Each year, more than 84% of American adults have contact with some sort of healthcare professional. These doctors, nurses, and other professions have a responsibility of care for all their patients. So what happens when they fail in this duty?
Around 17,000 medical malpractice cases are brought against healthcare professionals every year. These cover damages as a result of medical negligence and can result in payouts of huge financial compensation. On the other hand, medical professionals can also invest in medical malpractice insurance so they have coverage in case they get involved in such cases.
So what is medical malpractice? And how do you put together a case? If you’ve been the victim of medical malpractice then this is exactly what you need to know! Read on to find out ten things you need to know about medical malpractice and what to do if it happens to you.
1. Anyone in the Healthcare Professional Can Do It
A lot of the time, when you read medical malpractice articles it will focus on cases involving doctors and surgeons. However, anyone working in the medical profession can be negligent including:
- Home Health Aides
- Lab workers
- Emergency Response Workers
While doctors may be your first point of contact, it’s a good idea to think about everyone that you encountered during your treatment.
2. Malpractice Applies to Several Areas
Before you file a claim, you need to understand the definition of medical malpractice.
So what is medical malpractice? Essentially, it is treatment by a medical professional that caused you, the patient, unnecessary harm. This includes:
- Failing to diagnosis a condition correctly (including failing to order the correct tests)
- Failing to provide proper treatment so that your condition worsened with time
- Providing unnecessary treatment that caused you more harm
- Failing to warn you of the risks of certain treatment plans, including surgery
All of these can result in more risk, discomfort, and harm to the patient. So malpractice is much more than not being happy with the way a doctor treated you. If you think they were rude or unhelpful, this is a matter of behavior not malpractice.
3. It Can Result in Different Types of Harm
When suing for medical malpractice it’s important to remember the different types of harm it can cause. This will help you to calculate your damages.
Malpractice harm can lead to:
- Physical pain
- Stress, anxiety, and other mental health conditions
- Unnecessary medical bills
- Loss of earnings and job opportunities
If you find that your malpractice case impacts your relationships, you can file this under the stress and mental health section.
4. You Have to Demonstrate Your Relationship
To bring a case against a medical professional, you have to be able to demonstrate that you had a working relationship with them first. So you can’t sue your doctor neighbor because they recommended bad antihistamines over a barbeque!
If you hired them or they were assigned your case them then this acts as proof of that. For example, if a nurse was on duty during your treatment and signed your medical chart this demonstrates a working relationship with them.
5. Proof is Everything
When it comes to making a successful malpractice claim, you need to have proof. This includes having proof of:
- Your original diagnosis by the professional in question
- The treatment prescribed by the medical worker
- When and where that treatment was delivered
- The harmful consequences this had for you
You will need a professional second opinion to back up the impact that your malpractice case had on you. This includes a medical report from an independent doctor.
If you have missed out on work because of your malpractice case, then you should provide a medical exemption letter for this. You’ll also need to provide your accounts to show how this financially impacted you.
6. Most Cases Go to Review Panels
Submitting your evidence of malpractice isn’t the only thing you’ll need to do during your case. Most cases get seen by medical malpractice review panels.
These are panels of experts in the field who will listen to and understand the details of your case. They will hear arguments from both sides and will review evidence and testimony. In most cases, these panels will decide the outcome of your case.
7. There is a Limit on How Long You Have to File a Medical Malpractice Case
In every state, there is a deadline for how long you have to file your medical malpractice case, also known as the statute of limitations. This usually dates from the day that you discovered, or should have discovered, the medical malpractice.
This deadline varies a lot in different states. It may be six months or two years. If you don’t file your malpractice lawsuit in time then courts will throw it out.
8. There is a Cap on Damages
Depending on which state you live in, there will be a limit on the damages you can ask for.
For example, in California, the cap sits as $250,000 while this is higher in Massachusetts. Cases in this state have a cap of $500,000 for non-economic damages. This means you can also claim damages on top of this if you lost work because of your injuries.
Before you put your case together, you should always check the cap in your state.
9. The Punishments Can Vary
So, what is the punishment for medical negligence? This can vary a lot depending on the severity of the malpractice.
You as the victim will receive some sort of financial compensation for your injuries. In most cases, the medical professional will also be struck off. This means they can’t practice medicine anymore.
However, in more extreme cases, the healthcare worker may also face jail time as a result of the injuries they caused. For example, if medical malpractice leads to death, the person responsible may also be charged with manslaughter by the state.
10. Having a Lawyer Will Help Your Case
A lot of people often ask what do medical malpractice lawyers do? Well, the answer is, quite a lot and hiring one will give your case a better chance of success.
They’ll know exactly the right route to take with your case and will help you to collect the evidence that you need. They’ll also represent you in front of the panel of experts.
This takes a lot of the stress off your plate so you just have to focus on getting better.
Start Your Case Today!
If you’ve fallen victim to medical malpractice then you mustn’t let the grass grow beneath your feet! The sooner you start your case, the better.
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