Healthcare providers, including doctors, owe their patients a very high duty of care. They are supposed to perform all medical procedures correctly and reasonably under the circumstances and with your best interest forefront in their mind. They are also responsible for properly diagnosing their patients’ conditions and prescribing the appropriate medication in the appropriate amount.
Unfortunately, even good doctors can sometimes make very serious medical mistakes. When that happens, a patient could suffer an illness or injury, and in the worst circumstances, the patient could even die as a direct result of medical malpractice. When any of those situations occur, the patient may be in a position to file a lawsuit against the treating doctor for medical malpractice.
However, before filing a lawsuit in most areas, there are typically some prerequisites that the patient must first satisfy. If the patient passes away prematurely due to medical negligence or medical malpractice, the deceased individual’s surviving loved ones could file a wrongful death claim against the healthcare provider who committed the malpractice or other negligent act.
In cases where medical negligence leads to a serious patient illness, injury, or complications, the patient may be in a position to take legal action against the provider by way of a medical malpractice insurance claim or lawsuit. If you or a person you love has suffered a complication due to a medical error or malpractice, an experienced medical malpractice attorney near you can help.
Your lawyer can first investigate the situation and determine if a malpractice claim might exist under the circumstances. Your lawyer could then work to obtain a certificate of a qualified expert from another healthcare provider. Finally, your lawyer could then work to pursue monetary compensation and damages for everything that you went through because of the medical malpractice incident that occurred.
What Types of Doctor Actions and Inactions Constitute Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice often comes in a variety of different forms. In some instances, medical malpractice occurs when a doctor does something that a hypothetical reasonable doctor would not have done under the same or similar circumstances. At other times, however, medical malpractice takes place when a doctor fails to do something that a reasonable doctor would have done under the circumstances.
While most doctors hold to the standard of care of a reasonable doctor who is acting under the same or similar circumstances, specialists, such as orthopedists, are typically held to a larger, national standard of care. When doctors violate the prevailing standard of care for the jurisdiction in which they practice, they could be deemed responsible for committing one or more acts of medical malpractice.
Some of the most common types of medical malpractice that a doctor might commit include:
- Medical mistakes made during a surgery, injection, or some other type of medical procedure that a doctor performs – When a healthcare provider makes a mistake during a procedure, such as by operating on the incorrect body part, and an injury or illness occurs as a result, the patient could file a legal claim for medical malpractice. In addition, medical malpractice claims can arise when a doctor carelessly leaves a piece of equipment, such as a sponge, syringe, or instrument, inside a patient’s body following surgery (and before the doctor closes up the surgical wound), causing a serious complication.
- Failing to obtain the necessary consent to a medical procedure – For a healthcare provider to perform a surgery or other medical procedure on someone, the provider must first obtain the written consent of the patient. Also, when the doctor goes to perform the procedure, they cannot exceed the scope of the patient’s consent. In other words, the doctor cannot perform a procedure on another body part to which the patient has not consented. If a complication, injury, or illness results, the affected patient could file a claim or lawsuit against the negligent doctor. In some cases, patients are incapacitated and can’t provide written consent to a medical procedure. When that is the case, the patient is required to obtain consent from the legal guardian or representative of the patient.
- Performing an incorrect procedure on the patient – Doctors are also responsible for taking the necessary precautions to ensure that they perform the correct medical procedure on their patient. If they botch a medical procedure, such as by performing a procedure on the incorrect body part, then the doctor likely committed medical malpractice.
- Failing to diagnose the patient’s medical condition or diagnosing it too late – In some instances, doctors fail to do the proper tests, such as imagining studies and biopsies, to diagnose a patient’s medical condition properly. When a healthcare provider fails to diagnose a patient’s medical condition or diagnoses the patient’s medical condition too late, the patient may already be past the point of no return. In other words, it may be too late to remedy the patient’s medical condition, which at that point might be beyond repair. When a complication arises from a doctor’s failure to diagnose or from a late diagnosis of a patient’s medical condition, then the patient could assert a medical malpractice claim or lawsuit against the healthcare provider.
- Failing to prescribe the proper medication(s) to treat a patient’s condition – In addition to actively treating their patients, doctors are responsible for prescribing their patients with the correct medications. When a doctor prescribes a patient the wrong medication or fails to take medication allergies and potential adverse reactions with other prescribed drugs into account, serious injuries and illnesses can result. These complications can also occur when a doctor prescribes the incorrect medication dosage to a patient.
- Failing to ensure that the office and medical facility is clean and properly maintained – Most especially in the age of COVID-19, nothing could be more important than ensuring that doctor offices and medical facilities are clean, sanitized, and properly maintained at all times, for the health and safety of patients. When medical facilities are not properly cleaned and sanitized, bacteria and viruses can spread quickly, affecting patients and making them ill. Therefore, doctors and other healthcare providers are responsible for ensuring that their facilities, including examination tables, common areas (such as waiting rooms), examination instruments, and surgical instruments are safe and clean at all times for the benefit of their patients.
If you or a person you care about has suffered an injury or illness due to medical negligence, an experienced medical malpractice attorney in your area could assist you with fulfilling any affidavit requirement in your jurisdiction and pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit against your doctor. The end goal of any medical malpractice lawsuit is to help you recover the monetary compensation and damages for the injury or illness you suffered due to medical negligence.
Obtaining an Affidavit or Filing a Certificate of Qualified Expert Before Bringing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
In many states throughout the country, injured patients cannot file a lawsuit for negligence or medical malpractice against a doctor or other healthcare provider right away. Instead, the patient must usually satisfy one or more prerequisites before filing this lawsuit.
In many jurisdictions, before filing a complaint against the healthcare provider or contemporaneously with the complaint, the injured patient must file an affidavit or certificate of qualified expert. The medical expert in the case must complete this affidavit.
First of all, the doctor who completes the qualified medical expert affidavit should have the qualifications necessary to allow them to testify in court (such as in a medical malpractice jury trial). In addition, the expert must state (to a reasonable degree of medical probability) that the at-fault healthcare provider committed one or more negligent acts when providing medical treatment to the plaintiff patient.
For example, in some instances, the at-fault doctor may have failed to diagnose the patient’s illness promptly or may have diagnosed the condition too late. At other times, the doctor might have made a serious medical error when performing a procedure, such as an injection or surgery.
In many states, there are time limits that dictate when an expert must file an expert affidavit. The date on which the alleged act of medical malpractice occurred or when the patient first learned about the malpractice determines the filing deadline. These time limits vary from state to state, and an experienced medical malpractice attorney in your area can let you know the time deadline that applies to the facts of your case.
Also, in cases where a new medical malpractice attorney takes over the handling of a case and where they require additional time to become familiar with the matter, the court might grant an extension for filing the expert affidavit with the court.
You and your attorney must file the expert affidavit on time. Otherwise, if the healthcare provider’s attorney files a motion, the court could dismiss the medical malpractice case in its entirety. The same is true if the injured patient goes ahead and files a lawsuit against the at-fault doctor without first fulfilling the expert affidavit requirement.
An experienced medical malpractice lawyer near you can ensure that the certificate of qualified expert is filed with the court on time in your case. Once that requirement is complete, your attorney could file a lawsuit against the negligent healthcare provider on your behalf, seeking the monetary compensation and damages that you deserve.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Against a Negligent Healthcare Provider
Once you file the expert affidavit and complete any other prerequisites that your state prescribes, you could file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a negligent doctor who caused you to suffer an injury or illness. When it comes to filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, the first step is to file the case promptly.
Different states have different time deadlines for filing medical malpractice lawsuits, called statutes of limitation. The purpose of these statutes of limitation is to ensure that memories remain fresh in the minds of witnesses and that evidence does not grow stale over time. The statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases usually begins to run on the date the alleged malpractice occurs. Some jurisdictions have statutes of repose in place that allow for additional time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit if the medical negligence could not have been discovered within the original statute of limitations.
In most states, statutes of limitation are hard-and-fast time deadlines. Therefore, if you do not file your medical malpractice case on time, the law will forever bar you from pursuing monetary compensation for your injuries and damages.
Also, in a medical malpractice lawsuit, the injured patient shoulders the burden of proof as to both fault and damages. Therefore, the qualified expert in your case should demonstrate that your doctor behaved unreasonably, given the circumstances in existence at that time. In addition, the qualified expert must demonstrate that the doctor’s negligent actions or inactions resulted in your injuries, illness, and other damages.
As part of a medical malpractice lawsuit, the injured patient will seek financial relief in the form of damages for the injuries or illnesses they suffered due to the malpractice. Injured patients may be eligible to recover compensation for all past and anticipated medical costs and expenses associated with the malpractice. In addition, if the injured patient had to lose time from work due to their injuries, then the patient could pursue a lost wage claim. Finally, the injured patient could pursue monetary compensation for all of the pain, inconvenience, and suffering that they had to endure due to the medical malpractice.
An experienced medical malpractice lawyer near you can assist you with filing your lawsuit in the court system and pursuing the compensation that you deserve. This can be a complicated process, so you want the best possible legal representation. Do not wait to start this process as soon as you realize you suffered injuries.