Going to the doctor or hospital is never fun. However, when you do have to visit, you expect that the doctors and other healthcare providers act in a reasonable manner when it comes to your care.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other healthcare provider fails to act in a reasonable manner, and this leads to a patient’s injury or death. Generally, to prove it, four elements must be established:
- The healthcare provider owes the patient a duty to act with the level of skill, knowledge, and care in diagnosis and treatment that other reasonably careful practitioners would use in the same or similar circumstances;
- The healthcare provider failed to meet this duty;
- The failure caused the injury to the patient; and
- The patient suffered damages.
If these elements are proven, the healthcare provider is said to be negligent.
Examples of Medical Malpractice
Examples of medical malpractice are as numerous as they are horrific. They include:
- Anesthesia. Major surgeries usually require this procedure. When under general anesthesia, patients are typically paralyzed and at the mercy of the doctor administering it. One mistake and the consequences can be fatal, including death.
- Cerebral palsy. Improper medical care during labor or delivery of a baby may result in a brain injury that affects the nervous system. This is called cerebral palsy, a birth injury that occurs in about 8,000 babies a year in the United States. Children suffering from the condition encounter difficulty using their mouth and limbs or have trouble seeing or hearing.
- Emergency rooms. These are fast-paced and stressful environments, but the duty to act reasonably still applies. Emergency room malpractice may occur due to misdiagnosis, unreasonable delay in diagnosis or treatment, miscommunication, and surgical errors.
- Erb’s palsy. Sometimes during childbirth, one of the baby’s shoulders gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone. In this case, there are specific procedures to follow to deliver the baby safely. If these are not adhered to, then the spinal cord nerves can stretch. This could result in Erb’s palsy, which may impair the function or even paralyze the baby’s arm or hand.
- Failure to supervise. Not just healthcare personnel may be liable for medical malpractice. The healthcare facility, such as a hospital, may also be found negligent. This can happen when the facility fails to adequately supervise medical staff or fails to comply with local, state, and federal laws governing healthcare.
- Heart attacks. Generally, a heart attack must be treated within one hour. Unfortunately, about 11,000 heart attacks each year are misdiagnosed. It can occur when one of the following happens:
- It is mistaken as heartburn, acid reflux, bronchitis, or a panic attack
- Failure to recognize symptoms
- Failure to order correct medical tests
- Misreading of an EKG, carotid ultrasound, or another lab test.
- Prescription drugs. Many errors revolve around the prescription and administration of medication. For example, the wrong drug may be prescribed, or the wrong dosage of the correct drug administered. Another example of potential medical malpractice is the failure to warn a patient about the common side effects of medication.
Am I Eligible to File a Lawsuit?
If you received medical care and suffered complications, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the physician, other healthcare providers, or the facility providing the care.
One important limitation to keep in mind is that there is only a limited time to file a lawsuit after the injury occurred. This is called the statute of limitations, and it can be only two years. The exact time period depends on the state you live in, so it is best to consult a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible so that any potential claims can be filed within the statute of limitations.
What Type of Compensation Could I Receive?
If you’ve suffered medical complications as a result of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to three types of damages: economic, non-economic, and punitive.
These are compensation for expenses directly attributed to the injury. They include past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and diminished earning capacity.
While past medical expenses may be quantified through hospital bills and similar documentation, future medical expenses often require the testimony of an expert. This expert will examine the victim’s medical condition and testify as to the future necessity of:
- Prescription medications for pain
- Physical therapy
- Tests like MRIs, X-rays, and blood tests
- Prosthetics or other assistive devices
- Assisted living accommodations
Lost wages, similar to past medical expenses, can also be readily quantified through pay stubs. However, diminished earning capacity is more difficult – it refers to the decreased ability to earn a living due to long-term issues associated with a severe injury. It’s common to hire an economic expert to assess the specifics of the victim’s employment prospects, including:
- Type of industry the victim is employed in
- Promotional possibilities.
All this information helps the expert testify as to the diminished earning capacity of the victim.
These are awarded to the victim to compensate them for the pain and suffering associated with the injury. In determining them, a jury may consider:
- The severity of the injury. Some injuries, like burns, can cause excruciating pain.
- Recovery time. How long will it take to recover from the injury?
- Quantity of medical expenses. There is a definite correlation between the amount of medical expenses and awards for pain and suffering. The higher the medical costs, the higher the pain and suffering damages often awarded.
You may be entitled to punitive damages if the healthcare provider engages in intentional misconduct or has a conscious disregard for your safety. For example, if a doctor operates while drunk, this could result in punitive damages.
Rather than compensating the victim, punitive damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from similar misconduct. The extent to which they are awarded varies significantly depending on the state you live in.
Many states have a very short statute of limitations. If you’ve suffered an injury due to medical malpractice, hire a medical malpractice lawyer today so that they can assess your claim and file any necessary lawsuits in a timely manner.
When the medical professional you trust puts your health at risk, it is time to take action. Putting the physician or practice on trial is not only important for you, but for the other patients that the medical establishment treats. After Personal Injury can connect you with a personal injury lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice cases. If you or someone you know suffers from an injury due to medical malpractice, contact us today.