Nobody goes to the doctor thinking, “I hope they get this right.” When you visit a medical professional, there is an expectation that your provider will provide the highest level of care. You depend on your doctor’s schooling, training, and experience when you entrust your health in their hands.
But what happens when a health care professional fails to meet your expectations? Do you have grounds to seek damages when your doctor’s actions caused you harm? Consider calling the legal professionals at Brauns Law at (404) 418-8244 to discuss your options and get you the compensation you deserve.
Atlanta Medical Malpractice FAQ
Healthcare providers owe their patients a duty to act with reasonable care at all times when treating them. However, when a doctor or other healthcare provider behaves negligently under the circumstances, and an injury, illness, or further medical complication results, the injured patient may take legal action against the provider for medical negligence or medical malpractice.
If you or a person you care about has suffered an injury, illness, or other complication because of medical negligence, seek legal help as soon as possible. Statutes of limitations apply in these types of cases, and prompt legal action is often necessary. The experienced Atlanta medical malpractice attorneys at Brauns Law Accident Injury Firm can help you comply with the notice and affidavit requirements and will file a lawsuit on your behalf against a negligent healthcare provider. We can help you pursue the compensation that you deserve and, if necessary, take your case all the way to a jury trial.
What is medical malpractice, and what are some examples?
Medical malpractice in Atlanta can take a variety of different forms. In some cases, a surgical procedure may go awry because of medical negligence. At other times, a surgeon may leave a foreign object inside a patient’s body, leading to a future complication, or perform an incorrect medical procedure.
Some of the most common types of medical negligence and malpractice that occur in Atlanta include the following:
- Incorrectly or negligently performed medical procedures – Any type of medical procedure, including surgery or an injection, may be performed incorrectly. When medical doctors and surgeons perform a medical procedure, they are required to do so in accordance with established medical norms and standards of care. Surgeons, for example, are often held to a national standard of care. When a healthcare provider fails to perform a medical procedure according to the applicable standard of care and an injury results, the healthcare provider may be liable for medical malpractice and any injuries or illnesses that the patient receives as a result.
- Careless actions or inactions while performing a medical procedure – Medical doctors and surgeons are required to perform procedures carefully at all times. This attention to care means following all established protocols before, during, and after the medical procedure. In the context of medical procedures, carelessness often includes leaving a surgical tool or another medical instrument, such as a sponge or syringe, inside a patient’s body before closing all surgical incisions. This type of carelessness can lead to serious medical complications, as well as the need to file a claim or lawsuit for medical malpractice against the careless healthcare provider.
- Failing to obtain the patient’s written consent before performing a medical procedure – Before performing any medical procedure, such as a surgery, a healthcare provider is required to explain to the patient what will happen during the procedure, as well as all of the potential risks and benefits associated with the procedure. The healthcare provider must obtain the patient’s informed written consent (or the consent of the patient’s legal guardian or representative, in the event the patient cannot give their own informed consent) before beginning the medical procedure. In cases where a healthcare provider performs a surgery, injection, or some other medical procedure on a patient without the patient’s written consent, the provider may be liable for medical negligence when an injury results. Similarly, if the provider performs an additional medical procedure or otherwise exceeds the scope of the patient’s written consent and an injury results, then there may be a legal liability on the part of the healthcare provider.
- Performing a medical procedure on the wrong body part – In addition to explaining the risks and benefits of a particular medical or surgical procedure to a patient and obtaining the patient’s informed written consent before beginning the procedure, the healthcare provider must perform the correct procedure on the patient. If the provider performs an incorrect medical or surgical procedure or performs a procedure on a wrong part of the body, they likely committed malpractice.
- Failing to maintain a sanitary office environment – Healthcare providers are responsible for making sure that their offices and facilities are clean and sanitized adequately at all times. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, this requirement is very much at the forefront of public consciousness. When a provider fails to properly sanitize their facility, including sterilizing instruments and other equipment used during medical procedures, and a medical complication or illness results, then a medical malpractice claim may ensue.
- Misdiagnosing, failing to diagnose, or delayed diagnosis of a patient’s medical condition – In addition to errors committed during a medical procedure or failing to perform a medical procedure safely and correctly, medical malpractice can take place when a healthcare provider misdiagnoses or fails to diagnose a patient’s medical condition. Malpractice can also occur when a healthcare provider diagnoses a patient’s medical condition too late to avoid serious consequences from happening (such as in the case of cancer). Healthcare providers are responsible for making sure that they accurately diagnose a patient’s medical condition by performing the necessary diagnostic tests, such as MRIs and biopsies, promptly. When a healthcare provider fails to make a prompt diagnosis, a patient may suffer additional complications, including a long-term illness that may ultimately result in death.
If a healthcare provider’s negligence has injured you or a person you care about, the knowledgeable Atlanta medical malpractice lawyers at Brauns Law Accident Injury Firm can help you pursue your claim. Our legal team can assist you in taking the proper steps to pursue the monetary compensation that you need for your injury or illness.
What are the relevant time frames that apply to medical malpractice claims in Atlanta?
If you are planning on pursuing a medical malpractice claim against a negligent healthcare provider, certain time limitations apply under the Georgia statute of limitations. Statutes of limitations provide a set window of time for filing a lawsuit in a particular type of case. The purpose of these statutes is to ensure that witnesses are available (should the matter ultimately proceed all the way to trial), memories stay fresh, and to prevent evidence from growing stale, outdated, or being erased entirely.
Section 9-3-71 of the Georgia Code, a state statute, provides the window of opportunity for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit arising out of an incident that occurs within the state of Georgia. Specifically, an attorney must file a cause of action arising out of medical malpractice by a healthcare provider within two years.
This two-year time period begins to run on the date when a patient’s “injury or death arising from a wrongful or negligent act or omission” takes place. In the context of medical malpractice, a “negligent act or omission” can refer to a doctor’s failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, surgical error, or a serious medical mistake, among others.
The Georgia statute of limitations also provides an overall five-year filing deadline for cases where a healthcare provider’s error was discovered until much later. This five-year time window establishes a statute of repose. Therefore, you must file your lawsuit within five years of the date of your discovery.
Absent some very limited exceptions, statutes of limitations in the state of Georgia are hard-and-fast rules. If the court does not receive a lawsuit against a responsible healthcare provider promptly, the patient will forever waive their right to file a medical malpractice claim or lawsuit against the provider for that particular instance of malpractice. Similarly, the patient may lose the right to recover monetary compensation for their injuries that resulted from the medical malpractice or negligence.
However, the state of Georgia provides some extremely limited exceptions for these hard-and-fast statute of limitations deadlines in the context of medical malpractice. For example, if a healthcare provider negligently leaves a surgical instrument, such as a sponge, inside a patient’s body after performing surgery, then the patient may file a lawsuit against the negligent healthcare provider one year from the discovery date of the foreign object. This one-year period applies true even if the two-year or five-year statute of limitations deadline has already expired in the case.
In addition, exceptions to the statute of limitations apply if the injured patient is a minor that was under five years of age when the medical negligence or malpractice allegedly occurred or when a patient is deemed “legally incompetent” at the time of the alleged medical malpractice.
Failing to comply with a Georgia statute of limitations in a medical malpractice case can result in you losing the right to pursue monetary compensation for your injuries. The experienced Atlanta medical malpractice attorneys at Brauns Law Accident Injury Firm can ensure that your medical malpractice case is filed with the court promptly, to increase your chances of obtaining the compensation that you deserve for your injuries.
Are there any special requirements for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against a healthcare provider?
Due to the sensitive and complex nature of medical malpractice cases, Georgia law imposes an expert affidavit requirement when filing a lawsuit directly against a healthcare provider. An attorney must file this affidavit with the court in addition to the actual medical malpractice complaint. Specifically, a qualified medical expert with has the necessary qualifications to testify in a court of law must complete the affidavit.
In addition, the qualified medical expert must be in a position to provide sufficient evidence that demonstrates the defendant doctor committed a minimum of one act of negligence. Finally, the medical affidavit must describe the factual basis for the expert’s allegation against the defendant healthcare provider.
In rare instances, the court will grant a 45-day affidavit filing extension. However, a court will only agree to this extension if the patient only recently hired an attorney, the case-filing deadline is approaching quickly, and there was insufficient time for the affidavit to be prepared and filed along with the complaint.
One cannot overstate the importance of filing the expert affidavit at the same time the medical malpractice complaint is submitted. If an affidavit does not accompany the actual complaint, then the defendant doctor’s attorney may file a motion to dismiss your complaint, something that the court may ultimately grant. The experienced Atlanta medical malpractice lawyers at Brauns Law Accident Injury Firm will ensure that an affidavit is filed correctly along with the complaint in your medical malpractice case.
What do you need to prove to succeed in an Atlanta medical malpractice case?
For you to prevail in an Atlanta medical malpractice case, you must demonstrate (through the expert medical testimony of a qualified healthcare provider) that your healthcare provider acted unreasonably under the circumstances and violated the standard of care that was in place. Moreover, this breach of the applicable standard of care must have resulted in one or more injuries or other serious consequences.
As part of a medical malpractice claim, the injured patient may be eligible to recover monetary compensation for the costs of treatment (including the costs of anticipated future treatment), pain and suffering, inconvenience, mental distress, emotional anguish, loss of the ability to use a body part, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of spousal support.
We are taught from an early age to believe the word of healthcare providers, and that we generally expect that we will be safe in their hands. When someone sustains injuries or other complications resulting from medical malpractice, it can come as a shocking and painful breach of trust. It can also result in extensive financial losses.
The experienced Atlanta medical malpractice lawyers at Brauns Law Accident Injury Firm can assist you in providing the required legal elements in your case and pursuing the maximum amount of monetary compensation available to you. We tackle challenging claims against doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities.
What Qualifies as Medical Malpractice?
As humans, we make mistakes. But when a doctor makes a mistake, it can have life-changing consequences. However, a simple mistake does not constitute medical malpractice. To claim medical malpractice, you must prove that a doctor’s gross negligence and failure to meet the standard of care led to your injuries. For example, if a loved one’s cancer does not respond to an agreed-upon treatment plan, you likely do not have a case for medical malpractice. However, if your loved one died because of a delayed or missed diagnosis, you may be able to prove malpractice.
Common Medical Malpractice Claims
In 2016, the doctors at Johns Hopkins made a frightening claim. According to their numbers, medical malpractice is now the third leading cause of death in the United States. It is estimated that over 250,000 deaths per year could be attributed to medical malpractice.
These numbers are alarming and prove that medical malpractice occurs more often than we’d like to think. While most people think of malpractice as surgical errors or doctor incompetence, it’s not always so straightforward. Examples of possible medical malpractice include:
- Missed diagnosis
- Delayed diagnosis
- Foreign object left in a body cavity
- Unnecessary surgery
- Improper medication or dosage
- Failure to order testing or recognize symptoms
- Misreading or disregarding test results (including lab tests and medical imaging)
Is There a Time Limit on Filing a Medical Malpractice Suit?
Many legal matters are subject to a statute of limitations. A statute of limitations outlines the maximum amount of time an aggrieved party has to claim damages against a party. State code section 9-3-71 outlines the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims. Specifically, the code states that all claims of malpractice must be filed within two years of the date of injury or death in said case. However, if the onset of the injuries is delayed beyond two years, the victim has up to five years to file suit. One further exception applies to the law: If a foreign object has been left inside a patient’s body, the patient has one year from the date of discovery to file suit.
How Do I Prove Malpractice?
The burden of proof lies with the plaintiff when it comes to a medical malpractice claim. Not only do you need to prove that your provider failed to meet the standard of care, but you also need to prove that this failure led to direct and compensable injuries.
In Georgia, the courts require plaintiffs to provide an affidavit from a licensed medical professional asserting that the defendant’s actions led to the plaintiff’s injuries. You will almost certainly be required to provide all relevant medical records at some point during the case. If your case goes to trial, the jury may also consider the doctor’s records, any past insurance claims, and statements from staff members present at the time of the alleged injury.
What Should I Expect During My Medical Malpractice Case?
Proving a medical malpractice case is rarely easy. When you make a claim against a doctor, you are questioning their ability to perform their job and continue to care for patients. Further, you are asking the doctor’s insurance company to compensate you for the doctor’s mistake.
The standard of proof for medical malpractice cases is extremely high. In almost all cases the doctor will have medical malpractice insurance to cover any potential lawsuits. The insurance company will hire a lawyer that works exclusively with medical malpractice cases. You can expect this lawyer to have extensive medical malpractice experience and to fight aggressively to defend their client. This is why it is extremely important that you hire an attorney that specializes in medical malpractice.
Is There a Limit to the Amount of Damages I Can Claim?
In some states, the legislature has put limits on the amount of damages that a plaintiff can be awarded. These limits take precedence over any jury award and represent the maximum non-economic damages a plaintiff can receive from a medical malpractice suit. Georgia previously capped these damages at $350,000. However, in 2010, the Georgia legislature deemed these caps as unconstitutional.
Can I Just Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
While a personal injury lawyer may claim to have the qualifications to pursue your medical malpractice case, our personal experience shows that in most cases, a licensed attorney that has extensive experience with medical malpractice cases is better suited for a medical malpractice suit. We have found that medical malpractice cases are typically more complicated and more time consuming than your typical personal injury case. They require expertise in the field and a thorough understanding of the level of proof required to argue a medical malpractice case. A qualified medical malpractice attorney will typically have strong relationships with members of the medical field which will prove vital in litigating your case.
Experience Matters When It Comes to Medical Malpractice
If you think that you may have a medical malpractice suit, an experienced Atlanta lawyer can help you pursue the compensation you deserve. While malpractice suits can be complex and difficult to prove, an experienced attorney can help you understand the best steps moving forward in your case.
When you suffer a medical injury, you want someone you can trust to fight for your rights. At Brauns Law, we believe in treating our clients the way that we would want to be treated. We will handle your case with the personal attention you expect and maintain open communication throughout your case. Contact our offices at (404) 418-8244 or visit our website to request a free case consultation.