Most people think any mistake by a healthcare provider equals medical malpractice, but that’s not the case. Doctors are not infallible machines, they are human beings, and so they are allowed to make mistakes. It’s wrong to think that any medical error no matter how minor is grounds for a lawsuit. When a genuine case of medical malpractice has occurred, however, it is important to know the correct steps to ensure that you get the justice and compensation that you are entitled to.
This article is a guide on what to do if you think you have been a victim of medical malpractice.
1. Identify if You Have a Case
Whether or not your case rises to the level of medical malpractice depends on two key factors:
- A healthcare provider provided medical treatment below the medical standard of care.
- The provider’s actions or inactions resulted in verifiable serious injury to the patient. To help understand, here is an example involving a prescription error.
It can be hard to know whether your situation meets these requirements without experience in such matters. The experts at Curcio Law Offices explain that this is why it is always advisable to seek advice from an experienced attorney. Each case is unique and stands on its underlying facts. Often, the issue of whether or not medical malpractice occurred isn’t decided until the jury gives their verdict. You will need an attorney with specialist expertise required to represent you in a medical malpractice case. Most creditable attorneys don’t charge a fee for an initial office consultation. If you want to know if you have a legitimate, potentially lucrative medical malpractice, you will have to start with that consultation.
2. Understand the Process
To help you understand how a court decides if medical malpractice has occurred here is an example of a typical case:
Alice had been coughing for a few days and went to see a primary care physician. Before seeing the doctor, she completed the medical questionnaire. In the “Allergies to any medication?” section she wrote “Codeine”. Alice’s doctor prescribed Tylenol 3 for her cough. She had never taken it before and had no reason to question its make up. After taking the medication, Alice got a high fever and began to vomit.
Her family rushed her to the emergency room. While waiting to see the ER doctor Alice filled out the hospital’s patient questionnaire and again she said she was allergic to codeine. The ER doctor explained that the primary ingredient in Tylenol 3 is codeine and that her symptoms were a reaction to it. He told Alice to go home and rest, drink plenty of fluids and not take any more Tylenol 3. He said she would feel better in the morning once the codeine left her system.
3. Accept that Medical Errors Happen
So does Alice have any legal arguments and if so what are they? There’s no doubt Alice’s primary doctor prescribed the wrong medication. Taking it caused an extreme allergic reaction. This was definitely a medical error, but was it malpractice? Alice’s case isn’t very strong. At most, she may get reimbursed for the cost of the emergency room visit, possibly a day of lost wages if she missed work and maybe a small amount for psychological trauma. In the great scheme of things, Alice’s injury was minor. The episode didn’t cause a permanent loss of body function or disfigurement. Being ill for 24 hours may seem serious at the time, but it’s minor compared to real malpractice.
4. Understand when Medical Error Rises to Malpractice
If Alice’s symptoms had resulted in a heart attack or caused permanent injury to her esophagus, trachea, or stomach, then she would have a substantial malpractice case. The definition of medical malpractice states that the healthcare provider’s actions or omissions must have fallen far below the standard established by other healthcare providers.
That doesn’t just mean a mistake, it means a very serious mistake with serious consequences. The medical system does allow mistakes. Even the best doctors make them. To be medical malpractice, the mistake must have been much greater than the usual mistakes other doctors would make under similar circumstances.
A medical malpractice case is a situation where you need to let trained experts do what they have been trained to do. Don’t even try to represent yourself in a malpractice case. Unless you file a lawsuit, chances are you won’t get any cooperation from a healthcare provider. This isn’t like a car accident claim. You and the healthcare provider won’t exchange insurance company information. The only chance you have in a malpractice case is to hire an attorney and file a lawsuit.