If you have recently undergone a painful surgery or other medical procedure, you probably struggle to take your mind off the discomfort. It is reasonable to wonder when you should start considering whether medical malpractice played a role in your current pain and what you can do about it.
All medical malpractice claims require the victim to prove that the defendant failed to meet the standards in their field for providing care, and that the defendant’s failure was the cause of compensable injuries. For your painful condition to create a medical malpractice claim, you must not only be able to prove that your doctor deviated from standards, but also that the deviation caused physical, financial, and emotional consequences which you would not have incurred otherwise.
If you believe you have a case, act now to get a second opinion and contact a lawyer to help you through the process. Bennett & Heyman can provide the legal guidance that you need to secure compensation today. Talk about your case with us in a free initial consult, which we offer to all potential new clients. To schedule with us, call our offices at (410) 429-7856.
How to Tell If You Were a Victim of Medical Malpractice
If your medical care fell below the standards of the profession and caused you undue harm or exacerbated an existing condition, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against those responsible. Medical malpractice lawsuits require four key elements: existence of a professional duty of care, breach of that duty, the breach as the cause of the injury, and claimable damages.
Duty of Care
The first step that any medical malpractice plaintiff must take is to establish the duty of care that the defendant owed you. For example, doctors owe all of their patients a duty of care. To establish a doctor-patient relationship, you must show that your doctor or other care provider agreed to treat you. The duty in most malpractice cases is the “standard of care,” which is defined by what other similarly skilled professionals in the same field should or would do in the same situation.
Breach of Duty of Care
Medical malpractice is established when the plaintiff shows that the professional they are suing failed to satisfy their duties while providing care for the patient. Put differently, you must show that the doctor acted (or failed to act) in a way that other doctors in the same specialty would not have. Doctors who shirk responsibilities in the diagnosis or treatment stages – or who fail to secure informed consent from a patient – incur liability for the foreseeable consequences. Most plaintiffs are required to use expert witness testimony to prove this element, as it can be difficult to explain complex medical terminology to a jury without hearing from someone with a background in the specific area.
Even if you have already shown that the defendant was negligent or reckless in rendering medical care, you still must show that their behavior was the cause of your injuries. This can be particularly difficult in the case of preexisting conditions that were exacerbated by the doctor’s actions. While you might not be able to recover for all of the harms of your condition in these instances, you still may be able to win compensation proportional to the degree that your condition worsened as a result of the malpractice.
The point of medical malpractice lawsuits, other than holding providers responsible for their irresponsible actions, is to win compensation that the victim can use to make themselves more comfortable and recover from their injuries. Your Baltimore personal injury lawyer can help you estimate the value of the damages you suffered in terms of physical, financial, and emotional consequences caused by the malpractice.
When Is My Pain Bad Enough to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
Many medical procedures leave patients with extremely painful recoveries or chronic discomfort that makes everyday life challenging. However, just because the pain exists does not automatically mean that you can file a lawsuit.
You will have to show that the pain was not a necessary outcome and could have been avoided if the medical care provider had stuck to the typical strategies and protocols of the field. For more information about the most common situations where malpractice suits arise, contact one of our seasoned Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys today to discuss your particular case.
Common Examples of Medical Malpractice
To help illustrate how medical malpractice claims arise, it can be helpful to know the most common situations that lead to these lawsuits every year. If your situation fits one of the below examples, you may have a medical malpractice claim, and we strongly recommend that you speak to one of our medical malpractice attorneys as soon as possible.
A patient’s care starts with the medical care provider’s initial determination process on the cause of their symptoms. Making an effective diagnosis allows for the patient to receive the treatment that they require to cure their ailments. If your doctor fails to identify what is wrong with you or ascribes your symptoms to a condition that you do not have, your condition may worsen over time or be exacerbated by unnecessary treatments for the wrong ailment.
You should note that your doctor’s misdiagnosis of your condition is not enough on its own to win a malpractice lawsuit. Diagnostics is a complicated field with many protocols that every practitioner studies through extensive schooling. For a misdiagnosis to be the basis of a medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff must show that another doctor with comparable experience in the same field would have run different tests or would have come to a different conclusion with the same information.
Almost every medical procedure carries some amount of risk. In every instance of potential risk, medical care providers are duty-bound to obtain consent from the patient to go through with the procedure. However, since medicine is such a complicated field, the consent requirement is only met if the doctor provides a sufficient amount of information about the procedure itself, the risks associated with it, and alternative methods of achieving the same goal, if they exist. Without informed consent, almost every medical procedure is grounds for medical malpractice (or even assault or battery, depending on the jurisdiction you are in).
In certain situations, the informed consent requirement may be waived if the patient requires immediate emergency care to prevent lethal consequences. However, this does not mean that the medical care provider is not still bound to provide the treatment with the proficiency expected in their field. If your doctor did not fully explain the risks associated with a treatment or surgery, you most likely have a valid medical malpractice claim.
All surgeries are risky. Even the most commonplace procedures carry risk of complication or infection. Believe it or not, the horror stories that you hear about surgeries do occur. Cases arise every year where surgeons performed the wrong operation, botched a surgery while operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or accidentally left a foreign object such as a sponge or scalpel inside the patient.
Surgery requires a steady hand, thorough preparation, and necessary follow-up care to minimize the chances of scar tissue or infection. If you are dealing with complications after a surgery, you have the right to seek a second opinion from another provider in the same area, who can explain why your complications may have occurred. If it turns out that what your initial doctor did was not just a minor mistake but actually fell below the standard of care, you could be entitled to sue for malpractice.
Doctors are not the only potential defendant in a medical malpractice claim. Any time that the wrong prescription or dosage is prescribed, there is potential for serious or even life-threatening harm. Any doctor that writes a prescription must also take care to identify situations where prescribed drugs may interact with other medications that the patient is taking. There is also a responsibility to inform patients of how the prescription will affect them, such as their ability to consume alcohol or operate heavy machinery. Failing to meet that burden could constitute malpractice.
For instance, if your doctor does not tell you that your medication is likely to cause drowsiness and you fall asleep behind the wheel of a car, causing an accident, you may have a malpractice case against the doctor for your car accident injuries.
One of the most common instances where non-physicians are sued is in the area of prescription errors. While a doctor may be liable if they prescribe the wrong medication or dosage, this is hardly the most common situation in which faulty prescriptions cause injury. Hospital staff or pharmacists may fill or administer the wrong prescription. Talk to your medical malpractice lawyer to identify whom you could and should name in your lawsuit.
Anesthesiologists often carry the most extensive insurance policies. This is because the slightest mistake when administering anesthesia can have disastrous consequences.
During any procedure where anesthesia is involved, an anesthesiologist must be on hand to administer the drugs and monitor the patient’s vital signs while the drugs are in effect. Many medical malpractice claims stem from administering anesthesia at improper dosages or without taking a patient’s history into account. If the treatment facility fails to provide a licensed professional to oversee the administering of anesthesia during a surgery, management also incurs liability for the consequences of any preventable complications that the anesthesia causes.
What Should You Do if You Believe You Were the Victim of Medical Malpractice?
After suffering for a considerable time, you may begin to have concerns that you didn’t receive the prudent and effective medical care that you should have. If you find yourself in this type of situation, you should take the following steps as soon as possible.
Get a Second Opinion
You always have the right to seek advice from another physician or medical care provider, even after you have already received treatment based on the first opinion you received. If you are suffering from unexpected ill effects from prior treatment, your second opinion can evaluate your symptoms, identify the cause, and explain whether your current condition could have been avoided –and if so, how.
Not only is a second opinion important for your case, but it is also important for your ongoing care. Some victims of medical malpractice may see their condition worsen for as long as the malpractice goes undiscovered and unrectified. This is particularly true in instances of misdiagnosis and surgical errors. Getting advice from a new source is critical for both your personal health and your chances of recovery.
Save Your Receipts
If you ultimately succeed in your lawsuit, your recovery will be based on your harms as a result of the malpractice. This will include your psychological and emotional consequences as well as the direct economic costs of your supplemental care and recovery. To prove the economic damages that you sustained, you will need to submit evidence outlining the costs that you incurred. This includes supplemental treatment, procedures, specialist appointments, and even hospital parking. Start keeping a record of all bills and invoices now to speed up the process of your recovery and increase the value of your claim.
Talk to a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
It is never too early to contact one of the medical malpractice attorneys at Bennett & Heyman to assist you with your claim. Your lawyer can work with you on securing second opinions and expert witnesses to help with your claim. Our lawyers have years of experience estimating the value of claims and negotiating with insurance companies on settlement offers. If your lawsuit goes to trial, you will want seasoned, reliable counsel on your side to make your case and pursue justice on your behalf.
Keep an Eye on the Clock
No medical malpractice claim is valid forever. Each state has its own law (called the “statute of limitations”) that governs how long a medical malpractice victim has to file their formal claim in court. For instance, in Maryland, potential plaintiffs must file their lawsuit within five years of the date that the injury occurred or three years of discovering the malpractice, whichever is shorter. Each jurisdiction has its own unique rules on time limits and exceptions that plaintiffs can benefit from. Fortunately, the medical malpractice attorneys at Bennett & Heyman are familiar with the different rules and can help get your claim filed properly and on time.
For Help Assessing Your Potential Medical Malpractice Suit, Call Bennett & Heyman
Your recovery is too important to wait and wonder. Get the facts for free by calling the medical malpractice lawyers at Bennett & Heyman at (410) 429-7856.