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Do I Have a Claim? – Common Surgical Errors and Medical Negligence – Part I

May 11 2018 | Blog
  • A better understanding of medical malpractice claims and what may constitute a basis for them may help those affected by malpractice to decide to obtain the legal help they need to recover from their plight

    This is the first of two articles about medical malpractice claims and common surgical errors. Stay tuned for the second one next week.

    According to a widely-distributed study published two years ago, more than 250,000 people die each year in the U.S. as a result of medical error. That’s only about 50,000 shy of the combined number of lives lost due to both respiratory disease and accidents – the third and the fourth leading causes of death in the United States. What’s even more alarming is that the number of serious, though non-fatal, mishaps that can be traced back to a preventable medical error are 10 to 20 times more common than those resulting in a patient’s death. In other words for every instance of medical error that claims one of those 250,000 lives, there are an additional 10-20 severe but non-fatal medical errors made.

    Even though members of the medical profession sometimes contest the results of such studies, they are nonetheless extremely alarming as they point to some deep and complex systemic problems in our healthcare system. These problems adversely affect hundreds of thousands of patients and their families every year.

    For those who have suffered due to a preventable medical error, a vital way of challenging the status quo is to seek legal recognition of and financial compensation for the medical negligence. This can be done through a personal injury claim alleging medical malpractice. On a national level, however, only 15% of all personal injury lawsuits filed every year are related to medical malpractice. In addition, it is estimated that only 80% of these lawsuits end in verdicts favorable for the plaintiffs.

    Why doesn’t the high number of medical errors seem to be reflected in the number of corresponding personal injury lawsuits? At times, a patient may not realize that a bad medical result they’ve experienced is due to an inexcusable oversight on the part of medical staff. In other cases, though, a patient may be aware that they have suffered because of a preventable medical error. Even so, they may choose not to pursue a claim simply because they don’t know that it might constitute medical malpractice. Others still may have erroneous ideas concerning personal and financial costs of a lawsuit.

    To help all those who have suffered bad medical outcomes who are unsure of how to proceed, in this and next week’s blog posts we address the nuances of medical malpractice claims. First, we will provide a concise and easy-to-understand definition of medical malpractice. In the next part, we will mention common surgical mistakes that may constitute a basis for malpractice claims.

    Medical Malpractice – What It Is and What It Is Not

    A medical malpractice claim, at its core, is a claim based on negligence. In this case, negligence means that a healthcare provider failed to treat a patient according to the established standard of care. Of course, how this standard is defined may differ from one medical field to another. Generally, though, it will be based on what other reasonable and skilled medical professionals would and wouldn’t do, or have and haven’t done in similar situations.

    Claiming malpractice, however, requires more than just establishing a failure on the part of a medical provider to practice according to the established standard of care. You must also be able to show that such negligence directly resulted in an adverse medical outcome, like the compounding of your illness, or a serious injury. If damages cannot be proven, you will not be able to claim medical malpractice even if you did experience substandard care.

    On the other hand, not every bad medical outcome is automatically a reason to claim medical malpractice. Virtually every treatment or medication involves some risk to a patient’s health. In addition, before accepting or declining any medical procedure, a patient is usually informed of its potential dangers. If treatment goes awry despite the best efforts on the part of medical providers, a patient likely won’t be able to claim medical malpractice.

    Preventable surgical errors frequently do meet all of the requirements needed for an affected patient to claim medical malpractice. Next week, we will analyze some of the most common examples of such errors.

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