Suing a doctor for malpractice requires a heavy burden of proof. First, you must gather evidence to show that your doctor acted negligently. Then, you must file your case, conduct negotiations with insurance carriers, and adhere to other protocols.
Medical malpractice claims are complex and can involve more than one responsible party. A medical malpractice attorney can navigate the claims process so you can focus on healing.
You Must Show That Your Doctor Breached Their Field’s Standard of Care
When you go to a healthcare practitioner, you trust that they will diagnose and treat your condition in accordance with their field’s standard of care. While the standard of care differs between fields of medicine, each area of medicine has established diagnostic and treatment methods.
A doctor can fail in their duty of care by taking the wrong action or by failing to act. For example, a doctor who ignores a patient’s symptoms and fails to treat an illness could be considered negligent if the patient’s condition does not improve or gets worse. Similarly, if a doctor treats a patient for the wrong illness, and the patient gets sicker, they could be guilty of malpractice.
Suing a Doctor Requires Evidence
In a medical malpractice lawsuit, you must prove that your doctor did not adhere to their field’s standard of care. You must also show that the alleged malpractice caused you to suffer financial, physical, or psychological losses.
A medical malpractice lawyer can use the following information to supplement your case:
Expert testimony is often a cornerstone of medical malpractice lawsuits. Your attorney may hire a doctor or another medical expert who understands the standards, requirements, and duties in the negligent doctor’s particular field. The expert can explain whether your doctor’s methods, treatments, and behaviors followed their field’s standard of care.
A Second Opinion
In addition to expert testimony, your attorney may recommend that you secure a second opinion from a doctor in the same field. Like expert testimony, a second opinion establishes how your first doctor violated their field’s standard of care.
Your Medical Records
Medical records provide a paper trail to show how your doctor’s treatment differed from their acceptable standard of care. They also provide proof of any additional treatments you underwent due to the doctor’s mistake.
For example, if you visited the hospital following your doctor’s treatment, your medical records can show how an error led to your admission.
Medical records may come from multiple places, including your primary care physician, a specialist, a surgeon, a hospital, an emergency room, a physiotherapist, and/or a psychological therapist.
Hospital and Medical Bills
A medical malpractice lawsuit intends to recover the expenses you incurred due to the doctor’s mistake. Bills and invoices from hospital stays, emergency room visits, medical treatments, and assistive devices can verify your losses’ value.
If you underwent surgery due to a doctor’s error, surgical records can help substantiate your claim.
For instance, if the surgeon removed the wrong tissue, organ, or body part, you could seek compensation for the additional surgery necessary to correct the mistake, as well as losses you sustained because of the initial error.
Medication and Prescription Records
Medication errors are among the leading causes of medical malpractice. If you became ill or injured because of such an error, copies of your prescription records, dosage instructions, and hospital charts can support your claim for compensation.
Witness testimony from co-workers, employees, employers and others who work with or for your doctor can further bolster your claim. Your attorney can use witness statements to establish a pattern of behavior and support your own testimony.
Types of Medical Malpractice for Which You Could Sue a Doctor
The evidence you need to prove negligence in a medical setting depends on many factors, including the extent of your injuries. Some forms of medical malpractice that could warrant litigation include:
Misdiagnosing a Condition
Every medical field has different diagnostic criteria. A urologist will have different testing methods relating to their specialty than an oncologist, for example. However, within these parameters, your doctor must still use appropriate testing methods to determine the extent of your injury or illness. If they disregard symptoms or fail to conduct appropriate diagnostics, your condition could worsen. This could make them negligent and responsible for your losses.
Failing to Diagnose a Serious Health Condition
Proper diagnosis depends on a doctor’s ability and willingness to listen to their patients. All too often, doctors in a hurry fail to see critical signs and symptoms. By overlooking important details, they may fail to diagnose a condition, which can become more difficult to treat later. In some cases, an undiagnosed condition may become untreatable over time.
Cancer is among the leading misdiagnosed conditions. While these conditions can be difficult to identify, healthcare providers must still diagnose them accurately.
Perhaps a patient visits the doctor repeatedly for gastrointestinal discomfort. Rather than conducting diagnostic or imaging tests, the doctor simply prescribes antacids. One year later, the patient receives a stage 4 cancer diagnosis resulting in pain, discomfort, and financial losses. Here, because the doctor misdiagnosed their condition, the patient could have grounds for a lawsuit.
Making a Medication Error
When you undergo treatment, a doctor must evaluate your medical history, including whether you are allergic or sensitive to specific medications. This information remains in your medical record, so the doctor or nurse treating you does not prescribe or administer medication that could make you ill.
You could sue your doctor for medical malpractice related to a medication error if:
- Your doctor prescribed or administered the wrong medication for your condition.
- Your doctor prescribed or administered medication to which you were allergic.
- Your doctor prescribed a medication that negatively interacted with other medications you took.
- Your doctor prescribed or administered the wrong medication dosage.
- Your doctor prescribed the wrong drug form or administration method, such as injections instead of oral tablets.
- Your doctor did not prescribe the necessary medication for your condition.
Rendering the Wrong Treatment for a Diagnosed Condition
Different conditions require different treatments. For example, treatment that works for a sprained ankle will not work for a damaged kidney.
When you go to the doctor, you expect them to provide treatment appropriate for your ailment. If the doctor’s treatment methods fail to address your condition, your health could deteriorate. Worse, the wrong treatment could also injure you in different ways, compounding your health issues.
If, for instance, your doctor prescribes medication for a condition that requires surgical intervention, your condition could worsen because the treatment is wrong. The unnecessary medication could also make you ill while still failing to treat or cure your initial health problem.
Acting Outside of Their Area of Expertise
Because of the many ailments a person can experience, doctors often specialize in specific practice areas. Most doctors understand that they do not have expertise in all areas of medicine. Rather than trying to diagnose or treat a condition outside their area of knowledge, a good doctor will refer you to a specialist for appropriate care.
If your doctor failed to provide adequate treatment, or if they failed to promptly refer you to a specialist, they could be liable for malpractice.
Continuing Ineffective or Harmful Treatment
If your doctor attempts to treat your condition, but the treatment fails to improve your condition, they have a duty to discontinue treatment and seek alternative methods. Similarly, if the treatment creates significant health issues that compromise your quality of life, they have a duty to discontinue or adjust treatment methods.
You should always feel that you can trust your doctor to act in your best interests. If your doctor continued with the same treatment after discovering that the treatment was ineffective or harmful, the law could view them as negligent.
Making a Surgical Error
Surgical errors can occur when a surgeon rushes. They can also happen when a doctor does not respond appropriately to a certain complication.
Some common surgical errors occur when:
- Anesthesiologists inappropriately administer anesthesia.
- A healthcare provider doesn’t properly sanitize surgical tools and equipment.
- The surgeon and attendants use inadequate safety equipment, including masks, gloves, and gowns.
- The surgeon performs the incorrect surgical procedure.
- The surgeon performs surgery on the wrong body part.
- The surgeon leaves surgical tools or other materials inside the patient’s body.
If errors occur during a surgical procedure, you may wake up to find that you must undergo surgery all over again. Not only is this stressful, expensive, and time-consuming, but repeated surgeries can affect your physical and mental health.
Steps to Take When Suing Your Doctor for Malpractice
If you suffered complications due to a doctor’s negligent or careless behavior, you could recover compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit. Here are some considerations that could bolster your case’s outcome:
Keep All Confidential Information Between You and Your Legal Team
Despite your frustration following the medical error, it is important to avoid telling your doctor you plan to sue them. This could prompt them to destroy evidence that could have benefited your case. They could also pressure you into dropping the case, complicating matters further.
Only you and your lawyer need to know about your legal matters. They can notify the involved parties of their role in your upcoming case and what that means.
Request Your Medical Records
Ask for copies of your medical records from all the doctors you see for your condition. Depending on the extent and severity of your condition, you could have records with multiple medical facilities, including your surgical office, hospital, emergency room, and/or pharmacy.
An attorney who handles cases like yours can help you locate all your medical records. Then, they can use these items to support your case.
Document All Discussions About Your Medical Condition
Most doctors maintain records of all correspondence and discussions regarding patients’ conditions. However, some details get overlooked, so it is important to write down the details of your medical discussions, including the dates and times of these discussions, the symptoms you discussed, and other information. Be sure to note any discussions with the nurses and office staff, as well.
Keep a Journal of Your Medical Issues, Symptoms, and Quality of Life
In addition to documenting your correspondence and appointments, keep a log of the ways your medical condition affects your daily life. Detail any new and existing medical conditions and symptoms. Explain how they affect your daily activities and quality of life. Include the dates, times, duration, and other details that can establish the severity of your injury or illness.
Consider Contacting a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Before you speak with anyone regarding your medical malpractice case, you should consider discussing your case with a medical malpractice attorney. They can explain your legal right to compensation and advocate for what you need.
How a Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help Sue Your Doctor
When you appoint a lawyer, It has to be a loyal advocate who can defend your legal rights in negotiations and in the courtroom.
A medical malpractice lawyer can:
- Gather evidence of medical malpractice
- Hire medical experts to examine your case
- Determine the value of your losses due to the malpractice
- Handle negotiations with your doctor and their malpractice insurance provider
- File a medical malpractice lawsuit against the appropriate parties
- Defend your legal rights during a medical malpractice trial
Many Medical Malpractice Lawyers Work on Contingency
You already have enough damages after suffering medical malpractice. You shouldn’t have to fret about attorney’s fees, too. That’s why many injury lawyers work on contingency, meaning they don’t charge upfront fees or costs to get started on your case. You pay nothing until your case ends. This arrangement could make it financially feasible to hold a negligent healthcare professional responsible for your losses.
You have legal rights after suffering injuries. If you have more questions about suing a doctor for malpractice, consult with a lawyer in Augusta. They can explain your next steps and case’s possible filing deadline.