A shocking statistic? Medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the United States, just after heart disease and cancer.
What’s even more alarming is that many medical malpractice cases are left unexplored because most patients are unaware of the required procedures.
In 2014 alone, medical malpractice payouts equated to approximately $3.9 billion across the U.S.
If you believe you have a firm medical malpractice case and want to file a lawsuit, here’s what you need to know…
What is Medical Malpractice?
In order to determine whether you have a legitimate medical malpractice case worth pursuing, you’ll need to know how it’s defined:
A simple malpractice definition includes:
- A medical professional deviating from what is considered good, standard or accepted medical practice in their field of expertise.
- A personal injury sustained by a patient must be a direct result of this medical malpractice.
It’s important to remember that a negative outcome of medical treatment is not considered proof of medical negligence. This is merely a result of a treatment which is generally not pursued in most medical negligence cases.
Any decent lawyer specializing in the field of medical malpractice will know the difference and whether your case is worth taking to trial.
Read more here about securing the best lawyer for your case.
What to Know Before Filing a Medical Malpractice Case
Before you dive head-first into what is considered a daunting and intricate process, here’s what you need to know about medical malpractice lawsuits:
1. Are You a Victim of Medical Malpractice?
Most of the time, many patients will not even realize they have fallen victim to medical malpractice.
This is commonly pointed out by secondary physicians who highlight the malpractice or negligence of a previous physician.
Some physicians may even point out their negligence or malpractice themselves to prevent future claims or expensive litigation.
It’s important to note that in the case of a negative outcome of specific treatment, there are no grounds to claim for medical negligence.
It’s highly likely that your physician would have discussed potential outcomes of treatment with you beforehand. For this reason, they cannot be held liable for a negative outcome.
In order to pursue a medical malpractice case, you will need extensive proof of injuries and damages documented in health records.
2. When to File Your Medical Malpractice Case
The reality is that malpractice litigation can be expensive and is not always easy to prove.
It may prove difficult to find medical professionals willing to testify against fellow practitioners or an expert witness willing to testify.
This is often known as the ”white wall of silence” within the medical malpractice world.
If you believe you have suffered personal injury due to medical malpractice, there are a few things to consider:
- What was the exact source of improper medical care or negligence that caused your suffering?
- What this negligence or malpractice carried out by an attending physician or hospital staff?
- Did your physician or hospital staff fail to offer treatment suitable to your age or physical condition?
- Has your injury or suffering adversely affected your life or body and what are your compensation requirements?
Throughout the medical world, there is a standard level of care which doctors are required to provide to their patients.
You will be required to prove that your doctor willfully or unknowingly failed to provide a minimum level of care, according to their expertise.
This is where it gets complicated as these ”standards” are often considered arbitrary.
The standard must be established in court by comparing your physician’s treatment with others in their field of expertise.
3. If You Suspect Negligent Care, What Should You Do?
One of the very first steps to consider when you suspect medical malpractice is to contact an attorney who specializes in this field.
In this instance, you won’t know for sure if you have a legitimate case worth pursuing until you have consulted with an expert.
Your medical records will need to be obtained and reviewed by an expert attorney before a case can be established.
You and fellow family members, friends or colleagues will also need to be interviewed to establish whether a malpractice case is actionable.
4. What is the Statute of Limitations?
When it comes to filing a malpractice lawsuit, it’s important to understand that several limitations are surrounding the timing of your case.
This may differ from state-to-state across the U.S., but generally, your case is determined by specific period limitations and deadlines.
Each state also has its own set of procedural requirements which need to be met before a malpractice suit is filed.
In order to establish the best time limitation and time-frame of your case, an expert malpractice attorney will know what’s best.
Make sure to seek guidance from an attorney licensed in the state where the malpractice occurred.
5. You’ll Need to Secure an Expert Witness
When it comes to proving negligence of any kind within all medical fields, an expert witness is commonly required during the trial.
Your expert witness must be willing to testify against the defendant, or accused medical professional, in a court of law.
However, there are certain requirements for supplying an expert witness. They must be professionally licensed, trained and preferably an expert in their field of care.
They must also be certified by a governing authority to prove their expertise and qualifications are valid.
6. Shared Fault is a Reality
In some malpractices cases which go to trial, the court may also pin some of fault or blame on the plaintiff – the person filing the lawsuit.
How is this possible? Well, a good example would be failing to follow doctor’s orders or knowingly engaging in practices which hinder recovery.
In this instance, a case of negligence on both parts would fall under a shared fault. The court is then likely to reduce the amount of compensation awarded to the plaintiff.
If the defendant is likely to be found 100% guilty of malpractice, their attorney may try to pin some of the faults on the plaintiff. This is a tactic used to mitigate some of the damages suffered by their client.
7. Why Are Some Malpractice Cases Left Unexplored?
As we mentioned previously, it is common for some medical malpractice cases to be left completely unexplored.
This is because most patients are unaware of negligence or do not know the ins and outs of pursuing a case.
Some of the most common reasons include:
- Patients don’t know where to go or who to seek out for help
- Patients are unaware of strict statute limitations around filing a malpractice lawsuit
- Patients fear doctors or a healthcare system will deny them future treatment if a malpractice case is filed
- Patients fear that pursuing a malpractice case will only increase their medical care costs
- Patients fear they cannot afford the financial costs of litigation
With this being said, medical malpractice is far more common than many people realize, as per the above statistics.
If you believe you have a firm case, seek out an expert medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.
8. Common Medical Procedures in Malpractice Lawsuits
While the range of medical malpractice instances is vast, some of the most common include:
- When a condition or illness is misdiagnosed or not diagnosed on time
- The administration of incorrect medications
- The administration of the incorrect dose of drugs
- The administration of medication in the wrong form, i.e., IV vs. pill form
- A negative interaction between different medicines
Very commonly, instances of ”tunnel vision” or failure to see the ”bigger picture” among physicians which lead to medical malpractice and patient harm.
9. The Duration of Malpractice Lawsuits
This is highly dependent on the intricacy of the case and all the individual parts which need to be collated throughout the trial.
Most medical malpractice cases can take months, and even years to settle. However, a patient only needs to directly take part in a trial on a handful of occasions.
In this instance, a patient will receive periodic updates on the progress of the trial by their attorney and their team.
Not all malpractice cases take months- some can last just a few days or weeks. But, this is generally when an instance of malpractice is very obvious or clear-cut.
10. Do Malpractice Lawsuits Settle Without Trial?
The reality is that an average of only 5% of medical malpractice cases go to trial, while just 20-25% of cases settle without a trial.
The remaining amount of malpractice cases are generally resolved and settled outside of court via dismissal or settlements made.
Finding the Best Lawyer For Your Case
When it comes to navigating the ins and outs of a malpractice lawsuit, it’s always recommended that you hire an expert to help you along the way.
Now, this may not always be the most affordable option. But to set up a legitimate case for the compensation you seek, a malpractice attorney is your best option.
What are some of the stand-out considerations when choosing a malpractice expert?
Look for Experience
Consider a malpractice attorney only if they have experience in dealing with similar types of cases to yours.
This way, they know what to expect and can gather expert evidence to build the strong case you need.
With this experience, an attorney understands how courts handle malpractice cases and how to present evidence. Ultimately, this gives you peace-of-mind.
Look for Positive Results
While experience is critical, positive outcomes are equally important. Find an attorney with a success rate in handling malpractice cases.
This means that from the get-go you’ll be on the same page- seeking the compensation and justice you deserve!
Find an Attorney Near You…
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