Commonly Asked Medical Malpractice Questions
In 2021, the CDC reported that 82% of adults visited a doctor or other health care professional in the past year. With such an active community of health-conscious individuals, it’s important to receive proper healthcare and guidance for an improved quality of life. So, what happens when doctors misdiagnose a patient? Or, what happens if someone is prescribed a defective medicine? Below, we’ll discuss the most commonly asked medical malpractice questions.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Let’s start with the basics. Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider or professional acts with negligence when providing treatment, misdiagnoses, or serves inadequate treatment that causes the patient injury, harm or even death. This medical error is often seen in a diagnosis, aftercare, treatment or even a medicinal dosage. Since doctors, physicians and healthcare professionals have a due diligence to provide the utmost care and respect to their patients, they are legally liable if the patient has endured injury due to a lack of quality care. So, what is the main cause of medical malpractice? To sum it all up into one, the main cause of medical malpractice is pure negligence.
What are the Types of Medical Malpractice?
When doctors, physicians and other healthcare professionals make a mistake with their patient, it can lead to detrimental losses and injuries, making it a medical malpractice. Medical malpractice victims are urged to speak with a professional for proper reimbursements and care. However, simply indicating that a mistake was made, isn’t always enough to prove liability. The injured victim must prove that the mistake that injured them was due to the lowest-quality care, falling below the required standard of care from the trusted healthcare professional. Below, we’ll discuss the different forms of medical malpractice and what specifically identifies each as such.
Elements of Medical Malpractice
According to Justia, the identifying elements of medical malpractice are:
- Having a doctor-patient relationship
- The doctor/healthcare professional’s negligence resulted in a specific injury
- The doctor/healthcare professional’s own actions or inactions were served under the required standard of care
Within these elements, we can see common forms of medical malpractice. Below are the common experiences that often lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit.
A competent doctor is able to properly analyze a patient and diagnose the proper treatment and care, while an incompetent doctor will fail to recognize their patient’s state of health and misdiagnose them. This incompetence and lack of care from the negligent doctor often results in a very specific result / injury to the patient. Should the misdiagnosis result in something far more serious, like cancer, such a flaw could result in death. In these instances, the plaintiff must compare the negligent treatment they’ve received to the treatment for a similar patient with a competent doctor. This individual will have to explain how the competence of the other would have correctly diagnosed the condition and possibly, sooner than the incompetent doctor would have. Lastly, this individual would have to detail the effects and overall aftermath of the error and how it has impacted their health.
When gynecologists, obstetricians and other healthcare professionals act below the required standard of care, they cause harm and life-long injuries to not one, but two individuals, a mother and her child. When this happens, the incompetent healthcare professional may have failed to properly diagnose or treat an expecting mother, resulting in severe damage to her health. Another example can include improper delivery of the child. Examples of health issues resulting from birth medical malpractice include fractures, development disorders, nerve damage, paralysis, cerebral palsy and others.
When a patient has received and consumed the wrong medication, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals may be held liable for this negligence. According to Justia, a doctor could be held accountable if the error was made while prescribing the medication, while a nurse and the employing hospital may be liable for administering the medication mistake. Another example is a nurse confusing the patient for another, thus giving the wrong medication, or simply by administering the wrong dosage via human or equipment error.
Surgical Errors & Anesthesia Errors
In the healthcare industry, there’s a term that refers to surgical errors as “never events.” The term “never events” is a full acknowledgement that these types of errors should never occur. Surgeries are tricky and typically involve risk, which is why many patients are often prompted to sign a waiver before the procedure. While not all surgical errors constitute medical malpractice, there are some instances where medical malpractice is identified since the surgeon performing the act failed to meet the required standard of care. Furthermore, the surgeon’s error would have to be the prominent cause of the injury sustained. In order to prove fault for a surgical error, the patient most prove both:
- That the medical care received was below the required standard of care; and
- The inadequate treatment resulted in an injury
A common reason for surgical errors is primarily due to miscommunication. Whether the surgeon didn’t correctly communicate the dosage, made an incorrect incision, cut the wrong body part or location, or even if they left an instrument inside the body, these are all commonly seen errors that typically prompt a lawsuit. When suing for a surgical error, plaintiffs must acknowledge the fact that each state pursues surgical negligence differently. Plaintiffs in differing states must provide evidence showing that a surgeon pursued the patient’s injury with gross negligence and was the main cause for the injury.
Can Medical Errors Be Prevented?
While we’re all human and make mistakes, we expect only the utmost care and respect when trusting another individual with our own health. In order to prevent medical errors in the future, there are steps that both the patient and healthcare staff can take. Patients can take the initiative from the very beginning to apply themselves more in their health. This means taking notes after every visit, keeping record of past prescriptions and treatments, asking questions and even seeking the advice of other healthcare professionals, especially if they have the slightest feeling that they’re being misdiagnosed or treated with inadequate care.
“The US and Australian studies both found that surgical injuries accounted for almost half of all reported adverse events. Developing and implementing robust surgical protocols, conducting skills assessments of surgeons and support staff and providing error training whereby errors are made in a controlled environment may mitigate against some of the risks.” – News Medical
Another safe-keeping tactic for hospitals and their staff is to identify where their risk is greatest. These medical professionals can train their staff with safe up-to-date procedures, teamwork and technical skills. By regularly training these medical professionals, medical errors may decrease substantially.
Can Medical Malpractice be Criminal?
In many cases, medical malpractice suits result in a settlement, otherwise known as a large payout for the damages and pain sustained. When cases of serious negligence or malfeasance from healthcare professionals are experienced, this may be seen as an act out of intent or wrongdoing. When this happens, the defendant may face additional charges including a loss or suspension of their medical licenses. For outstandingly egregious cases of medical malpractice, defendants may face additional repercussions in criminal court.
How to Report Medical Malpractice
So, how does one report a medical malpractice incident? When this unfortunate experience has happened, there are several ways to file a complaint to the right authority. For example, each state has its own medical board. Those that live in California can contact their state medical board as they help investigate complaints involving the following professionals:
- Medical doctors (M.D.s)
- Licensed midwives
- Polysomnographic trainees, technicians and technologists; and
- Research psychoanalysts
According to the medical board of California, the board can help dispute the below type of medical malpractice complaints:
- Unlicensed Activity (assisting and conducting unlicensed practice, unlicensed provider)
- Sexual Misconduct
- Impairment (professional was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, mental or physical impairment)
- Inadequate Prescribing
- Office Practice (failure to provide records or sign a death certificate, misleading advertising); and
- Quality of Care (negligence, inadequate care, misdiagnosis, treatment/medication resulting in side effects, surgical complications, etc.)
Another way to report a medical malpractice complaint is by filing with the state Department of Consumer Affairs. By doing so this way, claimants are invited to report the complaint via online or in a handwritten form. While it’s important to report the medical malfeasance, simply filing a complaint may not result in the desired outcome or timeline needed by the claimant. Instead of waiting for a resolution with the departments, claimants can also seek the support of a trusted medical malpractice law firm. Professionals who diligently work around the clock to fight for injured victims’ rights are much more likely to win compensation and medical reimbursement for the claimant.
How to Prove Medical Malpractice
With so many unique cases of medical malpractice, how can one properly prove they were treated with negligence? While it may be a difficult and tedious process to go through alone, seeking the advice from a knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer can help support the case and result in a better (more lucrative) outcome. In order to get rewarded from a medical malpractice lawsuit, the claimant or their attorney must prove the following:
- There was a doctor-patient relationship
- The medical professional acted below the required standard of care
- The inadequate care caused a specific injury or an adverse effect
- The patient suffered from real, compensable injuries
Though the above must be proved, there are more in-depth details that the plaintiff must be able to show for. For example, the claimant can’t necessarily sue because they’re unhappy with the results. Instead, the claimant can sue because the treatment has failed to meet the agreed-upon needs and resulted in further injuries. Other examples of types of inadequacy with care standards include disfigurement, deformity, loss or impairment of physical or mental function, illness, disease, reduced chances of recovery from the injury sustained and in some unfortunate cases, death. Individuals who have seriously suffered a medical malfunction due to the negligence of another.
Are Medical Malpractice Settlements Taxed?
Many individuals often wonder whether the award they receive from the lawsuit will be taxed. According to the IRS and 26 US Code § 104(a)(2): compensation awarded from the medical and physical injuries sustained are excluded from the gross income and are not taxable by the IRS or State.
Do Medical Malpractice Lawyers Go to Court?
As mentioned earlier, there’s nothing wrong with filing a complaint alone with the board. The only downfall one may experience is the delay in communication and outcome, which may cause a detriment to the individual’s already-declining health. Should the medical malpractice victim choose to align their goals with a knowledgeable medical malpractice law firm, the attorney will diligently advocate their rights. This means the medical malpractice attorney will review the process and evidence with you, as well as defend you in court.
Do Medical Malpractice Attorneys Work on Contingency?
Some attorneys may charge an upfront fee, while other attorneys may work on a contingency-basis. Usually the most-confident, reputable and proven-to-win law firms are the offices that work on a contingency basis. So, yes. There are medical malpractice attorneys that do in fact work on a contingency basis, like that of JT Legal Group.
JT Legal Group is so confident they can win settlements for their clients that they work on a contingency basis. This means there are no upfront fees and a complimentary, in-depth case evaluation is available. Claimants can go about the medical malpractice complaint process alone, but JT Legal Group wants to minimize any wasted time and efforts by advocating for them.
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