Know the Statute of LimitationsNever wait to contact a medical malpractice lawyer if you suspect a misdiagnosis or other negligent behavior caused your injuries. Once the statute of limitations passes, you can no longer take legal action against the hospital and medical professionals. The statute of limitations varies depending on several factors, including the patient’s age, mental capacity, and the type of medical malpractice. For example, if a patient knows or should have known that a doctor amputated the wrong leg, the statute of limitations starts running at the time of the incident. However, if a doctor misdiagnoses a patient, the patient might not realize the doctor’s error until months later. The statute of limitations starts running when the patient learns of the misdiagnosis or should have known of the misdiagnosis.
Retain a Medical Malpractice AttorneyAs soon as you suspect a hospital or doctor made a mistake, contact a medical malpractice attorney. The lawyer will investigate the case. The lawyer must obtain your medical records and will most likely have you seek a second opinion. The lawyer will probably consult other doctors and medical professionals to determine if the doctor’s or hospital’s actions constituted negligence. If you wait too long, the attorney will not have time to adequately investigate your case. The attorney might not be willing to take the case, or if they do, you have a higher risk of losing since the attorney cannot properly prepare for settlement negotiations or litigation. Additionally, if you wait too long, evidence could disappear. The doctor might realize the mistake and destroy evidence to cover it up. The initial case evaluation is free when you contact a medical malpractice attorney. The attorney also works on a contingency basis, which means that the firm does not get paid unless you win your case.
How a Medical Malpractice Attorney Can HelpAfter you retain a medical malpractice attorney, the legal team will investigate your case. The first step is to gather your medical records for evidence proving negligence. Your legal team can also:
- Point you to qualified doctors and medical facilities for second opinions and care for the original condition.
- Help you connect with hospital administration about billing and collecting amounts your insurance does not cover.
- Obtain medical records, documents, and other evidence proving that a medical professional or hospital was negligent.
- Determine whether the medical professional works for the hospital or with the hospital. Some medical professionals have privileges at a hospital but do not work directly for the hospital. This distinction changes the entity you sue for medical malpractice. Just because a doctor works in a hospital does not mean they work for the hospital.
- Determine if more than one medical professional or hospital is responsible for your injuries. For example, if a doctor who works for a hospital ordered tests and relied on a scan tech to interpret the results, the doctor and the tech could share liability for your injuries.
- Start settlement negotiations with the appropriate insurance companies.
- Defend your rights.
- Prepare for trial if the insurance companies refuse a fair and reasonable settlement.
- Represent you in court if your case goes that far.
Determine Your DamagesAt any time, the insurance companies could agree to settle. Furthermore, your attorney needs an amount to initiate settlement negotiations. After all, you want to receive the compensation you deserve. The attorney can only determine the value of your case once he or she reviews all of your medical records and other evidence.
Can Any Personal Injury Lawyer or Firm Sue a Hospital?Hire a lawyer with medical malpractice experience for lawsuits against hospitals and medical providers. Medical malpractice is a specialized subset of personal injury law, which requires additional knowledge. If a negligent hospital or medical professional caused additional injury or a new injury by misdiagnosing you, you deserve to have experienced attorneys representing your rights.
How Do I Pay for My Medical Expenses?While you await your settlement or trial award, you can use your health insurance to cover most of your medical expenses. As for deductibles and copayments, your legal team can ask the medical professionals or entities to defer payment and collection until you receive your settlement or trial award.
How Do I Pay for the Lawsuit?When you retain a medical malpractice firm, you sign a contingency agreement. The initial case evaluation is always free and without obligation. Taking medical malpractice cases on a contingency basis means your lawyers do not get paid unless they win your case.
Medical Malpractice ClaimsMedical negligence could cause many injuries, from infections to cancers that spread. Common malpractice claims that cause severe injuries or death include:
- Delayed diagnosis and misdiagnosis, including failing to recognize symptoms and failing to take timely action.
- Failing to refer a patient to a specialist.
- Medicine errors, including prescribing the wrong medication, wrong dosage, not recognizing drug interactions with other drugs, and failing to recognize addiction or abuse.
- Surgical errors.
- Childbirth injuries.
- Misinterpreting lab results.
- Losing test results.
- Failing to order tests.
- Procedural errors during testing.
- Failing to treat diagnoses.
- Operating on the wrong body part.
- Surgery on the wrong patient.
- Giving advice based on the wrong patient’s chart.
- Leaving surgical items in the patient.
- Failing to follow medical practices during, before, and after surgery.
- Failing to provide instructions upon release.
- Releasing a patient too soon.
- Ignoring a patient’s medical history or failing to review the medical history before prescribing medications or ordering tests.
Recovering Damages After Medical MalpracticeIf a medical professional or medical facility misdiagnosed you or was otherwise negligent while caring for you, and you suffered injuries, you could recover compensation for your injuries and losses. The court orders a negligent medical professional or entity to pay compensatory damages when negligence caused your injuries or the loss of a loved one. The court could order the medical professional or entity to pay punitive damages if it finds that the professional’s or entity’s actions or inactions were grossly negligent or intentional.
Compensatory DamagesMost victims of medical malpractice can recover compensatory damages, which fall into two categories: Economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic DamagesSometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value. The court orders a defendant to pay economic damages to make the plaintiff whole again. Economic damages include:
- Medical expenses, including surgeries, follow-up appointments, doctors’ appointments, prescriptions, ambulatory aids, physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive therapy, psychological therapy, hand controls for vehicles, and upgrades to homes, including but not limited to ramps, widened doorways, and grab bars.
- Lost income if a medical error caused injuries or exacerbated existing injuries that prevent you from working. If your injuries force you out of work, you can recover lost wages. If the injuries cause long-term or permanent disabilities, you could recover compensation for loss of future earning income. Even if you can work part-time, you can collect the difference in your salary. Additionally, in most cases, the defendant pays for loss of earning capacity from the time of the injury until your normal retirement date.
- Death-related expenses, including burial expenses, cremation expenses, funeral expenses, probate court fees, and attorneys’ fees for a probate attorney.
Non-Economic DamagesGeneral damages, often referred to as non-economic damages, do not have a monetary value. The court usually orders the defendant to pay non-economic damages if the plaintiff’s injuries cause long-term or permanent disabilities or if the defendant’s actions or inactions caused a loved one to die. Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make life-long changes, such as taking prescription medications or using ambulatory aids.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy time with your family or participate in family activities and events.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your bladder control or eyesight.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a foot or leg.
- Amputation of the wrong body part or because of an infection caused by medical negligence.
- Excessive scarring or disfigurement caused by medical negligence.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you normally do because of a hospital’s negligence. You might receive compensation for hiring someone to do your grocery shopping, house cleaning, lawn maintenance, and even home repairs and maintenance if you normally take care of those items.
Punitive DamagesIf the court finds that the hospital’s or medical professional’s actions or inactions were grossly negligent or intentional, it might order the defendant to pay punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages, which purport to make you whole again, punitive damages are a punishment for the defendant. It takes extra time and steps to obtain punitive damages, including proving the defendant’s gross negligence or intent, but this extra work is worthwhile if the negligence caused permanent disabilities.
What Happens After I Win My Case?Once you win a settlement or trial award, one of the attorneys—usually the losing side—must draft a settlement agreement or a final judgment. Your attorney then reviews the agreement or final judgment. If they find no errors, your attorney will forward the document for your review. If you find no errors, then:
- You sign and notarize the settlement agreement in duplicate. The attorney sends a signed original to the defendant’s attorney.
- The attorney forwards the final judgment to the court for the judge’s signature. Once the judge signs the final judgment, the court files it and forwards conformed copies to the attorneys for both sides.