In some of our hardest times of need, we turn to medical professionals to care for us. When we are our most vulnerable, they might be the ones literally responsible for saving our lives. Other times, they fail to “do no harm,” and end up the cause of our suffering.
Doctors, nurses, hospitals, and other healthcare professionals are responsible for the errors that they make. Healthcare is tricky, and just because something goes wrong does not automatically mean that someone is responsible for it. When healthcare providers do fail to provide adequate care, they may try to avoid responsibility or even hide the error from you.
If you have been harmed or a loved one has died during a medical procedure, or a doctor’s failures have allowed your condition to get worse, contact an attorney. You might have ways of recovering, financially, for the harm that was done. If your medical care took place in Baltimore, consult a Baltimore medical malpractice attorney like those of Bennett and Heyman, P.A.
Medical Negligence Attorneys
In order to prove a medical malpractice case, you need to prove that the doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional did something wrong. Just because there is harm does not automatically mean that someone is responsible. Sometimes, surgery goes wrong or medicine is only able to hold off the inevitable outcome. Sometimes, though, something went wrong – and it can be proven.
In any medical malpractice case, the patient or their survivors are known as the “plaintiffs,” and the healthcare provider is the “defendant.” In order to prove a medical negligence case, there are four main elements that a patient/plaintiff must show:
- The healthcare provider owed a duty to the plaintiff,
- The healthcare provider breached that duty,
- The breach caused the plaintiff harm, and
- The plaintiff suffered some harm a court can correct or reimburse them for, called “damages.”
Without proving these elements, it is nearly impossible to get compensation, except in particular circumstances.
Before this, though, there is another element that must be met: there must be a doctor-patient relationship. If the healthcare provider in question is not a doctor, then there must be a similar relationship, such as nurse-patient relationship. If the doctor never actually cared for the patient, there can be no duty, but this can be complicated in some lawsuits.
The duty element is also defined by the healthcare professional’s “standard of care.” This is the established minimum level of care that similar healthcare professionals would provide to the same patient in the same situation. Usually, to prove this in court, each side calls “expert witnesses,” which are usually healthcare professionals of similar qualifications. Defining the standard of care can often be the main battleground of a medical malpractice case.
Causation can also be a tricky element. Sometimes, a doctor’s defense is that, while they did make an error, it did not cause any harm because the patient would have suffered from the harm anyway – they did not cause it. For instance, in a lawsuit based on a failure to diagnose a patient with cancer where the patient later died from that cancer, a doctor’s defense may be that the patient would have died anyway, and that the cancer was too advanced to be cured.
These kinds of arguments and details make medical malpractice cases very complicated, and show that experience and competence in handling these kinds of cases is essential to winning a medical malpractice suit.
Types of Medical Malpractice Cases
Medical malpractice cases can be based on a lot of different types of issues. In many cases, the issues are straightforward: a doctor’s surgical errors caused a plaintiff harm. In others, the case is more complicated.
Surgical errors are one of the more common medical malpractice case types. In these cases, the doctor did something during surgery that was wrong, and it lead to harm. Often, correcting these problems requires more surgery. A good example of this kind of case is when a doctor slips with the scalpel and accidentally nicks an artery, causing extreme blood loss.
Failures to diagnose an illness or condition may lead to delays in treating the illness. These delays could be vital to the success or failure of the treatment, especially in conditions like cancer. Diagnosis can be difficult, so proving that a doctor failed to diagnose a condition he or she should have diagnosed usually means showing they wrongly-interpreted test results or failed to perform certain tests that would have caught the condition.
Some cases of negligence are so obvious that something went wrong that the law helps fill-out the plaintiff’s case. These kinds of cases are called “res ipsa loquitor” cases, and occur in situations where the healthcare provider has all of the evidence and control. Typically, this is used for situations that occurred during surgery, when the patient was unconscious. These cases often involve things like a surgical instrument or sponge that was left inside a patient after surgery.
Any medical procedure or examination, especially surgery, requires the patient’s permission. The patient must give “informed consent,” which means not only that the patient agrees to the procedure, but that the patient understands what they are agreeing to. Outside of a medical emergency, doctors cannot perform procedures without permission, and the permission must be given to the particular doctor performing the procedure.
Other cases are so obviously negligent that they do not even need expert witnesses to explain the standard of care. These “gross negligence” cases include things like performing surgery on the wrong patient or wrong part of the body.
For any of these types of cases, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can help patients get compensation.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Attorneys
Bennett and Heyman, P.A., is a Baltimore law firm with attorneys who have been helping clients get compensation for injury cases for almost 50 years. Our attorneys want to see our clients get the recovery they deserve.
If you have been injured by poor medical care, or you have lost a loved one to medical errors, contact us today. Your case may have deadlines attached, so contact an attorney as soon as you can. For a free consultation with our attorneys, call us at (410) 727-2168.