Each year, over 225,000 people die as a result of the treatment of their physician. These deaths are caused by unnecessary surgery, errors in medication or adverse effects of medication, infections from hospitals, and other hospital errors. Medical malpractice is now the third leading cause of death in the United States, surpassed only by heart disease and cancer. If a medical professional fails to provide adequate treatment to his or her patient, and this failure results in the patient's injury or loss of income, that doctor is guilty of medical malpractice.
A physician is obligated to follow medical standards, providing the same degree of care another doctor in the same specialty would use. Medical malpractice attorneys understand medical law and hospital systems, and work to determine and uphold your legal rights. Lawter & Associates, PLLC will evaluate your case to find out whether or not you have been a victim of medical malpractice, and will fight to ensure you receive compensation for your injuries.
Q: Have I Waived My Rights Because I Signed A Consent Form?
A: This question is asked by numerous people. Health care providers are not given a license to commit malpractice simply because a consent form was filled out by a patient. Despite the fact that the execution of a characteristic consent form specifies acknowledgement of the stated risks and complications in conjunction with a given treatment or operation, it doesn’t relieve a health care provider from their responsibility of meeting the standard of care in association with such treatment or operations.
Q: What Is The First Step A Medical Malpractice Attorney Would Do In Pursuing A Medical Malpractice Claim?
A: The first step in deciding whether to pursue a medical malpractice case is to determine whether or not you have been the victim of medical malpractice. Even though not every unfortunate outcome is the result of medical malpractice, if you feel that something is not right, you should react accordingly and consult a qualified attorney knowledgeable of the medical field to evaluate your case. This process generally involves attaining and evaluating medical records and other relevant materials. If it appears that the case is strong enough, the next step in the process involves giving written notification of the claims to the parties suspected to be responsible for medical malpractice.
Q: How do I know if I have a medical malpractice case?
A: A bad medical result doesn't necessarily mean you've experienced malpractice. Even with the best of care, things can go wrong. Generally, to win a medical malpractice case, you must have expert medical testimony that no reasonable health care provider would have done what yours did. Reasonableness is generally determined by looking at what is reasonable care in view of the:
- Available knowledge
- Geographic location where care occurred
- State of medical practices at the time of the illness or injury
You must also prove through expert testimony that the negligence of your health care provider was a cause of injury or death. A doctor can be negligent, for example, and still not be liable, if the injury or death was caused by some other factor.
Q: What's the medical malpractice "standard of care"?
A: While state law generally determines how negligence is defined, the "standard of care" is generally defined by the medical community. It's not the measure of what is optimum care or even the measure of what an expert thinks should have been done in hindsight. The issue is whether any reasonable physician could have done what the doctor in question did, based on the available information. Help defining "acceptable practice" can come from a medical expert's experience, medical texts, literature and publications from groups such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. However, in most cases the standard of care the doctor deviated from must be established at trial by expert testimony. In some states, this expert testimony must be established before a victim can even initiate a lawsuit.
Q: What is "informed consent?"
A: When a doctor is going to perform a procedure, he or she is required to advise the patient of the procedure that is going to be performed as well as all the possible consequences. This is referred to as "informed consent." If the doctor doesn't do this, it might lead to a medical malpractice case. There are some instances where a doctor isn't required to obtain an informed consent, such as a case where the patient is unconscious, a family member can't be reached in an emergency or if there isn't a living will. As a general rule, attorneys will take these cases if the consequences of not being properly informed are great enough.
Q: Can you sue for what might have happened?
A: While it is distressing to learn that a medical procedure may have resulted in a very undesirable outcome such as permanent injury or even death, it's not generally feasible to sue for what "might" have happened, particularly if there was not any negligence.
Q: Can you file malpractice against someone other than a doctor?
A: A medical malpractice suit can be lodged against any individual or entity who provides health care. This would include, for example, doctors, nurses, technicians, physical therapists and optometrists.
Q: What expenses are generally paid by a settlement for a malpractice case?
A: Generally, state statutes control what a malpractice settlement takes into consideration. The following are commonly covered:
- Past, present and future medical expenses for treatment of the injury caused by the medical malpractice
- Other financial damages and economic damages that the malpractice caused
- Compensation for pain and suffering
Q: What is a normal settlement amount?
A: There is no normal or set amount in recovering damages from medical malpractice. Every case and injury is different. There are many nuances that determine a reasonable settlement amount, such as:
- Impact the injury has on earning capacity
- Impact the injury has on life functions
- How the jury perceives the injured party
- The atmosphere in the geographic area concerning medical malpractice
Only an attorney can give you an idea of what type of settlement you might be entitled to.
Q: What is "contributory negligence"?
A: Contributory negligence is an injured person's failure to exercise due care, which contributed to the injury. One example of contributory negligence in a failure-to-diagnose case would be if a doctor recommends that the patient undergo a screening exam for cancer and the patient neglects to follow through with the doctor's instructions, only to be diagnosed with cancer later.
Q: What does "preponderance of evidence" mean?
A: Preponderance of evidence is evidence that is more convincing than the evidence that is offered in opposition. It is whatever is more probable than not or has a greater weight.
Q: Why do I have to have an expert establish that I was harmed?
A: In order to prevail in a medical malpractice case, you must prove that the standard of care wasn't followed. The courts have come to recognize experts with experience, training and an understanding of the level of care associated with a particular medical procedure as being able to attest to or gauge the standard of care provided.