Medical malpractice is a grave but leading cause of death or permanent injury, especially in the United States. Studies show that, on average, nearly 800,000 people across the U.S. lose their lives or suffer a lasting disability due to a misdiagnosis. However, only 20,000 medical malpractice cases become a lawsuit that is filed for further action.
Filing a legal case may have its pros and cons, but at the end of the day, it is one of the most effective measures to get long-term relief. If you get a professional and competent attorney in your corner and play all your cards right, you can not only get financial compensation but also avail of other benefits that penalize the person or institution responsible for ruining your health or even life.
Here is everything that you need to know about a medical malpractice claim:
What constitutes medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice involves any negligence or mistake made by an individual or organization that becomes a legal case before a court. Generally, each medical malpractice claim is made up of four key factors:
- The patient has experienced a harm or injury that they can be compensated for,
- The institution or person had a professional duty to care for the patient,
- The damage suffered needs to be a direct result of the actions of the person or entity against whom the claim is filed,
- The services provided must also fall below the set standards of care for the claim to be valid.
Having the burden of proof
As with any other legal case, you need to be able to back your claim with substantial proof for the court to rule in your favor. For instance, you can look at a cerebral palsy guide online for details on how to file a claim if your child or a child of a loved one suffers from this motor imbalance condition and it was a result of negligent practices on the part of your doctor, supporting hospital staff, or any other person that was deputed to provide appropriate treatment.
In order to prove that any consequence, including death or disability, was the direct result of medical malpractice, you will need to have all medical records reviewed by an expert. Not just that, you will also need the assistance of professional witnesses who can be regarded as specialists in the field to testify on your behalf. You will either need a lawyer or any other professional to support your quest to gather these supporting elements to win a case.
Depending on the specifics of the case, the legal principle known as “res ipsa loquitor” may be applicable. The phrase is Latin for “the thing speaks for itself” and is exactly what it means in a legal context. The doctrine essentially says that if specific events happen, the fact that they did so proves negligence. No further evidence is required. For instance, proving that a surgeon operated on the incorrect body portion is adequate evidence of medical malpractice.
Different types of medical malpractice claims
There are various kinds of medical malpractice claims that stem from different types of events. A few common types include:
- Misdiagnosis: As the term indicates, misdiagnosis is when a professional or institution incorrectly decodes a medical condition, resulting in delayed, improper, or incorrect treatment. Frequently reported examples include patients diagnosed with indigestion and discharged after they come to the ER complaining of chest pain or someone stating that they have a terrible headache, which can be an indicator of imminent stroke, but they are sent home with a bunch of painkillers.
- Negligent Failure to Treat: Instances like the failure to monitor a patient properly while they are admitted or failure to order certain tests when needed fall under the “negligent failure to treat” category. These cases can constitute a medical negligence claim as well if the supporting evidence to prove them exists,
- Surgical malpractice: Surgeons can, at times, make several errors. While not all of these constitute medical negligence, the ones that do include operating on the wrong part of the body or, worse yet, leaving an item like a forceps, glove, or towel inside the patient’s body. As surprising and disturbing as this may sound, there are actual instances of these events happening.
- Botched treatment: This category includes cases where a surgical or physiological procedure is done but executed incorrectly. For example, physical disfigurement or lung punctures during breast augmentation surgeries can become malpractice claims.
- Birth injuries: Causing an injury due to unprofessionalism or neglect during childbirth can also lead to medical malpractice claims against a doctor or the institute where they are working, depending on who was responsible.
Who can file a claim, and who can it be filed against?
Any person directly impacted by medical malpractice can call upon the court and submit a claim for damages or other compensation. In case the affected person has become deceased or can’t follow through with legal recourse due to some other reason, their legal guardians or heirs have the power to file a claim on their behalf. A proficient legal representative can advise better in this regard, especially when it comes to someone who is mentally disabled.
Any person against whom a medical malpractice claim can be filed includes doctors, dentists, chiropractors, nurses, lab technicians, hospitals, clinics, and any other medical institution or professional who can be proven to be negligent as well as the fact that their actions directly caused the consequences for which damages are being claimed. It is all about evidence and the extent to which negligence can be proven because, at the end of the day, the court only rules on the basis of proof.
The Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations sets a deadline within which a patient must file a medical negligence claim. State-by-state variations in the time frame normally fall in the range of two to four years. The plaintiff should have known about the medical malpractice by the time the clock began to run. Your case will be rejected if you submit an appeal once the statute of limitations has passed, and you won’t be able to legally recoup your losses.
Filing a medical malpractice claim is your right if you or a loved one has suffered irreversible damage from a healthcare professional or institution. However, you need to be wary of all the intricacies involved before filing such a claim. Make sure you hire a competent lawyer to fight for your rights and although monetory compensation cannot makeup for the loss you suffered, it can lessen your financial burden.