Frequently Asked Questions
If you or someone you love is suffering from an injury due to healthcare negligence, you likely have many questions about your situation, your legal rights, and possible options you may have to pursue justice. At MedMalFirm.com, we can help you find answers to your questions. See below for some of the most frequently asked questions that our team receives. As always, if you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Medical Malpractice FAQs
What is medical malpractice or negligence?
Medical malpractice or medical negligence is the failure of a healthcare provider or facility to meet a certain standard of care as determined by the medical community. Medical negligence can take place in hospitals, doctors’ offices, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, pharmacies, or other healthcare facilities. Medical facilities and providers are expected to provide a certain standard of care in relation to procedures, techniques, treatment, and principles. If they breach this standard then they may be negligent.
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.
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and 98,000 medical error related deaths each year in the U.S. The new BMJ report indicates that these numbers were outdated and limited, with 2013 deaths topping more than 251,000 patients.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.
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.
Can I sue a VA hospital for medical malpractice?
If you have been injured while under the care of a VA hospital or doctor, you can file a lawsuit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).
What is the Feres doctrine?
The Feres doctrine is a precedent law stating that under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) military personnel and their families cannot sue the U.S. federal government or employees thereof for injuries sustained during military service. Speak with a VA claims lawyer to learn more about your options.
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.
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 acknowledge 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 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.
What should I do if I believe that a family member or I have been a victim of medical malpractice?
You should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney immediately as there are certain time limitations that may bar you from pursuing a claim if you wait too long.
What should I do if I believe that I have been the victim of medical negligence?
Contact MedMalFirm.com today for a free and confidential consultation with one of our trained staff. The signs of medical malpractice or negligence may vary, so it is important to speak with a skilled lawyer to find out more.
Birth Injury FAQs
What is a birth injury?
A birth injury is damage to a child that is typically caused during the birthing process and may have resulted from negligence. In many instances, birth injuries can be completely preventable.
What are the most common types of birth injuries?
Common types of birth injuries include:
Cerebral palsy, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), brachial plexus injury, Erb’s palsy, skull injuries, brain injuries, nerve damage, internal organ damage, cephalohematoma, Caput Succedaneum, brain bleed or hemorrhaging, spinal cord injuries, facial paralysis, and more.
What are common causes of birth injuries?
- Improper use of birth-assisting devices or tools, such as a vacuum or forceps.
- Pulling and/or twisting the infant improperly during the birthing process. This may lead to a broken bone or possibly even a Brachial Plexus injury.
- Failure to properly monitor the infant or the mother during the labor and delivery process, including failure to regularly monitor fetal heart rate.
- Administering the wrong amount or type of medication during pregnancy or labor and delivery.
- Failure to schedule and perform an emergency C-section
- Acceleration and stimulation during the birthing process
What kinds of situations lead to a birth injury lawsuit?
If a physician or other medical professional fails to adequately assess or respond to conditions during pregnancy or the labor and delivery process that lead to complications, they may be liable for medical negligence.
Can cerebral palsy be treated?
Treating cerebral palsy is considered a complex process. There is no standard or “cookie-cutter” method for treating cerebral palsy. Instead, most healthcare providers will address treatment based on the individual symptoms and overall health of your child. Most healthcare providers agree that the focus of cerebral palsy treatment plans is to maximize mobility, learning potential, independence, and overall quality of life. Many children with cerebral palsy live relatively normal lives enjoying school, family, and social activities.
What are the symptoms of cerebral palsy?
Depending on the cause and severity, the symptoms of cerebral palsy may vary. The most common symptoms include stiffness, tightness, or spastic movement of the arms or legs. In more severe cases, the child may have limited mobility in crawling or reaching, or may have difficulty lifting his or her head without support.
There are also intellectual symptoms related to cerebral palsy, such as missed cognitive milestones, below average IQ, and behavioral problems. Some children with cerebral palsy also experience developmental delays.
Nursing Home Abuse FAQs
What is nursing home abuse?
Nearly two million Americans live in long-term care facilities, and abuse and neglect pose serious problems to our elderly population. Nursing home abuse may occur when a patient-resident does not receive proper medical, physical, or emotional care at a nursing home. Different types of nursing home abuse include physical, sexual, emotional, financial, or even neglect.
How common is nursing home abuse?
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, the most recent major study showed that 7.6% to 10% of study participants experienced abuse in the prior year. According to a study conducted between 1999 and 2001, the numbers reported indicated that almost 1/3 of nursing homes in the U.S. were cited for an abuse violation during that time.
Why does nursing home abuse occur?
When we make the decision to place our family members in nursing homes it is not something that we do lightly. In an ideal world, our family members would feel safe, loved, and cared for in a nursing home. Unfortunately, that is not always the reality. Nursing home abuse and elder neglect continue to be a problem in our society, and it is likely due to a facility’s lack of resources and time, insufficient funding, inadequate training, improper screening of prospective employees, and lack of checks and balances to assure the safety of residents.
Are nursing homes really safe?
Deciding to place a family member in a nursing home can be a difficult choice to make. We want what is best for our loved ones, and sometimes placing them in a nursing home is our only option. That is why it is important to conduct thorough research on nursing homes and facilities as some provide greater quality of care, supervision, and dedication. Nursing homes are not always unsafe, but you must regularly monitor the treatment of care that your loved one is receiving.
How can I ensure my loved one is properly cared for?
The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care offers the following advice for families and caregivers:
- Make Unannounced Visits: One of the best ways for you to determine if something is amiss at your loved one’s nursing home residence is by making unannounced visits. Visit at different times of day, different days of the week, and at different intervals. This will give you a good idea of staffing and will provide a varied look at your loved one’s mental and physical wellbeing.
- Report Problems Immediately: If you have concerns about your loved one’s care, don’t delay in reporting problems to nursing home staff or administrators. Document your concerns, and if no action is taken, send documentation to supervisors in writing, and request a meeting in person.
- Get Outside Help: After addressing your concerns to staff and supervisors or administrators, if you feel like nothing is being done, it is time to seek outside help. Contact a local advocacy group, Ombudsman, or Adult Protective Services (APS) and file a report or complaint about your concerns.
How common are bedsores?
According to the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research, bedsores affect as many as 2.5 million patients every year. Of those, around 60,000 patients die every year as a direct result of bedsores or related complications.
Where are bedsores most likely to develop?
Bedsores most commonly develop on bony prominences of the body, or areas that are in consistent contact with a bed or chair. Examples include heels, elbows, tailbone, shoulder blades, and the back of the head.
What are the stages of bedsores?
Bedsores are given a “stage” based on the symptoms and severity of the wound. These stages include:
- Stage 1 – In stage 1 the skin will look discolored or red. The skin is not broken, but may be tender. You will notice that the discoloration does not change or fade once the pressure has been removed.
- Stage 2 – Stage 2 bedsores can be identified by a shallow open sore on the very top layer of the skin. While there may be some slight drainage, it is not present in all stage 2 bedsore cases.
- Stage 3 – As in stage 2, stage 3 bedsores are identifiable by the open sore that is present at the pressure site. Stage 3 bedsores are much deeper than that which you would see in stage 2 bedsores reaching the second layer of skin and into the fatty tissues beneath it.
- Stage 4 – Stage 4 bedsores are the most severe and often require surgery. The breakdown of tissue will extend down to the muscle or even the bone. There will be a lot of dead tissue and fluid present.
What are the responsibilities of nursing homes toward my loved one?
Nursing homes are required to provide a “standard of care” that promotes safe, healthy, ethical living standards for residents. That includes supporting a safe environment, hiring staff members who have a clear criminal record, providing medical and medication support, providing healthy meals, and offering social activities and access to physical exercise. When choosing a nursing home, look for facilities with a good track record for cleanliness, safety, health, and proper staffing.
What are the signs of nursing home abuse?
Nursing home abuse or neglect can include numerous physical and emotional signs and symptoms. Some of the most common signs of abuse include:
- Physical abuse: Keep an eye out for unexplained bruising, broken bones, burns, pressure sores, or neglected hygiene
- Emotional abuse: Sudden changes in mood, increased anxiety or depression, withdrawing from social and family activities, and fearful behaviors may all be indicators of a problem
- Sexual abuse: Signs of sexual abuse may include physical and emotional indicators, along with genital or anal pain or bleeding, or the presence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Financial abuse: Financial exploitation of the elderly is a significant problem in the U.S. Signs of financial abuse include unexplained discrepancies in financial records, sudden changes in named beneficiaries, missing property, uncharacteristic spending
What should I do if I believe a loved one is being abused or neglected by a nursing home?
If you suspect that your loved one is being abused or neglected by nursing home staff members, there are several options to open an investigation. First, if there are physical signs of abuse or neglect, you can always call 911. Most jurisdictions also have a specific organization designed to handle elder abuse cases, known as Adult Protective Services (APS). In addition to these actions, it is also recommended that you consult with an attorney who is skilled in elder abuse and nursing home laws.
I’ve never contacted a law firm before. Is this really what I should be doing?
Only you can answer that, but it does not hurt to talk about your concerns and potential medical negligence claim. Any information that you provide us during your initial consultation will remain confidential. The worst that can happen is that we explain that we cannot proceed with a claim at this time.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
How much do I have to pay for the initial consultation?
The initial consultation with our intake team and/or attorneys is free. You will incur no costs.
Is our initial consultation confidential?
Yes. Your initial consultation is completely confidential. It may be necessary for our intake team, staff, associates, and partners to discuss certain parts of your potential claim, but the information will remain within our firm. If we believe that we need to consult with a medical professional or a consultant outside of the firm, we will make sure that all of your information remains confidential.
How much will the prosecution of the case cost me?
MedMalFirm.com Law Firm works on a contingency fee basis. This means that if we are able to make a recovery on your behalf, we will take a percentage of the recovery to cover our legal fees, plus any expenses that we may have incurred. If a recovery is not made, however, you will owe nothing to the firm. We understand that worrying about the cost of litigation should not be a burden for you during this trying time. We want this process to be as easy and stress-free as it possibly can be.
How should I prepare for the consultation?
While there is no specific list of information required during the consultation, the more information you can provide up front, the easier it will be for our staff to assess your case and get additional information. Information that is helpful during the initial consultation includes the contact information of the nursing home and relevant staff, dates and times any injuries occurred or were noticed, medical records, the individual’s will and power of attorney, relevant photographs, and any information you feel is pertinent to the case.
What information do I need to provide during the initial consultation?
Ideally, it would be helpful if you can provide your contact information, date of incident or injury, list of family members, name of facility or facilities that may have been involved in the claim, a brief description of your healthcare-related concern, and any documents, photos, or records that you believe may assist our team with their evaluation of your case.
What other information should I try and prepare for the consultation?
Come as prepared as possible to the initial consultation. It would be a good idea to have the following information ready to go during your conversation with one of our attorneys or intake case managers:
- Up-to-date contact information;
- Information about Power of Attorney, guardianship, and wills, if applicable;
- Name of the facility or medical professional that treated you;
- Relevant dates of treatment;
- Prior medical history;
- Current condition;
- Work history;
- Any other relevant information that you can think of.
What can I expect from the initial consultation?
During your initial consultation with one of our trained staff, you will discuss the important facts related to your potential claim. We understand that it may be difficult for you to discuss your situation, so we will be patient and listen attentively. Our goal is to be here for you and your family during this difficult time.
Should I contact an attorney if I suspect nursing home abuse?
Yes. If you suspect nursing home abuse, it is extremely important that you contact an attorney who specializes in nursing home abuse. Every state has specific guidelines concerning elder abuse, along with laws and regulations for nursing homes. Contacting an attorney is the best way to be certain that the rights of you and your loved ones are protected and properly defended.
How much does a nursing home abuse claim cost?
The exact cost of any legal case is difficult to ascertain in advance. For this reason, our office operates on a contingency fee basis and offers free initial consultations. The cost of protecting your loved one and family should not be your primary concern.
What can I expect when I have an initial consultation with a nursing home abuse law firm?
When you have an initial consultation, you can expect to speak with a caring staff member who will listen to your concerns and offer initial guidance. Our staff offers gentle, compassionate support for you and your loved ones, and is well aware of how difficult these cases can be.
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 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.
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.
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.