Unfavorable results can happen in the medical field. However, some patients suffer serious consequences due to negligence by a healthcare professional. Medical malpractice is a complex area, and the law can confuse people. You might not know if you can seek compensation or are curious about your rights.
A lawyer can provide answers to the questions you have. You should find someone who has the necessary qualifications to take on your case.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider commits negligence. The treatment deviates from the standard of care if other providers would have done something differently. You can hold doctors, nurses, hospitals, and hospital workers liable for medical malpractice.
Patients file between 15,000 and 19,000 new claims against healthcare workers every year. To have a valid case, you need to prove the doctor or nurse had a duty of care. You hired their services, and they agreed to offer their services.
The worker has to have failed to meet the quality of care. As a result, the negligence led to your injuries. You need to prove your condition worsened and the decline in health caused considerable damage. Damages can include constant pain, disability, and suffering.
What Is Not Medical Malpractice?
Not every treatment or surgery delivers the expected results. Even though a procedure is unsuccessful, negligence might not have occurred. Patients cannot sue a healthcare worker simply if they do not feel satisfied with the results. They need to prove the elements of a medical malpractice case exist.
Types of Medical Malpractice Cases
A surgeon or technician can make an error in a variety of ways. Examples of medical malpractice cases include:
- Patient abandonment. A few patients have had their doctors end their doctor-patient relationship suddenly without a valid reason. The person may not have received a replacement provider to help them. Patient abandonment can cause an illness or injury to worsen.
- Misdiagnosis. Around 12 million people in the United States receive an incorrect diagnosis. The provider might have failed to get accurate information. The doctor might tell a patient they have a specific disease or condition, but the problem is something else.
- Premature discharge. Premature discharge is when a hospital releases a patient sooner than it should. Overcrowded or understaffed facilities are more likely to discharge early. Medical malpractice occurs if the hospital does not stabilize the person’s condition, diagnose, or provide the appropriate treatment.
- Infections. Between 2 percent and 4 percent of patients get a surgical site infection within 30 days of the procedure. An infection could be the result of the body’s poor reaction to the operation, or the surgeon used unclean tools. Surgeons have a responsibility to use sterile equipment, and nurses should check the patient regularly.
- Anesthesia errors. The anesthesiologist might fail to teach the patient about the possible risks or review the medical history. You could sue if the healthcare provider delayed the anesthesia or gave the incorrect amount during surgery.
If you are unsure if you have a valid case, you should speak to a lawyer as soon as you can. An attorney reviews the facts of your diagnosis and treatment to spot signs of negligence.
You know if you can receive reimbursement after a consultation.
What Type of Lawyer Do You Need?
Medical malpractice is one type of personal injury claim, and personal injury is a broad category. Therefore, you should find a lawyer who focuses in the area of medical malpractice. The attorney takes you through the lawsuit and settlement processes.
You should find one who has plenty of years of experience and can connect with you on a personal level. To find the right medical malpractice lawyer, you should start with a relative or close friend. They might have had a similar case and worked with a trusted firm.
If you already know an attorney, you can ask if they have any recommendations. Many people search for a medical malpractice lawyer online as well. A firm’s website usually provides plenty of information and client reviews.
Advantages of a Medical Malpractice Attorney?
An advocate can make a difference in a medical malpractice lawsuit. You can gain several advantages in your case.
Some benefits are:
- Meet deadlines. You need to file your claim before you run out of time. The statute of limitations limits how long you have, and each state has different rules. In several places, exceptions exist. A lawyer can file all the necessary documents on time.
- Handle insurance companies. Insurance companies tend to use certain tactics to reduce how much they have to pay. Some of them use pressure or intimidation. An attorney can deal with an insurer and protect you from unfair compensation.
- Build a strong case. Medical malpractice lawyers know how to gather evidence and counter the defense’s arguments. Not many cases make it to trial, but the chances of success lower significantly if a lawsuit goes to the courtroom. An attorney has the ability to present a convincing argument in front of a judge and jury.
- Prevent mistakes. The lawsuit process is complex and involves a lot of paperwork. Someone is likely to make a mistake if they are unfamiliar with the process. Errors can create setbacks or cost a person their case. Attorneys avoid oversights and get you compensation.
- Save you time. Filing a claim and building a case becomes time-consuming. Researching how to proceed with each phase of a lawsuit can take hours. A plaintiff is likely busy in their personal life. Lawyers do the legal work, and you can focus on your recovery. You can receive regular updates about the case’s progress.
What to Expect From a Consultation
A consultation is a crucial time for a lawyer to know more about your situation. You would inform the attorney about your medical condition before and after treatment. You would explain why you believe medical malpractice happened.
You should bring all of your medical documents. They contain the facts of your diagnosis and treatment plan. You can get the necessary paperwork from your doctors. You should also write down what you can remember and bring the notes to the consultation. Lawyers want to review the information and ask questions.
During the meeting, you can ask any questions you may have. You can learn more about fees and the attorney’s qualifications. Afterward, the lawyer determines if you have a valid case.
Common Medical Malpractice Defenses
The doctor might argue the injuries are not the result of a medical error. Their care met the standard quality the profession has to uphold. Several healthcare workers try to shift the blame onto the patient as well.
The injury would not have occurred if the plaintiff did not act carelessly. The physician could remove liability if they can prove the patient withheld information about their medical history.
Many places have Good Samaritan laws, and the law generally protects people who aid those in medical distress. Nurses and doctors might be able to avoid a lawsuit even if something goes wrong during an emergency. However, they still owe the injured person a duty of care.
Some states allow the statute of limitations period to begin after the victim discovers the injury. The doctor could use the time limit as a technical defense if they prove the patient learned of the malpractice at a specific point.
Before a treatment or procedure, a doctor or physician must make patients aware of possible benefits and risks. Healthcare providers need to let you know of potential alternatives as well. The information is known as informed consent, and the specific definition may vary in each state.
The purpose of informed consent is to allow patients to decide if they want to follow through with an operation or treatment. However, some emergencies do not require informed consent before treating a person.
Additionally, doctors generally do not need to tell someone about all the risks involved. They typically only mention the ones they find necessary. You can hold a physician liable if another competent doctor would have disclosed the probability of an unfavorable outcome. You must show that you would have made a different decision if you had been aware properly.
Can You Sue if You Signed a Consent Form?
Many procedures have the patient sign a consent form. A consent form ensures the patient knew of all the possibilities and agreed to the operation. The paperwork helps limit medical malpractice claims. However, consent forms do not always waive liability, even if you sign one.
You could prove the document had poor wording, and you did not fully understand the possible risks. Many doctors might be aware of the highly potential issues with specific procedures. If the form does not identify a known side effect, you could file a claim.
The consent form could have had incorrect information. The paperwork might have reported a complication with a low percentage of occurring. However, the complication’s likelihood is known to be higher.
Another reason a consent form cannot waive liability is if the healthcare provider pressured the patient. A person cannot be under duress when they provide a signature. Additionally, the patient should be mentally competent at the time of signing the document.
Is a Hospital Liable for a Doctor’s Mistake?
While hospitals can be a liable party, you usually cannot hold them liable for a doctor’s mistake. In most cases, doctors operate as independent contractors. You would need to sue the doctor directly instead of the hospital. However, a couple of exceptions exist.
One way you can hold a hospital responsible is if the facility did not make the doctor’s independent contractor status clear. Usually, admission forms inform patients of the non-employee relationship.
However, the hospital does not have the opportunity to make the patient aware during emergencies. Therefore, you can hold the facility accountable for an emergency room doctor’s medical malpractice.
Another exception is if the hospital provides an incompetent doctor with staff privileges. The place should have known the doctor became dangerous for patients. You should speak to a medical malpractice lawyer to know which parties you can sue.
Statutes for Fatal Medical Malpractice Injuries
In some cases, a healthcare provider’s actions or inaction caused the victim’s death. Every state has laws regarding what damages the surviving family can recover. Survival statutes can apply to a claim.
Living family members or the estate can recover the damages in the time between the initial incident and the patient’s death. Survival statutes would give the family the compensation the patient would have received if they had lived. Recoverable damages usually include medical bills and missed wages.
A patient’s death would result in reimbursement under wrongful death statutes as well. The statutes allow the deceased’s family to obtain compensation for future monetary loss. A settlement would include the person’s projected future earnings and funeral expenses.
The court may consider non-economic damages as well. An example of one would be the loss of consortium. Several states place damage caps on non-economic damages in cases of medical malpractice.
Certificate of Merit
Before you can file a medical malpractice case, you need to submit a certificate of merit. Many states require a certificate, and the document is a statement from a licensed professional. You would have another competent physician review the medical records.
The medical expert would verify the defendant deviated from the standard of care. Once the doctor provides the statement, your lawyer files the certificate. Then, you can proceed to seek compensation.
Can You Sue After the Case Ends?
A majority of medical malpractice lawsuits end in a pre-trial settlement. A few people do not discover they could have received more in damages until after a case resolves. Once you agree to a settlement, you cannot reopen the claim again.
Since medical malpractice cases are civil suits, the injured party has to sign a release form. Afterward, the other side can send you your compensation as a lump sum or a structured settlement. The form waives the defendant from liability in the future.
You can only sue the same defendant for a different incident. You might be able to reopen the case if you discover another party is responsible for your injuries. You should have your lawyer help you understand the full extent of your losses before you sign anything.