensation you may be able to demand in a medical malpractice claim.
4. An expert witness can testify that another doctor, in those circumstances, would have acted differently.
Having an expert medical witness to testify in your favor generally becomes necessary in any medical malpractice claim. In some states, you may need a medical expert witness’s attestation that you were the victim of medical malpractice to even bring a claim in the first place. A medical care provider or medical care expert can testify that, given the information presented to your doctor, a reasonable care provider would have acted differently. An expert witness is crucial to building a medical malpractice claim.
5. The statute of limitations on your claim has not yet run out.
In all states, there are deadlines to file personal injury lawsuits in civil court. The deadline to file a given kind of claim is referred to as the statute of limitations. In many states, you have less time to file a medical malpractice claim than you do to file other types of personal injury claims. The statute of limitations generally starts counting down once you discover the act of medical malpractice and the injuries that resulted from it. In any case, it is always better to start looking into your legal options and to file a claim as soon as possible. Contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as you suspect medical malpractice so that they can start building your case and handle your case promptly.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim: What You Need to Know
If you believe that you may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim, you should get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help walk you through the process, give you an idea of the kind of compensation you can pursue, and start developing a strategy to establish medical malpractice against the medical care provider. An attorney can also initiate the process and make sure you comply with any other conditions of bringing a medical malpractice claim in your state, potentially including the following.
You may need to notify the medical care provider about your intent to file a claim.
In some states, you may need to issue a written statement to the medical care provider that you plan to file a medical malpractice claim and the events that you believe give you grounds for a claim.
Your claim may need to go before a medical malpractice review board before you can formally move forward with your claim.
In some states, you may need to present your claim for review before you can go to court or submit an official claim to a medical malpractice insurance provider.
During the review, you will need to submit your supporting documents, explain the nature of the medical malpractice, and show that you have suffered injuries as a result of the doctor’s act of negligence.
The medical malpractice board does not issue a verdict in your claim or award compensation, but it can determine whether you have a basis to move forward with a claim. In those states that require a review by a medical malpractice board, you may not move forward with your claim until you have passed the review board.
State laws may define what compensation you can recover for several types of medical malpractice.
To limit medical malpractice insurance costs for providers, many states limit the kind or amount of compensation you can recover for medical malpractice, regardless of the severity of your injuries or the financial costs you incurred from your medical care provider’s negligence.
Working with an attorney can help you learn more about the laws in your state, how they may affect your claim, and the strategies that can help maximize the compensation you may recover.
Did You Suffer From Medical Malpractice?
If you believe that you were the victim of medical malpractice, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you move forward with your claim. A medical malpractice attorney can help you collect the evidence you need to prove your claim and ensure that you follow all the correct steps to move forward and maximize your compensation.
Contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as you suspect you may have been the victim of medical malpractice so that you can start building your case and complete all the necessary steps on time.