Sometimes, it takes weeks or months to realize you suffered injuries because of medical malpractice, while other times, it's immediately obvious. Regardless of when you suspect you suffered injuries because of a medical error, you should see a doctor immediately.
Obtain at least two opinions from doctors other than the doctor who made the mistake. Additionally, don't discuss your suspicions that a medical error occurred—let the doctors tell you that your extra pain and suffering stem from a medical error.
Once you suspect a medical error, you should work quickly to confirm that suspicion. After discovering or suspecting a medical error, you only have a specific period to file a lawsuit called the statute of limitations.
If the defendant can prove you suspected a medical error and failed to take action, the court could determine that the statute of limitations started running then, potentially leaving you with little or no time to take legal action before the statute of limitations expires.
Top 7 Medical Errors by Medical Professionals
Doctors and other medical professionals can cause additional pain, suffering, and expense through various medical errors. Sometimes, a medical error is just that—an error. Other times, the error results from negligence.
A medical professional could misdiagnose you or give you a delayed diagnosis. An anesthesiologist could administer the wrong amount of anesthesia. Surgeons can operate on the wrong body part or leave medical equipment inside a patient.
Regardless of the error, if the medical professional was negligent, you could recover compensation for expenses and additional pain and suffering.
1. Diagnostic Errors
Failing to diagnose or misdiagnosing a condition could lead to worsened conditions or even death. Diagnostic errors occur for several reasons, including lack of knowledge, lack of communication with the medical team, and drinking or using drugs on the job, among other reasons.
If a medical professional misdiagnoses or fails to diagnose a condition because a sample becomes contaminated or a medical device fails, it might not be their negligence. If a doctor refuses to order tests because insurance won't cover them and then misdiagnoses you, the court might consider that negligent. However, your health insurance company might share liability for damages in such cases.
2. Medication Errors
Another common medical error, medication mistakes, can cause extreme pain and suffering, injury, or death.
A doctor could:
- Prescribe the wrong medication, which could permanently disable the patient or cause the patient's death.
- Prescribe too high of a dose, which could cause serious illness or death.
- Prescribe too low of a dose, which could cause the condition to worsen or the death of the patient.
Nurses, pharmacists, and others could give the wrong medication to a patient or misread the doctor's instructions and give the wrong dosage. Doctors and other prescribers may negligently prescribe a medication the patient is allergic to or that reacts negatively with another drug.
3. Anesthesiaa Errors
If an anesthesiologist does not properly monitor a patient, they may fail to adjust medication and oxygen levels as needed. Improper monitoring could lead to permanent disabilities or even wrongful death. If the anesthesiologist doesn't give enough medication, the patient might be able to feel everything the doctor is doing but be unable to move or voice their concerns.
4. Surgical Errors
Surgeries occur in doctor's offices, surgical facilities, and hospitals, meaning anyone conducting the surgery—not always a surgeon—could make a surgical error. For example, a PA may perform minor procedures in many states, such as a biopsy.
Surgical errors might include operating on the wrong body part or site or doing the wrong surgery. For example, a surgeon could amputate the wrong limb or a limb on the wrong person. Surgeons and assistants could also leave medical equipment inside a surgical wound.
5. Failing to Obtain Informed Consent
When prescribing a medication, giving a medical treatment, or before surgery, a doctor must give the patient full disclosure, including side effects from medications, risks for medical procedures and surgeries, and the benefits of the medication, treatment, or surgery.
The doctor must also tell the patient about other forms of treatment available, if any, and why the doctor chose the particular form they recommend.
6. Infections and Other Secondary Injuries
People believe they will get well in the hospital, not sicker. That is not always the case, as many patients develop infections or secondary injuries in hospitals. Infections can cause sepsis, a chain reaction of inflammation and possible organ failure, which is life-threatening.
An infection such as MRSA can develop when medical professionals do not sanitize and clean surfaces, areas, and themselves between patients. A medical professional that goes to work sick could also get patients sick, which could be deadly to some.
Additionally, failing to monitor the patient could result in additional complications and infections. Without proper monitoring, medical professionals may not catch a condition, such as an infection, that could result in permanent disabilities or death.
7. Communication Errors
When medical professionals fail to communicate with each other, it could affect the patient, who might receive the wrong treatment or no treatment. Communication errors often lead to incorrect diagnoses, failure to diagnose, or medication errors.
Injuries You Might Suffer After a Medical Error
The injuries you could sustain after a medical error are widespread and depend on the type of error you suffer.
Medical injuries might include:
- Internal bleeding.
- Loss of a digit or limb by amputation of the wrong body part or on the wrong person.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Spinal cord injuries.
- Nerve injuries.
- Severe chronic pain.
- Wrongful death.
Recovering Damages for Medical Errors
You could recover compensation and other damages for injuries or the death of a loved one caused by medical malpractice. The amount of damages you recover depends on the type and extent of injury you sustain or whether the medical professional's negligence caused the loss of a loved one.
While many states allow a victim of medical malpractice to recover punitive damages, Illinois does not. You can, however, recover compensatory damages in the form of economic and non-economic damages. Courts order compensatory damages in an attempt to make you financially whole again. While the money doesn't remove the pain and suffering or bring a loved one back, it significantly reduces the financial stress you have from not working or because you no longer have income from a spouse.
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value. Most medical malpractice victims can recover economic damages. Economic damages include:
Depending on the severity of your injuries, you could incur significant medical expenses, especially if a medical professional's negligence caused you to suffer long-term or permanent disabilities.
Medical expenses include much more than medical treatments, including:
- Doctor's appointments.
- Surgeries and follow-up appointments.
- Prescriptions and prescribed over-the-counter medications and equipment.
- Ambulatory aids.
- Oxygen tanks and equipment.
- Cognitive therapy appointments.
- Occupational therapy appointments.
- Physical therapy appointments.
- Psychological therapy appointments.
- Hand controls for your vehicle.
- Updates to your home, including but not limited to wheelchair ramps, grab bars, handrails, and widened doorways.
If a medical professional had not been negligent, you could have returned to work sooner. In some cases, you may not be able to return to work at all. You could recover compensation for the work you miss and loss of future earning capacity.
If your injuries cause long-term or permanent disabilities, but you can return to work part-time or take a job that pays less than what you previously earned, you could still receive partial loss of earning capacity.
If you lost a loved one because of a medical professional's negligence, you could recover compensation for funeral and burial expenses, cremation expenses, and certain probate court costs. If you retain a probate attorney, you could recover probate attorney's fees and costs.
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value. In most cases, only those who suffered long-term or permanent disabilities or lost a loved one to a medical professional's negligence recover non-economic damages.
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 using ambulatory aids or taking prescriptions.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy time with your family or participate in family activities and events.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a foot or arm.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight or bladder.
- Amputation of the wrong limb or digit.
- Excessive scarring or disfigurement.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, such as grocery shopping, house cleaning, lawn maintenance, and home repair and maintenance.
Dos and Don'ts When You Suspect Medical Malpractice
If you suspect you might have injuries because of medical malpractice, don't contact your doctor yet. If you contact the original doctor, you could trigger the statute of limitations. You can ask another doctor to check you over and get a second opinion.
Contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible—even before you obtain a diagnosis from another doctor.
Do not talk about your suspicions with anyone other than your attorney. Do not mention it online or on social media. Anything you post will provide information for the negligent medical professional's attorneys to find and hold against you. It will make it more difficult for your attorney to represent you if they have to fight against something you inadvertently said that the medical professional's attorney could use against you.
How a Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help
Medical malpractice cases are always complex. You must prove that the medical professional's actions or inactions were negligent. You must also prove that your suffering is a direct cause of the medical professional's actions or inactions.
A medical malpractice attorney will:
- Review your initial case.
- Obtain medical records for the initial injury and any subsequent medical care you had.
- Take the deposition of witnesses and the at-fault medical professional.
- Obtain other evidence that might exist.
- Employ expert witnesses to testify on your behalf or write a report that testifies to your injuries, depending on whether you settle or must litigate.
- Investigate the case, if necessary.
- Negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement with the medical professional's insurance company (medical malpractice insurance).
- Ensure the at-fault medical professional does not violate your rights.
- Ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
- Determine how much you should receive in a fair and reasonable settlement.
- Prepare to litigate if the insurance company does not come to a fair and reasonable settlement.
Instead of putting up with the stress of arguing with the insurance company, retain an attorney with experience handling medical malpractice cases. Insurance companies are in business to make a profit, and your claim cuts into those profits. To the insurance company, you are another number, and it may try to deny or reduce your claim, including twisting your words to blame you for your injuries.
Retaining an experienced medical malpractice attorney makes it much harder for an insurance company to use tactics to avoid compensating your claim.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one because of a medical professional's negligence, contact a medical malpractice attorney for your free case evaluation.