Understandably, medical professionals are human and mistakes can happen. However, when negligence or incompetence results in harm to a patient, it's important to consider pursuing a medical malpractice claim against a such healthcare provider or facility.
The reason is not far-fetched - medical malpractice is a serious issue that can have devastating consequences for patients and their families. Each year, around 15,000 to 18,000 medical malpractice suits are filed against medical professionals for malpractice or negligence.
Knowing what medical malpractice entails and the red flags can help you determine if you or a loved one may have a potential claim.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider deviates from the accepted standard of care and causes harm to a patient. This includes medical errors in diagnosis, after-medical care, health management, or improper treatment.
Negligence is often at the root of medical malpractice and could indicate a healthcare provider's lack of knowledge or skills.
As a matter of fact, medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer. Therefore, this shows the gravity and prevalence of the issue and why it cannot be overlooked.
What You Need to Show to Prove Medical Malpractice
As we have already discussed medical malpractice, it is essential to understand what it takes to prove a claim of medical malpractice. Generally, there are four elements needed to prove medical malpractice. These are:
- The existence of a duty of care
- A breach of the duty or standard of care
- The breach of duty resulted in harm or injury
- The harm or injury resulted in specific damages
These elements are discussed below:
The Existence of a Duty of Care
A healthcare provider has to provide care that meets the accepted standards within their profession. This means they must have the appropriate knowledge, skills, and care for their patients as any reasonably competent healthcare provider in the same field would.
It should be noted that a physician-patient relationship must be established for a duty of care to exist.
A Breach of the Duty or Standard of Care
This is where negligence or incompetence on the part of the healthcare provider occurs or where a healthcare provider deviates from the applicable standard of care. This could be an error in medical treatment, misdiagnosis, or failure to diagnose.
The standard of care can vary by location and specific circumstances. Still, it is typically what a reasonably skilled and competent healthcare provider in the same field would do under the same or similar circumstances. As such, a medical standard is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Harm or Injury
The harm or injury must have been directly caused by the breach of duty and not any other external factors, such as a pre-existing condition. This harm can be physical, emotional, or financial in nature.
Whichever the case, it must be proven that it would not have occurred but for the breach of duty.
The harm or injury must have caused specific damages, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of income, extra medical costs, or even death.
Usually, to establish all these elements, an experienced attorney or a personal injury attorney would have to determine whether the medical provider gave proper care or substandard treatment by the legal standard as contained under medical malpractice law. They may need medical experts with extensive knowledge to give expert testimony on the breach of the doctor's duty or strong evidence of negligence and the actual damages suffered by the injured party.
In some instances, where there is strong evidence of medical mistake or negligence, or institutional error of the healthcare facility responsible for the damage to the injured patient, attempts are made to resolve the dispute out of court through a fair settlement.
Whatever the case, make sure you first seek legal consultation from an attorney who understands the legal process.
What to Do If You Suspect That you've Been Affected by Medical Negligence
It is essential to first consult with a medical malpractice attorney who is experienced in handling these types of cases. They can review the specifics of your situation and advise you on whether or not you have a potential claim.
Additionally, some red flags may signal a possible case of medical negligence. These include:
- A sudden and unexpected change in your condition after a procedure or treatment. If your medical condition unexpectedly worsens or you experience new symptoms, it may be worth looking into whether medical negligence played a role.
- Diagnostic errors and delays in diagnosis can result in a worsening of your condition and potential harm.
- Unnecessary complications or prolonged recovery. It could be that you have experienced unnecessary complications or prolonged recovery from a medical procedure, it might be the result of negligence on the healthcare provider's part.
- Surgical errors such as operating on the wrong body part. Obviously, this is a clear-cut case of negligence and would warrant further investigation.
- Medication errors, If you were prescribed the wrong medication or given the wrong dosage, this could lead to harm and potentially warrant a medical malpractice claim.
- Informed consent not obtained. Informed consent means that a healthcare provider informs a patient about the foreseeable risks and benefits of a procedure and obtains permission to proceed. If informed consent was not obtained, it could signify medical malpractice.
Forms of Compensation That may Be Awarded in a Medical Negligence Case
When a medical malpractice case is successful, there are various forms of compensation that may be awarded. Often, this would depend on the specific circumstances and damages incurred in the case.
- Compensatory damages - compensation for specific, quantifiable losses such as medical expenses and lost income due to being unable to work
- Pain and suffering - compensation for physical pain, mental anguish, and emotional distress suffered
- Loss of companionship or consortium - compensation for loss of companionship or intimacy in a spouse
- Loss of enjoyment of life - compensation for reduced ability to enjoy life activities
- Punitive damages - in cases of extreme negligence, a judge may also award punitive damages as a form of punishment for the negligent party.
It's important to keep in mind that there may be a cap on the amount of compensation awarded, as this varies by state given the uniqueness of each compensation award.
Can I File a Claim If I Suffer a Medical Mistake?
Filing a medical malpractice claim can be a complicated process, and it's important to consult with a lawyer who has experience in handling these types of cases. They will guide you through the legal steps and gather evidence to support your claim.
It's also important to note that there may be a statute of limitations or time limit for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. It's important to talk to a lawyer if you've been hurt by someone else's negligence to make sure you can file a claim within the time limit set by the law.
No one should have to suffer from the devastating consequences of medical malpractice. Remember, the earlier you consult with a lawyer about your potential claim, the better chance you have of receiving the compensatory damages and justice you deserve. This can aid in holding negligent healthcare providers accountable and prevent future harm to other patients. Your health and well-being are worth protecting. At Chicago Car Accident Lawyers, we have a team of experienced medical malpractice attorneys ready to assist you in your case and take legal action to protect your interests. Contact us today for a free consultation at (312) 300-2515.