Whether you have a medical malpractice case depends on your situation. There are many things that go into building a successful claim or lawsuit, including the information to support it. Basically, you must show that because a healthcare provider failed to render appropriate treatment, you suffered otherwise avoidable injuries.
Medical malpractice cases are admittedly difficult to pursue. That’s why many injured claimants choose to consult with a personal injury lawyer. When you partner with a legal professional, they can prove your case’s required elements and advocate for the compensation you need.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Discerning whether you have a viable medical malpractice case means understanding what medical malpractice is. Medical malpractice is a negligent act or omission by a healthcare professional that harms a patient.
The keyword in the definition of malpractice is negligent. Negligence constitutes any action or inaction that falls outside of a healthcare provider’s accepted standard of care. If a healthcare provider knows or should know about a possible complication, they must do everything in their power to mitigate it.
Medical Negligence Is Not Always Clear
Fault isn’t always clear when a medical professional makes an error. That’s why your lawyer may consult with third-party field consultants to learn more about the incident that hurt you. For instance, suppose your doctor mistreated your condition, and you now have stage four cancer.
In that instance, you would argue that because your healthcare provider did not properly diagnose and treat your condition, you now face various hardships. You can learn more about this process when you hire an injury lawyer who manages medical malpractice cases.
What Are the Requirements for Filing a Medical Malpractice Case?
Proving medical negligence is much like proving negligence in other personal injury cases. A successful case depends on your ability to establish the four elements of negligence, which include:
A Doctor-Patient Relationship Existed
First, you must prove that the doctor owed you a duty of care. You must show that they were responsible for providing proper healthcare. Generally, you can demonstrate this element by showing that a doctor-patient relationship existed. As your medical care provider, your doctor is inherently responsible for providing a certain level of care.
The Medical Provider Violated Their Field’s Standard of Care
Next, you must prove that your treating physician failed to uphold their field’s standard of care. For example, an anesthesiologist who administers too much anesthesia violates their standard of care. It is an anesthesiologist’s job to actively monitor a patient’s heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure throughout surgery. Failure breaches their duty of care and could make them guilty of medical malpractice.
The Doctor’s Actions or Lack Thereof Led to Your Injury
Then, you must illustrate that the medical care you received caused your injury or illness. The law requires you to show that if not for the actions of the healthcare professional, you would not have suffered harm. For instance, in the previous example, you would show that the anesthesia error led to your condition.
You Suffered Measurable Harm
Finally, a viable medical negligence case must show that you suffered quantifiable harm. The harm can be physical, emotional, or financial in nature. To show that the medical error harmed you, witness testimony, photos of your injury, and other documentation can satisfy this element.
What Are the Filing Requirements for Medical Malpractice Cases?
Medical negligence cases involve complex rules and strict filing procedures, many of which are difficult for laypeople to understand. These procedures require in-depth knowledge of medical malpractice laws and access to medical experts and related resources.
In most states, medical malpractice cases do not begin as lawsuits. Many states require you to file a complaint with a government agency and pursue your claim through arbitration before allowing you to file a lawsuit.
Upon filing your initial claim for medical malpractice, most states require you to submit a letter from a qualified expert in the same or similar field as the defendant. The letter should state that the doctor in your case violated their standard of care and caused or contributed to your condition. This is usually called an affidavit of merit or a certificate of merit.
If the medical expert attests that medical negligence took place, your case can move forward. If you cannot find a qualified expert to substantiate your claim, your case may not progress. However, your state may have exceptions that otherwise allow you to act.
The Deadlines for Filing a Medical Malpractice Case
Medical malpractice is a type of personal injury law. The statute of limitations for these cases depends on your state. Generally, you have one to five years to sue. Your filing period begins from the date of the medical error or when you discovered it. However, some circumstances may also affect your filing period.
The medical malpractice statute of limitations does not apply to injured minors until they reach a certain age. While the states may provide an extension, there is usually a cap on the timeframe for any medical malpractice case, whether the patient had recently discovered the injury or not.
What Evidence Could Support a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
A medical malpractice lawyer may gather the following information to support your case:
- A certificate of merit: As previously mentioned, this letter will come from a medical expert who affirms that your care did not meet the medical standard. The state may also ask that this professional testify on your behalf in court.
- Your medical records. This documentation details your original injury or illness, the care you received, the additional injuries or illness that followed your care, and the treatments you received for the new injuries or illness. You want to paint a complete picture of what happened and what you experienced.
- Medical bills. Your lawyer can use your injury-related bills, receipts, and invoices to attest to the cost of your necessary medical care.
- Records of disciplinary action. The negligent care provider in your case may have a history of rendering inadequate treatment. If so, we can use any information about previous errors to support your claim.
- The medical professional’s employment history: A look at the medical provider’s employment history can supply key insight into their treatment decisions.
- Testimony from third parties. Testimony may include complaints from previous patients, families, or co-workers about the medical care provider’s words, conduct, or provide treatments.
- Eyewitness testimonies from medical personnel, family, or friends who were present at the time of your treatment or afterward. People you know closely or interact with regularly could offer testimony about your life since receiving substandard medical care.
- Expert testimony. Testimony can include comments from healthcare professionals, such as physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists, or other relevant specialists. A lawyer may also seek the testimony of experts in other fields that relate to your case, such as life-care planners, cognitive development experts, financial experts, psychologists, or mental health experts.
- Photos and videos. These items can show your injuries or your physical state after contracting an illness.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of supporting evidence that could bolster your case’s outcome. When you partner with a lawyer, they may use other forms of information that could yield compensation.
Compensable Damages You Can Recover in a Medical Negligence Case
To recover compensation in a medical malpractice claim, you must have suffered damages to your physical or mental state, both of which could result in financial costs. The law allows you to collect compensation for these losses from the negligent party. You can seek economic and non-economic losses in a malpractice claim.
Your economic losses include any financial losses stemming from your health condition. Additional time at the hospital, extra surgical procedures, and lost income are all economic losses.
You could recover compensation for:
- Present and future medical bills, including surgeries, hospital stays, lab tests, and visits to your primary care physician
- Prescription medications
- Assistive technologies, such as wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches
- Physical rehabilitation
- Occupational therapy
- Mental health counseling
- Lost income
- Diminished ability to earn income
- Travel costs
- Replacement services
- Permanent or temporary disability
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Reduced quality of life
- Lost enjoyment of activities
- Emotional distress
You may have other types of compensable losses if your loved one passed away following medical malpractice. Through a wrongful death action, you could recover funeral costs, burial fees, and other related expenses.
How Much Could I Recover Through a Medical Malpractice Case?
How much you can recover for your injury-related losses depends on many things, including:
- The injury you suffered
- Whether the error will result in your passing
- Whether you lost a loved one
- Your physical pain and emotional suffering
- The error’s degree
- The liable insurance policy
- Whether you have any pre-existing health conditions
When you partner with an injury lawyer, they can evaluate your losses and seek that amount from the liable party.
Who Can I Hold Liable in a Medical Malpractice Case?
Many medical doctors and healthcare facilities have general liability insurance. Insurance usually covers the most common types of medical errors, including birth injuries, misdiagnosis, anesthesia errors, prescription drug errors, and surgical errors. Yet, if an insurance settlement does not yield a favorable outcome, you could file a lawsuit against the at-fault party.
The at-fault party in your medical malpractice case may include:
- The primary healthcare professional who treated you
- Nurses or technicians
- The medical facility where you received care
In most cases, the medical facility’s insurance will cover the errors that its staff members make. Yet, if the medical professional is an independent contractor, they may have their own insurance coverage.
A Healthcare Facility Could Share Liability for Your Losses
You can hold hospitals and other medical facilities liable for medical malpractice committed by staff members in cases of:
- Vicarious liability: Most medical negligence cases unfold under vicarious liability law. Employers are generally responsible for the actions of their employees while on the job. When healthcare practitioners make medical errors, they are always on the clock, so the hospital’s insurance may cover most situations. Whether a nurse or a doctor is the subject of the medical malpractice claim, the hospital could also bear liability.
- Direct negligence: There are cases where the medical facility directly hurts a patient. When the facility makes an error that allows the medical malpractice to occur, the medical facility is negligent. For example, many hospitals suffer from understaffing. If a patient suffered injuries because of understaffing, the hospital could be at fault.
If You Have a Viable Medical Malpractice Case, You Can Secure Damages
Even though medical malpractice cases can get complicated, they are possible to win. If you suffered injuries due to a doctor’s negligence, you could pursue compensation. A medical malpractice attorney can determine whether you have a medical malpractice case and seek justice for you if you do.