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How to Know if You Have a Medical Malpractice Case

May 20 2020 | Blog
  • Hundreds of thousands of American patients every year sustain Injuries due to medical errors or negligence. What can you do if you suspect you might have suffered a negative medical outcome as the result of medical malpractice? Find the answer in this article.

    “First, do no harm.” These well-known words are a part of the ancient oath every medical student must take before becoming a doctor. This explicit promise is one of the reasons we as a society have implicit trust in our medical professionals. Indeed, when you seek medical care and attention, you have every right to expect that you will be treated in accordance with the highest standards of the medical profession and to the greatest ability of health care providers.

    Sadly, data shows that this trust can often be misplaced. Each year, between 250,000 and 440,000 American patients die as a result of medical malpractice or negligence on the part of healthcare professionals. According to one comprehensive study, as much as 10 percent of all US deaths are due to a medical error, making it the third-leading cause of death in the country, right behind heart disease and cancer.

    For anyone in need of medical care, such statistics are alarming to say the least. The authors of the study mentioned above point out that the data shouldn’t make us (the public) distrust our doctors–as most medical errors represent “systemic errors” including “poorly coordinated care.” Still, when presented which gruesome statistics, you may wonder whether certain negative medical outcomes that you or your family members suffered were due to an avoidable error on the part of healthcare providers.

    In this article, we will address this concern. We will explore what medical malpractice is, how to recognize it, and what protections personal injury law has to offer to potential victims.

    What is Medical Malpractice?

    In simple terms, medical malpractice is a legal concept that describes the situation when a medical professional or health care provider acts (or fails to act) in a certain way, resulting in an injury to a patient. This sort of negligence can occur both on an individual and an institutional level–that is to say, medical malpractice may be the result of the action or inaction of an individual doctor, nurse, or a medical institution as a whole.

    It is important to recognize, however, that not all negative medical outcomes can be classified as medical negligence. If this were the case, it would be nearly impossible for doctors to do their job, since most treatments and medicines involve a certain degree of risk to the patient. Rather, the law recognizes the category of the standard of care–a set of medical procedures established in the medical community as a way to treat a certain condition.

    Legal action against a medical provider is only possible if a negative medical outcome has occurred as a result of the violation of the standard of care. In other words, you can only introduce a claim against a doctor or a hospital if you can prove that your injuries occurred because the healthcare providers violated or misapplied acceptable medical treatment or procedures.

    Although the following list isn’t exhaustive, examples of common medical malpractices cases may include:

    • Unnecessary surgery
    • Wrong diagnosis or failure to diagnose
    • Ordering wrong tests or misinterpretation of test results
    • Failure to take into account medical history or test results
    • Medication error–administering the wrong medication or incorrect dosage
    • Surgical errors–for example, operating on the wrong part of the body or retained surgical instruments

    Yet, medical negligence can only be litigated–or taken to court–if the injuries resulted in significant damages to the victim. Damages may include significant disability, a considerable loss of income, high medical bills, unusual pain and suffering, or another hardship.

    How to Recognize Medical Malpractice

    Recognizing medical malpractice may be challenging as the symptoms of an injury may not manifest themselves until a considerable time after a failed treatment or medical procedure. In addition, some injuries only give non-specific symptoms–in other words, symptoms that cannot be readily diagnosed as caused by any specific condition.

    In general, there are three major indications that you may have valid reason to introduce a medical malpractice claim against a healthcare provider:

    • You have been informed–A healthcare provider tells you that there has been a medical error in your treatment
    • There has been a lack of informed consent–You have been subjected to a treatment to which you didn’t explicitly agree, or you weren’t sufficiently informed about the risks and benefits associated with the specific kind of treatment
    • You have suffered extraordinary consequences or unusual outcomes after the treatment

    Still, apart from the first scenario, it may be difficult to recognize that the circumstances described above really occurred in your case. Therefore, if you have suspicions that you might have suffered injuries or negative medical outcomes due to medical negligence, you should not hesitate to address your concerns by following up with other, independent medical professionals. You also may wish to discuss your potential legal options with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

    For more information about medical malpractice cases, please visit our dedicated medical malpractice page.

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