Common Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have a medical malpractice claim?
To qualify for a medical malpractice claim, you must prove the following elements in your claim:
- A doctor-patient relationship was established
- The provision of care (diagnosis, treatment, or a failure to treat) fell below the medical standards of care
- There is a clear causal connection between the medical negligence (act or omission) and the harm suffered by the patient
- The harm is quantified as damages (lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, etc.)
How common are surgical errors?
Researchers estimate that one out of every 100,000 surgeries involves a surgical error related to the surgical site. This includes the surgeon operating on the wrong body part, the wrong side of the body, or on the wrong patient. Researchers further estimate that one in every 10,000 surgeries results in a foreign object being left inside the patient after closing. Called “retained objects”, these items include sponges or surgical tools.
How common are medical errors?
In 1999, the Institute of Medicine reported that there were between 44,000 and 98,000 medical error related deaths each year in the U.S. The new BMJ report indicates that these numbers were outdated and limited, with 2013 deaths topping more than 251,000 patients. That accounts for 9.7 percent of all death across the nation. The BMJ report also emphasized the startling number of deaths related to medical errors among Medicare recipients, including the following:
- In 2004, the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research Patient Safety Indicators estimated 575,000 deaths related to medical errors among Medicare recipients.
- In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General estimated 180,000 deaths related to medical errors among Medicare beneficiaries.
- Using 2013 hospital admission records, it could be estimated that 400,000 deaths occur each year among Medicare beneficiaries due to medical errors.
How often does medical malpractice occur?
Medical malpractice occurs far more frequently than most people would like to know. The American Medical Association estimates that around 251,000 people die each year in the U.S. as a result of medical malpractice. Hundreds of thousands more are injured or impacted in some way. Medical malpractice claims are estimated to payout at a startling rate of one payout every 43 minutes.
What do I have to do to prove medical negligence occurred?
To prove your medical negligence case, it can be helpful to remember the following:
- Keep, or obtain, copies of all medical records, including: Diagnoses, treatment, visit summaries, laboratory results, radiology results, etc.
- Keep copies of any communications between you and your healthcare provider or office staff.
- Take photographs of your injuries as soon as possible. Document visible changes before or after treatment.
- Make copies of any communications between you and your insurance companies. Never agree to any settlement without talking to your attorney first.
- Keep copies of any billing statements, invoices, or payments you have made related to your care.
Who is responsible for preventing medical errors?
No one is exempt from making mistakes, but the code of ethics of healthcare providers requires them to pursue excellence and adherence to medical standards. The American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics stated that healthcare providers must “strive to ensure patient safety and should play a central role in identifying, reducing, and preventing healthcare errors”. Currently, most healthcare providers and hospitals are not required to report medical errors or mistakes, which makes accountability difficult.
How do you prevail in a medical malpractice case?
The laws surrounding medical malpractice are quite complex, and it is important to work with a law firm that knows how to handle this complicated area of the law. In order to be successful in a medical malpractice case, it is necessary to prove that the medical provider or facility acted negligently in the treatment provided to the patient. In order to prove that they were negligent, we must show that there was a duty owed to the patient, that the particular duty was breached, that the breach in the standard of care was the proximate cause of the injuries, and that there are damages associated with the negligent act.
What does “standard of care” mean?
Simply put, the standard of care is the type of skill and care ordinarily used by a reasonably well-qualified healthcare professional in the same or similar situation. While state law typically determines how negligence is defined, the medical community defines the applicable standard of care. Healthcare professionals are expected to possess and apply their education, training, knowledge, experience, and skill in a manner that would generally be expected by other healthcare professionals in their field and community.
I signed a consent form prior to my procedure. Have I waived my legal rights?
No, you have not waived your legal rights. By signing the consent form you acknowledged your understanding that there are certain known risks associated with the procedure or treatment. You are not consenting to treatment that falls below the standard of care accepted by the medical community. If the treatment that you received falls below that standard of care, then the healthcare professional or facility may have acted negligently.
What happens after the lawsuit is filed?
Discovery takes place. During discovery, your attorneys will review the medical records, timelines, photos, and any additional documents in order to assess the case strengths and weaknesses. They will also communicate with opposing counsel, draft legal motions, take necessary depositions, consult with expert witnesses, and possibly go to mediation all in an attempt to reach an acceptable settlement agreement. If a settlement agreement is not reached, then they will prepare to go to trial.
How long will it take to obtain a recovery in my case?
There is no set timeframe as the amount of time that it will take to obtain a recovery will vary based upon a number of factors. Please be aware that pursuing a medical malpractice claim takes time and it will not happen overnight.
I’ve already pursued a claim in the past and received a recovery. Can I reopen my case with your firm?
Unfortunately, if you have already received a recovery in your case, we will not be able to help you reopen your case in order to seek more money for damages.
I already have an attorney. Can I use your firm instead?
If you receive a letter from your other attorney indicating that they are no longer pursuing a claim on your behalf, then we would be happy to discuss the potential merits of your case with you.
How much time do I have to pursue a medical malpractice claim?
The amount of time that you have to pursue a claim is known as the “statute of limitations.” The statute of limitations is a set time limit, as determined by state laws, to file a medical malpractice claim. This time limit varies by state, and sometimes by facility. Time is of the essence, so contact a medical malpractice attorney immediately if you believe that you have suffered at the hands of a negligent healthcare professional or facility.
What can I do to prevent my family from being the victims of medical malpractice?
Be an active consumer and research your medical providers and facilities. Talk to your friends, family members, and acquaintances, and also ask for referrals from reliable sources. You can also research your providers and facilities online.