You rely on your healthcare providers to give you competent and appropriate care. The goal of seeking treatment is to improve or stabilize your health. However, some patients will become victims of medical negligence.
The law might entitle you to compensation if you sustained injuries while receiving incompetent care. Learn more about the elements of a medical negligence case and how a medical malpractice lawyer can help you.
Proving Medical Negligence Guide
- Elements of medical negligence
- Who Is Responsible for Acts of Medical Negligence?
- Why You Need a Medical Negligence Attorney?
- Examples of Medical Negligence
- Fatal Medical Negligence: Wrongful Death Lawsuits
- Where Does Medical Negligence Occur?
- Do Not Miss Your Opportunity to Pursue a Settlement
- Is Medical Negligence the Same as Medical Malpractice?
- Contingency Fees Give Everyone Access to a Lawyer
- The Average Medical Negligence Settlement Amount
- How Long Does it Take to Receive a Medical Negligence Settlement?
- Were You Injured Due to Medical Negligence?
Elements of medical negligence
You might wonder if what happened to you is enough to build a legal claim on. When a medical malpractice lawyer assesses your case, they will look for these elements.
You were in a provider/patient relationship.
Your doctor and other healthcare providers are responsible for your safety and well-being. This concept is called a duty of care.
This same responsibility may not extend to other sources of health information, such as a blog or advice from an acquaintance who happens to be a doctor. You must have an established provider/patient relationship with the individual or facility that acted negligently.
You received substandard care.
A substandard level of care is another element in a medical negligence case. Substandard medical care can involve a harmful action, such as a nurse giving you the wrong drug. But substandard care can also involve inaction, like a failure to order a diagnostic test.
The substandard care injured you.
Receiving incompetent care is traumatic. It can make you lose your confidence in the medical system. However, the simple fact that substandard care occurred is not enough to base a lawsuit on. The negligence must have injured you in some way.
You sustained damages because of that injury.
The purpose of a medical negligence lawsuit is to pursue compensation for your damages. Medical bills lost wages, and pain and suffering are examples of damages. You could not file a lawsuit if you did not incur any damages.
Who Is Responsible for Acts of Medical Negligence?
Who is legally responsible for your injuries depends on state laws and the specifics of your case. The law may hold doctors and other providers directly accountable for acts of medical negligence. And in other cases, healthcare facilities and organizations are responsible for the actions of their employees.
As you can imagine, some providers do not willingly admit to their mistakes. They know medical negligence claims attract negative publicity and can end their careers. Attorneys work hard to uncover the facts in a medical negligence case.
Why You Need a Medical Negligence Attorney?
can you sue for medical malpractice without a lawyer? Representing yourself in a legal claim is challenging, especially while you recover from an injury. Below are some of the reasons why you need an attorney.
The healthcare facility or organization may downplay what happened to you.
Healthcare facilities know that medical negligence cases attract attention. One lawsuit can tarnish a facility’s reputation forever. Staff may tell you that what happened was an “unfortunate outcome,” and they were in no way negligent. You may start to doubt what happened to you.
Medical negligence attorneys have the training and knowledge to identify substandard care. They also consult with independent medical experts when needed. They aim to get to the bottom of what happened and help you take appropriate legal action.
The initial offer may not cover all of your damages.
Some acts of medical negligence are impossible to deny or cover-up. In those circumstances, the facility may offer to cover the costs of your medical care. Their insurance company may even offer you additional money for your troubles.
Their attitude may seem generous and caring, but it is not. The amount they offer you is likely only a fraction of what the law entitles you to. A settlement covers more than the medical bills you have as of today. What if you cannot return to work for another year? Or, what if you need lifelong medical care for your injuries?
A settlement should account for all of your current and future damages. Consult with any attorney before you sign any paperwork relating to your medical negligence injuries. You could unknowingly relinquish your right to sue for more money in the future.
You may choose to take your case to court.
Many medical negligence cases settle without a trial. Attorneys are skilled negotiators and can anticipate the insurance company’s strategies. However, there are times when negotiations stall. Sometimes, bringing a case to trial is the best way to pursue a favorable outcome.
You should hire an attorney to represent you during the trial. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner they can start building your case. Experienced attorneys prepare each case as if it will go to trial, so there are no surprises.
Examples of Medical Negligence
It is difficult to account for all types of medical negligence. Below are some of the most common examples, but this is not an exhaustive list.
Diagnostic mistakes are a barrier to appropriate treatment.
Common errors include:
- Failure to order appropriate tests, such as X-rays or CT scans
- Wrong diagnosis
- Missed diagnosis
- Late diagnosis
A timely diagnosis prevents the progression of injuries and illnesses.
Mistakes can happen at any point in the drug distribution chain.
Examples of medication errors are:
- A prescriber orders the wrong drug
- The pharmacy dispenses the wrong drug or dose
- A provider administers a drug to the wrong patient
Medication errors can cause allergic reactions, severe side effects, and can even be fatal.
Patients are vulnerable when under anesthesia.
It is traumatic to wake up from surgery only to learn that a preventable mistake like these occurred:
- Operating on the wrong body part
- Unnecessary incisions
- Damage to healthy organs and tissue
- Errors in administering anesthesia
- Leaving surgical supplies like gauze, bandages, or instruments inside the body
Surgical errors can result in an infection, another operation, prolonged recovery time, and emotional distress.
Fatal Medical Negligence: Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Sadly, some victims of medical negligence will die after receiving substandard care.
State laws vary, but many jurisdictions allow certain surviving family members to pursue a settlement.
- Grandchildren, in specific circumstances
- Parents, if the deceased was a minor or did not have a spouse or children
- Other family members
- Court-appointed representatives
Money cannot bring back your loved one or ease your grief. However, compensation can prevent financial hardship.
There are time limits to pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit. Talk with an attorney immediately so you do not lose your opportunity for compensation.
Where Does Medical Negligence Occur?
Medical negligence happens anywhere an individual has a patient/provider relationship:
- In-patient hospital wards
- Out-patient clinics
- Dental offices
- Prison and jail hospital wards
- Substance abuse centers
- Birth centers
- Skilled nursing facilities
- Assisted living communities
- Memory care wards
You may take legal action, no matter where you received substandard care.
Do Not Miss Your Opportunity to Pursue a Settlement
You have a limited amount of time to file a personal injury claim. Each state sets its own deadline for medical negligence cases, called a statute of limitation. The court will likely refuse your claim if you file after the deadline.
Examples of statutes of limitation for personal injury claims are:
These may seem like far-off deadlines. However, there is no reason to wait to consult an attorney. Many types of evidence fade over time, making it challenging to gather critical information. It is easier to build a solid legal case right away.
How states measure statutes of limitations
Some acts of medical negligence are impossible to cover up or hide. The patient immediately knows what happened. And in other cases, negligence is not always so apparent. It can take some time for the patient to realize what occurred.
The law typically measures the statute of limitations in one of two ways.
- The date the medical negligence happened, or
- The date you discovered was made aware of or should have been made aware of the medical negligence.
Consult an attorney if you have any questions about the statute of limitations in your state.
What happens if the statute of limitation has passed?
You should not assume on your own that you cannot take legal action. Medical negligence and statutes of limitation are highly nuanced areas of the law. Only a lawyer can tell you if you have a valid claim or not.
Many medical negligence law firms offer free consultations. You can find out if you have a valid claim and legal options.
Is Medical Negligence the Same as Medical Malpractice?
From a legal standpoint, the answer is usually “No.”
Many states have different laws that govern medical negligence and medical malpractice cases:
- The law generally allows patients to sue physicians directly in a medical malpractice case.
- If another type of healthcare provider is negligent, the facility or organization is usually held responsible.
There are other distinctions between these two types of claims, which vary by state. An attorney can explain the finer points of medical malpractice if these laws apply to your case.
However, there is little difference if you are an injured patient. You sought medical care to improve or stabilize your condition. A lapse in judgment, a mistake, or an act of carelessness hurt you.
Some states may have different deadlines to file medical negligence and medical malpractice cases. It is better to contact an attorney as soon as possible so you do not miss the deadline to file, no matter what type of case you have.
Contingency Fees Give Everyone Access to a Lawyer
Medical negligence injuries can leave you out of work. You may struggle to pay your rent or mortgage. Worrying about money keeps you up at night. You would love to take legal action, but you cannot afford an attorney now. The good news is that contingency fees allow everyone to take legal action, regardless of their financial standing.
Most lawyers taking on medical negligence cases do not collect any fees upfront.
They enter into a contingent fee agreement with their clients.
- If they secure a settlement for you, they receive a predetermined percentage of that award.
- You would not owe them attorney fees if they do not win your case. However, you may be responsible for paying other expenses, such as court fees.
Medical negligence law firms offer free consultations to prospective clients. That meeting or phone call is your opportunity to ask questions. Make sure you understand a lawyer’s fee schedule before you hire them.
The Average Medical Negligence Settlement Amount
You may hear statements about average settlement amounts. You should take this information with a grain of salt.
Many unique factors determine compensation.
- Lost income depends on a person’s occupation, location, and how many hours they work.
- The cost of medical care varies significantly throughout the U.S.
- Other damages, such as pain and suffering, are unique to the individual and their lifestyle before the injury.
What people really want to know is, “How much is my claim worth?” An attorney can only answer this question after a careful review of your case.
How Long Does it Take to Receive a Medical Negligence Settlement?
A medical negligence claim can take a few months to a year or more to resolve. It is difficult to wait to know the outcome of your case. However, a quick settlement may not be an adequate one. You do not want an act of negligence to leave you with unpaid medical bills and other expenses.
Your case progresses at a speed influenced by:
- The severity of your injuries
- The total overall cost of your damages
- Whether the facility or physician admits fault
- The amount of investigation required to build your case
- How stubborn the insurance company is
- Whether your case goes to trial
Your attorney will fight for maximum compensation, which can take some time.
Were You Injured Due to Medical Negligence?
Your best course of action is to consult with an attorney right away. Do not miss your opportunity to file a legal claim. Contact a personal injury attorney for your free consultation.