When to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Filing a medical malpractice suit against a doctor, nurse or hospital for negligence resulting in injury is a difficult endeavor at best. Medical negligence lawsuits are some of the most complex and difficult cases to prosecute, due to the very specific requirements regarding standard of care, as well as the large costs associated with investigating a medical malpractice claim.
If you have been injured due to the negligence of a physician, dentist, nurse, surgeon, anesthesiologist, or other medical professional, then you may have the right to pursue legal action and demand compensation for your injury. Before you do, ask yourself the following questions:
Were You Injured?
In order to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit, there must be damages for which to seek monetary compensation. Let's suppose a doctor failed to diagnose coronary artery disease when a patient came to the emergency room complaining of chest pains. The patient then goes to another hospital where a doctor correctly recognizes an impending heart attack and treats the man accordingly.
Had the man not gone to the next hospital, he may have died, and the failure to diagnose may indeed be medical negligence. However, "the doctor could have killed me" is not enough for the US court system. In order to bring a malpractice suit, there must be an injury or damages of some sort.
Is Your Injury Serious Enough to Merit Filing a Suit?
It seems logical that anyone injured by the negligence of a doctor should have the right to file a claim for damages. They do, but there is one problem - Medical malpractice lawsuits are expensive. Filing and pursuing a claim for medical malpractice requires a large down payment for the investigation, professional medical consultation and evidence, preparation of the case and more. In order for the claim to be worthwhile, the damages have to be greater than the cost of prosecuting the suit.
An attorney may believe that you have a great case, but if the injury is minor, say something that required only a week of recovery, then the lawsuit would probably cost more to prosecute than the award or settlement would be. A medical malpractice lawyer can not afford to take on these cases because they already take a great financial risk with other, larger lawsuits due to the fact that they are the ones paying for everything. They don't receive any payment until they win their clients case.
Did Your Doctor Perform with a Reasonable Level of Care?
This is one of the most difficult questions to answer, and usually requires an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. Even an experienced lawyer will have to seek an opinion from a medical doctor, which is why most medical malpractice attorney have a medical professional on staff or nearby. Proving a doctors negligence in a medical malpractice case is critical for a successful settlement or jury award.
Some of the most common forms of medical negligence include the following:
Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis
If a doctor fails to diagnose an illness, injury or disease, or doesn't diagnose it soon enough to allow for proper treatment, it may qualify as medical negligence. In order to establish the negligence, another doctor will need to evaluate the circumstances of the case and determine whether the doctor should have diagnosed the medical problem correctly.
Wrong Site Surgery
In a case of wrong site surgery, a doctor may be held liable for operating, or in some severe cases, amputating the wrong body part. There have been instances where someone needs to get a leg amputated, but the medical staff amputates the wrong leg, leaving the patient with both legs gone.
During surgery, the doctor is required to operate with such care so as to not cause any injury inside the patients body. Sometimes, a careless doctor may burn or cut an organ or other internal part causing severe injury to the patient. (Click this article to read about Three Real Life Case Studies of Surgicial Mistakes.)
Failure to Follow Up with Treatment
Should a particular treatment be ordered to help cure a patient of an illness, the doctor is required to follow up regularly and monitor progress to ensure that the treatment is working, and doesn't go on unnecessarily long.
It is possible for a doctor to mishandle a baby during child birth, causing potentially permanent damage to the newborn. Alternatively, a doctor may not act accordingly to signs of fetal distress during a difficult birth, which can also lead to injury of the child or mother.
There are many more types of negligence, but the key point to note is that, when determining a doctors negligence, it must be determined that he or she could have prevented the injury had they taken more care, or more specifically, performed to the "accepted medical standard of care".
Get Legal Advice from a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If you believe that you may have suffered an injury due to the negligence of a doctor or other medical professional, then you should think about talking to a medical malpractice attorney. Most of these specialized lawyers will offer a free consultation where you can explain the circumstances of your case and get qualified legal advice regarding your options for getting monetary compensation through a civil lawsuit.