Perhaps you have heard of startling cases where doctors amputated the wrong leg? Or maybe the story of a man who had the wrong kidney removed? Cases like these may come to mind when you hear the term medical malpractice. However, medical malpractice is not always as startlingly obvious as the aforementioned two cases. Other common examples of medical negligence include:
- mistakes regarding how much anesthesia a patient requires
- errors made monitoring an unborn child’s heartbeat during labor
- sub-par care for trauma victims following a severe accident
- sponges and other instruments left inside a person’s body after surgery
- allowing bed sores to develop
- medical conditions that are left undiagnosed during an exam
Laws that govern medical malpractice vary from state to state. But overall, here is how to determine if your medical malpractice claim is valid.
- You had a doctor-patient relationship with the doctor in question.
If the incident in question occurred on your first visit with the doctor, it is likely you did not have a doctor-patient relationship. Defining the doctor and patient relationship has been the subject of many court cases and discussions. And is one that again varies from state to state.
Primarily, to sue, you must show that the doctor knew of your case and was treating you before the incident occurred. You cannot sue based on advice you read about online, or from a source other than a person with whom you had a doctor-patient relationship.
- The doctor in question was negligent in providing a certain standard of care.
According to Lowenthal & Abrams, malpractice attorneys in Philadelphia, “The standard of care is the level at which a doctor, nurse or other medical expert is supposed to treat you. For example, if someone is showing symptoms of a heart attack, the hospital has procedures it is supposed to follow. If the hospital does not follow the procedures, it did not follow the standard of care.” For instance, if you can show that doctor in question did not provide the same level of care a competent doctor would have, you have the makings of a case. “Proving this factor requires a medical expert,” says Lowenthal & Abrams. In many states, when filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, you must also turn in an affidavit by an expert. The affidavit should outline how and why your case is valid.
- The doctor’s negligence led to the injury.
Doctors typically see patients who are already suffering from an injury. Therefore, it can be difficult to prove that further injury was caused due to a sub-standard of care. Medical experts are required to testify on whether the doctor’s incompetence led to further injury to the individual.
- The injury resulted in specific, measurable damages.
The purpose of a medical malpractice suit is compensation for damages accrued. So you must show that the injury you suffered led to the damages you are claiming. Damages are categorized under the following: general damages, special damages, and punitive damages.
- General damages include mental torment, physical pain, and the loss of earning capacity or work. As well as a lessened quality of life.
- Special damages cover measurable expenses. Such as the need to pay extra medical bills and missed work due to the injury suffered.
- Punitive damages are awarded in certain circumstances. For example, where the doctor knew he or she was behaving in a manner that could cause harm.
There are various limitations set by each state on the maximum amount of damages a patient can claim. Other regulations stipulate a specific time frame during which the claim must be filed. Again, the rules that govern medical malpractice vary according to each state and should be brought to a local firm to find where you stand. Look for a firm that specializes in medical malpractice lawsuits. Attorneys at such firms will be able to evaluate and give you an assessment of your case.