While seeing a doctor or undergoing a medical procedure is supposed to improve one's health, human error and unforeseen accidents can result in a patient's condition deteriorating as a result of a medical professional's mistakes. This is referred to as medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is usually caused by the negligent acts of a medical professional or facility that results in errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, or health management.
Unfortunately, instances of medical malpractice often result in serious injury, illness, and even death, which is why it is critical that individuals are aware of the signs indicating that they or a loved one may be a victim of malpractice. However, if you already believe that you or a loved one has fallen victim to medical malpractice, then you may be looking to learn more about medical malpractice and how you can go about seeking compensation for your injuries or losses.
To help get you started, here are the top 4 things you should know about medical malpractice:
1. Determining if it is Medical Malpractice
Even if you are familiar with medical malpractice, you may be uncertain as to whether you have a case. In order for it to be considered medical malpractice, your claim must demonstrate that the following occurred:
- There Was a Violation of The Standard of Care: there are certain standards of medical treatment that all medical professionals must adhere to, which is referred to as the standard of care. Patients have a right to receive treatment that adheres to these standards, and it must be determined that this standard was not met in order for negligence, and malpractice, to be established.
- Negligence Resulted in Injury: Once negligence is established, a patient must prove that they sustained an injury as a result of this negligence. Even if a doctor made a mistake, but their negligence did not result in harm to the patient, then there is no malpractice case.
- The Injury Must be Significant: In many cases, even proving that a doctor's negligence led to an injury does not constitute malpractice. In order to have a viable malpractice claim the injury sustained must have been significant enough to have resulted in disability, loss of income, unusual pain, suffering, or significant medical bills. Examples of medical negligence that might lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit include failure to diagnose (or a misdiagnosis), unnecessary surgery, surgical errors, improper medication or dosage, poor aftercare, failure to order proper testing, disregarding symptoms, and failure to recognize symptoms. These mistakes can cause serious and/or life-threatening injuries that may warrant a medical malpractice case; however, this is not an exhaustive list of the forms of medical negligence that can constitute malpractice.
2. Medical Malpractice Cases Are More Common Than You Think
Another important thing to understand if you believe that you may have a medical malpractice case on your hands is that you are not alone. The fact is that thousands of medical malpractice claims are submitted each year, and estimates suggest that between a third and half of all medical professionals are sued for malpractice at least once during their career. Medical malpractice cases are then much more common than many people realize, and if you believe that you are a victim of malpractice you should not hesitate in moving forward with your case.
3. Proving Medical Malpractice is Difficult
While medical malpractice cases are common, it is also extremely difficult to prove medical malpractice has occurred. In fact, according to one study of medical malpractice cases filed over a 15 year period, roughly 78% of medical malpractice cases resulted in the defendant (the doctor) winning and the patient not being compensated. This is primarily due to the fact that the burden of proof lies with the patient, meaning that the patient has to be able to prove that the doctor's negligence led to serious injury, which can be difficult to do. However, it is not impossible to succeed in your claim if you follow the proper procedures and seek professional advice.
4. The Steps of Starting a Medical Malpractice Case
Once you decide to move forward with your medical malpractice claim, there are a few steps you need to take first. Before filing your claim you need to:
- Contact the Medical Professional Involved: Before starting a malpractice claim you need to contact the medical professional or facility whose negligence resulted in your injuries. You will want to talk to them to try to understand what went wrong and to find out whether the problem can be remedied. Many doctors are willing to work with patients in such situations and will be willing to perform free services to correct the problem if possible.
- Contact the Relevant Medical Licensing Board: If the medical professional does not want to/can't help you, or they deny fault, then your next course of action will be to contact the medical licensing board in the jurisdiction where your doctor is licensed. The licensing board has the power to discipline medical professionals who violate the standard of care, and they may be able to provide you with advice on steps you should take next after talking to your doctor proved unhelpful.
- Get a Medical Assessment: After contacting the appropriate licensing board, your next step will likely be to get a medical assessment to prove that your case has merit. A growing number of states require that patients file a "certificate of merit", which confirms that you sustained injuries as the result of your healthcare provider's negligence. This will require you to meet with an expert, who is usually another physician, who will determine whether your doctor deviated from accepted medical practices, which resulted in your injuries.
- Consult an Attorney: Successfully filing a medical malpractice claim can be complicated as you must be able to prove your doctor's negligence within a limited amount of time. In order to give yourself the best chances of receiving compensation for your injuries, you should consider contacting an experienced medical malpractice attorney who will be able to walk you through this difficult process and give you the best chances of proving your healthcare professional's negligence.
If you or someone you love was seriously injured by medical malpractice, wouldn't you want to be represented by attorneys who have a wealth of experience handling medical malpractice cases? Reach out to Harry Cohen & Associates for help from a trusted professional. We can help guide you through this difficult time and provide you with the support you need as you file your medical malpractice claim.