Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine say that medical errors should “rank as the third leading cause of death in the United States.” Due to errors and inconsistencies in tracking statistics, the numbers of reported cases of malpractice are inaccurate.
The researchers at Johns Hopkins estimate that there are actually more than 250,000 deaths due to malpractice each year. If this were the reported number, medical malpractice would be the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer.
Read on to learn more about medical malpractice, including what may be considered malpractice, what you should do if you suspect it and how to get professional guidance.
WHAT IS MEDICAL MALPRACTICE?
Medical malpractice occurs when a health care professional fails to take appropriate action for a patient’s care or provides treatment that deviates from the accepted standards of practice. The medical professional could be a doctor, nurse, medical assistant or any other person employed to take care of patients. The medical professional’s negligence may cause harm or injury to the patient and in extreme cases, may even cause death.
Most medical malpractice cases involve an error, either in diagnosis, treatment or medication dosage — to name a few. There are laws that allow patients and their families to recover compensation for medical malpractice cases; however, medical malpractice is complex. You’ll need a lawyer specializing in medical malpractice to establish your case.
IS YOUR CASE CONSIDERED MEDICAL MALPRACTICE?
It’s important to note that being dissatisfied with the outcome of treatment is not the same thing as malpractice. For example, if a patient had plastic surgery and didn’t like the results, but the doctor executed the surgery as discussed and cared for the patient according to all guidelines, it’s not likely to be a malpractice case.
Malpractice is a failure to care for the patient according to established standards. As a result of this failure, an injury with damaging consequences occurs. Let’s break this down:
- The medical professional failed to care for the patient according to certain standards. Laws regulate the medical profession requires doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to follow established standards and protocol for patient care.
- The patient suffers from harm or injury.
- The patient must prove that the medical professional caused them harm or injury that would not have happened if proper standards and protocol had been followed.
- Resulting damages. The harm or injury caused by the medical professional’s negligence caused considerable damage, such as pain, disability, inability to work/loss of income and suffering.
Medical malpractice can occur as a result of many different negligences or errors. At Stealey Law & Mediation, we most commonly see cases relating to:
- Misdiagnosis of cancer
- Misdiagnosis of cardiac conditions
- Misdiagnosis in pediatrics
- Prescribing experimental drugs
- Performing cosmetic surgery
- Birth injuries or death resulting from delayed C-section procedure, failure to monitor the fetus or improper delivery technique
- Emergency room errors
- Gastroenterology errors
- Medical device injuries
- Negligence on the part of a hospital, surgeon, nurse, obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) or any other doctor or health care worker who fails to follow accepted standards of practice
- Post-surgical infection
- Nursing home abuse
- Caregiver negligence
- Improper hiring
- Poor training
- Managerial incompetence
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE A CASE?
If you think you may have a medical malpractice case, the first step is find a lawyer specializing in medial malpractice. Malpractice cases are among the most complex legal cases and require extensive research and planning.
When you look for a lawyer, be wary of requests for upfront fees. Most experienced malpractice lawyers work with a contingency fee — basically meaning that if you don’t win, you don’t pay. You’ll discuss this upfront — ask questions, and don’t be afraid to speak up. A good lawyer will be patient and ensure you understand everything before proceeding.
Your lawyer will also need extensive information about your treatment. Any information you can share will be helpful — names of those who were involved in treatment, times at which major events such as surgeries occurred, the medications administered, and any other relevant information.
If the lawyer determines that you have a case, he or she will file a lawsuit on your behalf. After the lawsuit is filed, there will be a period of discovery, where the plaintiff (you) and the defendant (the medical professional or institution you’re suing) can request documents, interviews and other information relevant to the case.
Sometimes, medical malpractice cases may be settled out of court. This is if both parties can come to an agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case will continue to the next step: trial.
During a trial, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant did not follow standard procedures or meet expected standards — in other words, that the defendent was negligent. A decision will then be made, determining which party wins. Should the plaintiff win, the jury will then determine the damages, or the amount the plaintiff is entitled to recover. Of course, as with any case, there could be an appeal of the verdict.
STEALEY LAW & MEDIATION | WV MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LAWYER
As you can tell, medical malpractice is incredibly complex. Navigating the case can be confusing, overwhelming and at times, emotional. With an experienced medical malpractice lawyer on your side, you’ll feel more comfortable and at ease.
At Stealey Law and Mediation, we use advanced tools such as computer simulations and real-life anatomical illustrations to explain complex medical issues to a jury. We also work closely with qualified medical experts to help with litigation in and out of the courtroom.
Stealey Law and Mediation can handle most medical malpractice cases including those resulting in major medical injuries or death.