The increasing number of people suffering from medical errors each year is alarming. Doctors and other medical professionals can save lives, but everything can go wrong with a single mistake or a minor oversight. It could worsen a patient’s condition, or in extreme cases, it could lead to death. However, not every medical error constitutes medical malpractice. Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or health care provider causes harm or injury to a patient by deviating from the recognized standard of care.
If this happens to you, you may file a medical malpractice suit and seek compensation for the damages you’ve sustained. However, building a successful medical malpractice claim is fraught with legal complications. So, it would be best to contact a lawyer specializing in medical malpractice to help you navigate the complexities of such a lawsuit. At Hastings Practice, you’ll get expert legal assistance if you happen to be a victim of medical negligence.
Here are the things an experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help you determine.
Before anything else, your attorney will need to examine the possible cause of malpractice. The more common causes of medical malpractice are listed below:
Before your doctor prescribes you any medication, you typically need to undergo a series of tests, such as X-rays, blood tests, and scans, among others. Examining the diagnostic test results and your symptoms usually provides your doctor with the necessary information to diagnose your illness or condition. An accurate diagnosis is critical to an effective course of treatment. But if your doctor gives you a wrong diagnosis, you might get the wrong treatment for your disease, which could endanger your health even more.
Even if the diagnosis is accurate, a patient may suffer harm if not given on time. Why? Because delayed diagnosis may worsen the patient’s condition, whereas prompt treatment could’ve restored him to full health. In exceptional cases, a disease may no longer respond to treatment due to late diagnosis.
Improper treatment is somehow related to misdiagnosis. However, there are instances where incompetent medical professionals aren’t able to provide the best care even if their diagnoses are accurate. It may also constitute malpractice if your doctor picks the proper treatment but applies it incorrectly.
- Failure To State The Risks
Doctors should inform their patients about the risks of any medical treatment or procedure and get their consent if they want to proceed with it or not. Even if the treatment or procedure went smoothly, a patient might file a malpractice suit if the doctor had failed to inform him of the risks involved.
An unsuccessful medical procedure does not necessarily amount to malpractice. Malpractice occurs only if the surgeon fails to provide the prescribed standard of care. Examples of surgical errors include performing surgery on the wrong body part, performing the wrong surgery, leaving surgical tools or supplies inside the patient’s body, and performing unnecessary surgery. Such surgical errors may cause serious harm.
After determining the possible cause of malpractice, you need to establish that the duty of care has been breached. The legal duty of care arises when a doctor agrees to treat a patient who has sought his services. Duty of care means doctors are responsible for providing care and treatment to their patients with the degree of skill and diligence expected of a reasonably competent doctor.
However, the duty of care exists only if there’s a doctor-patient relationship. If a doctor riding the subway does not help a fellow passenger having a heart attack, the ailing passenger wouldn’t have a basis for a malpractice claim against the doctor. But once the doctor voluntarily comes to the aid of the ailing passenger, he incurs liability for any harm or injury arising from any negligence in providing medical assistance.
It’s the doctor’s responsibility to provide you with information about a treatment or procedure and the attendant risks and possible outcomes so you can decide if you want to undergo the treatment or procedure. This process of securing the patient’s agreement to a treatment or procedure after providing essential information is called informed consent.
If there was no informed consent, you might sue the doctor for malpractice if the treatment or procedure results in harm or injury. The implication is that you wouldn’t have opted for the procedure if you knew the risks involved.
In addition, doctors and other medical professionals have the duty to convey the information to their patients in a way that’s easily understood.
Aside from proving the doctor breached the duty of care, it’s also critical to establish that the doctor’s negligence has caused harm or injury to the patient. You need to prove that the doctor’s action or inaction directly caused the patient’s injury and not a pre-existing condition the patient may have or any other factor.
Damages refer to the losses you incurred as a result of the harm or injury due to medical malpractice. Damages may be economic, like medical bills or lost income, and non-economic, such as pain and suffering.
The phrase ‘pain and suffering’ is a legal term that refers to the physical and mental suffering endured by the victim. Aside from physical pain, you may have also suffered emotional stress due to disfigurement, permanent loss of function or impairment, or loss of the ability to enjoy life’s pleasures.
It’s important to establish your sustained damages or losses due to medical malpractice in seeking compensation. You need to present evidence such as hospital bills, medical records, pay stubs to prove lost income, the expert testimony of a medical professional, and testimonies from family and friends in addition to your own to show how the injury affected the quality of your life.
Medical malpractice happens more often than you think. Unfortunately, proving that a doctor is liable for causing you harm and injury is not an easy thing. You will face legal complexities and procedural hurdles you cannot handle on your own. But with the help of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer, you could bring the litigation to a successful conclusion.