We are taught to trust medical professionals with our lives. However, sometimes, we forget they are human too.
In 1999, the Institute of Medicine published a study that shocked millions. They claimed that every year, 98,000 people die from medical malpractice. Fourteen years later, the Journal of Patient Safety released more devastating news. They announced that medical malpractice presently claims the lives of up to 440,000 people each year.
This places medical malpractice as the third leading cause of death amongst Americans behind heart disease and cancer.
Medical malpractice should not to be taken lightly.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice can be defined as when a healthcare provider does something or does not do something that causes harm to a patient. Their act or failure to act, otherwise known as “omission” is called medical malpractice. This usually occurs when the medical professional deviates from the recognized standard of care for a patient. The “standard of care” depends on numerous factors, including, the patient’s age, medical history, and condition; but is considered the overall accepted method or methods used by other healthcare providers in the area to treat patients for the same or similar conditions.
Examples of Medical Malpractice:
• Failure to recognize symptoms
• Failure to diagnose or misdiagnose
• Failure to order proper testing
• Failure to review patient’s history as well as ignoring a patient’s medical history
• Misinterpreting or ignoring test results
• Incorrect medication or dosage
• Unnecessary surgery
• Wrong site surgery
• Discharging a patient from the hospital too early
• Poor care following treatment or surgery
The most common types of medical malpractice claims are cases of failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis, inadequate medical care, and failure of the physician to inform the patient of the known risks of the procedure or course of treatment.
Being proactive about medical care can definitely help in the prevention of a medical malpractice injury. Patients are encouraged to do their own research, to understand their medical condition and discuss all symptoms and conditions they are experiencing with their medical care providers. Documenting your symptoms is also a very good idea. Furthermore, do not be afraid to ask your doctor questions about your condition. You have every right to a full explanation to understand your illness. You deserve adequate time and attention. You also deserve not to feel like you are being dismissed without your concerns being addressed. Do not let the healthcare system intimidate you. If something seems wrong, always speak up. Be sure to listen to your body and use common sense. Also, do not be afraid to get a second opinion; sometimes it may save your life. Finally, it is beneficial to have a friend or family member accompany you on important visits to the doctor. They can ask questions you may not think of as your judgment may be clouded due to the realization of your illness.
Do I Have A Case?
The very first thing you must prove is that a doctor-patient relationship existed. Essentially, you must be able to verify that you hired this medical professional to treat you and the doctor agreed to be hired. This relationship may extend to other members of the healthcare provider’s staff during the course of your treatment as well.
The second thing you must prove is that the healthcare provider was negligent in his or her care and treatment of you AND you were injured as a result. This can be complicated. Sometimes, you may experience a bad outcome following surgery or a procedure. This isn’t always malpractice; rather, it may be a known risk of having the surgery or procedure (for which you gave consent and acknowledged the risks). Also, a mistake or delay in diagnosis may not be malpractice if you are not able to show that you were harmed as a result.
Before filing a lawsuit, you must be able to show the doctor’s mistake caused you harm or further damage. For instance, the medical professional could have amputated the wrong limb, brain damage occurred after an operation, a medical condition worsened after the treatment, or worse, medical malpractice resulting in death.
It may be difficult to prove an injury is connected to the negligence of a medical professional. As a general rule, the plaintiff will need at least one expert witness to establish that the medical mistake deviated from acceptable standards of care and to explain how the mistake caused your injury. Hiring the services of an expert witness, who is usually a doctor or other medical professional, to review your medical records, provide an expert report or take time off from work in order to testify, can be very expensive.
Nevertheless, if you feel you were injured as a result of medical malpractice, you need to speak with an experienced lawyer that practices in the field of medical malpractice. Most cases are accepted on a “contingency fee” basis, which means you only pay for legal fees if your lawyer is successful in obtaining a settlement or verdict for you.
The hospital and medical defendants generally will not accept responsibility without a fierce fight. They have their own legal professionals that will attempt to prove the opposite position and do everything possible to show the hospital or doctor did not make a mistake or cause your damages.
In New York State, it is important to know, there are time limits known as “statutes of limitations” in which to file a medical malpractice suit. Failure to comply with applicable statutes of limitations could result in the claim forever being time-barred. As such, you should contact an experienced attorney soon after an incident to discuss the time limits that may apply in your case. The time limits may vary depending on whether the malpractice relates to an adult or child, whether it involves a state or other municipal hospital or one of its employees, and whether there is continuous treatment by the medical professional or entity you intend to sue for a particular condition, illness, or injury.
Many people feel that lawyers unfairly sue doctors or bring frivolous claims. The insurance industry has spent millions of dollars on “propaganda” campaigns regarding medical malpractice claims to misinform the public, claiming that doctors are closing their offices because they can’t get medical malpractice coverage, or their premiums are too high; that doctors are forced to practice “defensive medicine” and order “unnecessary tests” that drive up the cost of health care; or that too many medical malpractice cases are filed and they are unwarranted and frivolous.
The fact is medical malpractice suits have a high probability of failure. Identified above, up to 440,000 patients die each year to medical malpractice, however, only 15% of personal injury lawsuits filed per year involve medical malpractice, and, of those, 80% of the medical malpractice case settlements end with no payment to the injured or their survivors.
Most health care providers are competent professionals that provide compassionate and attentive care to their patients. However, like any profession, there are those who do not provide competent treatment and deviate from acceptable standards of care, and their patients are harmed as a result of their acts or omissions. It is vital to understand that these patients, who may be permanently injured from medical malpractice, that are denied justice in the courts are forced to depend on health insurance and oftentimes public programs such as Medicare or Medicaid to pay for future medical expenses; meaning the cost of the medical malpractice falls on the public instead of who is truly responsible.
Steps to Take in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
An intelligent first step is to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney with the knowledge to examine your case to its fullest and determine a suitable strategy for your negligence claim and who will work to get you the medical malpractice case settlement you deserve. Secondly, do not wait. As stated above, there are time limits to file a medical malpractice suit.
Though we have the utmost respect for healthcare professionals, they are human and make mistakes, and they should not be excused or treated differently. Do not let the potential cost and overall complicated legal jargon intimidate you. If you or a loved one was left injured by a medical professional due to their mistake or failure to act, contact Brindisi, Murad, Brindisi & Pearlman. We will determine an appropriate course of action that is right for you. While no amount of money will repair the pain and suffering of a medical malpractice error that results in permanent injury or wrongful death, we will work hard to ensure the same mistake does not happen to another patient here in Central New York. Contact The People’s Lawyer today.
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