According to a study from Johns Hopkins University, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. This means that approximately 250,000 deaths are related to medical malpractice every year.
Medical errors vary in severity and type, but the outcome is always similar–patients suffer from preventable injuries and have to pay the (literal) price.
If a doctor has injured you or someone you love, you’ll benefit from speaking with a medical malpractice lawyer. You could be eligible for compensation. To learn more, keep reading.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
According to the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys, medical malpractice occurs when a hospital, doctor, or health care professional causes an injury to a patient through a negligent act or omission. This negligence might be the result of errors that occur at any of the following stages:
- Health management
With how precarious medical care can be, especially when dealing with a complicated procedure or diagnosis, it can be challenging to know if you’ve been the victim of medical malpractice.
If you think a doctor or nurse could have acted differently when providing your care and, maybe, as a result, you wouldn’t have been injured, an attorney can evaluate your situation and determine if you have grounds for a claim.
Common Examples of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice cases are more common than you may realize. Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals sometimes make mistakes that harm patients. When negligence is involved, the victim can pursue a claim. Usually, medical professionals may compensate you for their mistakes from their medical malpractice insurance company.
Let’s take a look at the most common examples of medical malpractice.
A misdiagnosis happens when someone seeks medical attention, is evaluated incorrectly, and receives improper treatment. Depending on their actual condition, it could get worse or they could develop additional issues.
For example, say you’re experiencing chest pain, and you go to the ER. If the attending diagnoses you with indigestion and heartburn without conducting the proper tests, and it turns out you actually had a heart attack, the preventable damage your heart sustained could be permanent.
Misdiagnoses are the most common diagnostic error, but there is also the failure to diagnose. If an inexperienced doctor fails to provide a patient with a diagnosis and they suffer as a result, that physician can and should be held accountable.
Medical procedures involving surgery are complex. That’s one of the reasons it takes so many years for surgeons to make it through school and training.
When you undergo a procedure, you expect the surgeon, nurses, and other medical professionals on your surgical team to take care of you. However, if you wake up and realize you’ve been injured, legal action is an option.
Common examples of surgical errors include wrong-side surgery, wrong-site surgery, identity mix-ups, and leaving medical equipment like sponges inside of patients.
Prescription Drug Errors
When a doctor prescribed a medication, you expect it to help with your condition. So whether you’re looking to manage pain, reduce symptoms, or take care of an illness, the prescribed drug shouldn’t cause undue harm.
While all medications come with side effects and warnings, your doctor needs to explain the risks and benefits so you can weigh your options and make an informed decision. If you’re unaware of the consequences and take a medication that harms you, you may be able to hold the doctor accountable.
You can also look to hold a physician accountable for negligence if you were prescribed a medication that you were knowingly allergic to. When allergies are documented in medical records, it’s crucial for hospital staff to make sure you’re not given anything that could hurt you.
If you’re undergoing a procedure that requires anesthesia, then the anesthesiologist assigned to your case will thoroughly review your information before determining what medications you need and their dosages.
During the surgery, it’s the anesthesiologist’s job to monitor your vitals and ensure you’re reacting appropriately to the sedatives. If you’re given too much anesthesia, you could stop breathing and suffering brain damage. If you’re not given enough, you could wake up during the procedure and experience unnecessary and traumatic pain.
The day you head to the hospital to give birth should be an exciting one. You expect your care team to ensure the safety of you and your baby. If either of you are injured, a med mal claim could be warranted.
Common birth injuries involve improperly using assisting equipment like forceps or vacuums, inadequately monitoring fetal vitals, and allowing the baby to be deprived of oxygen.
Lack of Informed Consent
Prior to agreeing to a procedure or medication, patients are supposed to be provided with information about the situation. If a patient can’t properly weigh the benefits and risks of a certain treatment, they cannot consent.
If you think you were uninformed about your procedure and you suffered injuries, filing a claim could be in your best interest.
How to File a Succesful Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Proving medical malpractice is a task, but it’s not insurmountable. With the right lawyer by your side, you’ll be able to present a strong claim that proves you’re owed compensation for any and all of your losses.
Building that strong claim involves understanding how the doctor was negligent. You’ll also want to understand the laws that apply to your case, as well as the benefits of hiring an expert witness.
Let’s take a look at doctors’ obligations first.
Understanding a Doctor’s Duty of Care
Physicians are required to treat patients in a manner that meets their duty of care. Duty of care is a legal term that refers to how other doctors in similar situations would practice medicine.
If a doctor acts outside of their duty of care and harms a patient, the victim has the legal right to pursue a claim to seek compensation for their losses.
Proving a medical malpractice claim isn’t easy, but your attorney will break it down based on the four elements of negligence: duty of care, breach of duty, injuries, and losses.
Let’s take a look at an example of negligently practicing medicine.
Say you agree to undergo a standard procedure to remove a bowel blockage. Of course, your surgeon should perform that procedure as any other surgeon would, but what if surgical sponges are left in your abdomen?
Leaving surgical equipment inside a patient’s body is considered a breach of duty. In terms of injuries, a patient could develop an infection and require additional surgeries or medical procedures. It’s those injuries that result in financial losses.
Laws and Statutes Surrounding Medical Malpractice Claims
The laws that apply to your medical malpractice claim will depend on where you live. Med mal laws are established at the state level. But, your attorney will be aware of the laws that could impact your case.
One of the most common laws that plaintiffs have to ensure they follow is the statute of limitations. States place time limits on personal injury claims. So, depending on where you live, you may only have a number of years to take legal action against an allegedly negligent doctor.
If you fail to meet the statute of limitations for filing your lawsuit, it’s more than likely your case will be dismissed, and you won’t be able to pursue compensation for your losses.
The Importance of Hiring an Expert Witness
Proving medical malpractice isn’t easy. In fact, med mal claims are among the most complex personal injury cases. Because of that, you’ll want to make sure you work with a lawyer that has connections to resources that can help.
It’s almost always in your best interest to hire an expert witness to speak on your behalf for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Not only will they be able to explain how the physician should have acted, but they will also be able to give the jury a better idea of how you’ve suffered and what you have yet to endure.
Depending on your case, hiring a witness could be expensive. Your attorney will review your options and explain how best to proceed based on your unique circumstances. If you choose to hire a witness, they will work with your lawyer to understand your case.
The Benefits of Hiring a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
With how complex medical malpractice cases can be, it’s important to understand the benefits of hiring a lawyer.
First off, you won’t need to worry about deadlines, paperwork, or difficult conversations. Your medical malpractice attorney will verify the statute of limitations you’re dealing with, complete all the necessary paperwork, and speak with insurance companies so nothing is said that could jeopardize your claim.
Your lawyer will also be able to accurately value your claim and supply the evidence that supports the valuation. If the opposing party claims your injuries are worthless, your attorney will have proof that you’re owed more.
If needed, your attorney will have access to resources like expert witnesses, law documents, hospital records, and more to support your case. The more evidence you have to work with, the better off your claim will be when it comes time to negotiate a fair settlement.
Finally, your attorney will support you throughout the entire process. Regardless of whether your claim resolves via negotiations or you need to file a lawsuit in court, the law firm you work with will be by your side and ensure that you have the best case possible.
Compensation for Med Mal Cases
When you file a medical malpractice claim, the goal is to ultimately receive the compensation you need to get your life back in order. The monetary award you seek is based on your losses, which are separated into different categories.
The first category is your economic damages. These are calculable and based on actual monetary losses, like medical bills, lost wages, and the future cost of care. To arrive at this total, your attorney will consider any and all bills related to your injuries, as well as what you’ve lost from being unable to work.
Then, you have non-economic damages. These are harder to calculate as they’re based on more personal suffering. Common examples include pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life.
To calculate your non-economic damages, your lawyer will consider the severity of your injuries, how drastically your life has changed, and what similar cases have been valued for in the past.
In some instances, you may also be eligible for punitive damages. Punitive damages serve to punish the at-fault party for gross negligence. These could be applied if, for example, your surgeon was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of your procedure.
It’s important to note that punitive damages are rare. However, your attorney will let you know if they apply to your case.
In terms of receiving compensation, most medical malpractice claims resolve via negotiations. If you receive what you believe is a full and fair settlement offer, you can accept and start to move forward.
If you think the settlement offer is less than you deserve, you can file a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, if you do that, it’s important to understand that your compensation eligibility will be based on a judge’s or jury’s decision.
Learn More About Injury Claims
Now that you know about the benefits of hiring a medical malpractice lawyer, what other legal questions do you have? Let us know, and we’ll work on getting you the answers you need.
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