Do you know what the third-leading cause of death in the United States is? It’s probably not what you might think.
The answer is medical malpractice. That’s right, medical errors and negligence account for thousands of deaths in the US every year.
But what is medical malpractice, and what are common malpractice claims? In this blog, we’ll answer those questions along with what do if you think you’re a victim of medical malpractice. Let’s dive in!
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or healthcare professional causes injury, harm, or death to a patient due to negligence or omission. To be legally labeled “medical malpractice”, a claim must have the following traits.
There Was a Violation of Standard of Care
Standard of care refers to what the law acknowledges as basic medical practices that must be followed by doctors and healthcare professionals. This includes what treatment options should be used and what medicines should be prescribed for different diseases and ailments.
A patient should feel confident that, no matter which health care professional they visit, this standard of care will be met. If the standard of care is not met, the patient may be a victim of medical malpractice.
The Injury Was Caused by Negligence
A violation of standard care does not always mean medical malpractice has occurred. In order for someone to claim malpractice, there must be an injury caused by negligence.
If there is injury without negligence, or the negligence is not what caused injury, there is no malpractice claim.
The Injury Was Significant
Medical malpractice claims are expensive, and minor injuries that caused little to no damage to the patient, would not be considered malpractice.
If a patient has been affected by negligence in a serious way (missed work, disability, permanent damage, extra medical bills, suffering, or hardship) then their medical malpractice claim is valid.
The Most Common Types of Malpractice Claims
Now that we’ve covered what medical malpractice actually is, we can dive into types of claims. Malpractice can occur in many different ways, but here are the most popular types of claims.
Misdiagnosis means a doctor mistakenly diagnoses you with something that you do not have. This can commonly occur when a patient has symptoms that can be a wide variety of diseases or illnesses. In those cases, it is generally not a case of negligence.
But in cases of negligence, a doctor will fail to diagnose someone that shows clear symptoms of a specific disease. If a pool of doctors all would diagnose you the exact same way, yet your doctor gives you a different diagnosis, this would be negligence.
Doctors can also fail to diagnose altogether, meaning you go to see a doctor and present your symptoms, and they tell you that you’re fine. But if you later find out that you were not fine and had a serious disease or illness, then your doctor would be liable for failure to diagnose.
2. Prescribing Incorrect Medications
If your doctor diagnosis you correctly but fails to prescribe you the proper medications, or prescribes you the wrong medications, they are liable for malpractice.
If you are prescribed something, it’s important to do your own research on the drug. If you find conflicting information through your research, you should consult with another doctor. If the second doctor says that prescription is wrong, then malpractice may have occurred.
Prescription errors can also happen if you are given an incorrect dose, or you are not made aware of the side effects. If a doctor prescribes you medication, they need to let you know what side effects are common and what you should expect.
3. Surgical Errors
Surgical errors refer to mistakes that are made by surgeons or other healthcare professionals while a patient is undergoing surgery. These errors can range from mild to extremely severe, even causing death.
Some common surgical errors include incorrect incisions and leaving surgical materials inside of the body, which would require additional surgery to remove.
But some surgical errors can be even more serious than that. One of the most famous medical malpractice cases occurred in 1995 at Tampa General when a patient needed a leg amputated, and the doctor ended up amputating the wrong leg.
4. Lack of Informed Consent
Whenever you see a healthcare professional or undergo treatment, you must be told about informed consent, and you must give your consent.
Informed consent means that you fully understand what is going to happen and you consent to it. Nothing that you don’t consent to should happen.
If a doctor fails to receive informed consent or does something that you did not consent to, you have a viable malpractice claim.
5. Birth Injuries
The majority of malpractice claims goes towards OBGYNs. In fact, 85 percent of OBGYNs have had malpractice claims filed against them.
This doesn’t mean that OBGYNs are committing malpractice more often than other doctors, however. It’s just that when an expecting mother delivers a stillborn or delivers a baby with an injury or disability, they often look towards the OBGYN for mistakes that may have occurred.
Oftentimes, there as no negligence, it was just an unfortunate outcome. But birth injuries caused by negligence do happen, and the results can be heartbreaking.
Malpractice during childbirth can lead to complications including spinal cord injuries and fetal distress. Negligence can also lead to complications with the mother, including postpartum hemorrhage, which is a common cause of death among mothers giving birth.
6. Anesthesia Errors
If anesthesia is not administered properly, it can cause serious harm and even death. That’s why anesthesiologists need to pay extra close attention to a patient’s medical history and current medical state before administering anesthesia.
Some people should not be given anesthesia, and some should get a smaller than normal dose. If an anesthesiologist misses key information in a patients medical history, the results could be fatal.
7. Failure to Treat
If a doctor gives you a diagnosis, the next step is treatment. But what if a doctor fails to treat you in a timely manner, or gives you the wrong treatment?
This would be a case of malpractice, especially if it causes your disease or illness to worsen. If you are diagnosed and not given a treatment plan, you need to seek out another doctor who will treat you properly.
What Should You Do If You’re a Victim of Medical Malpractice?
If you think you’re a victim of medical malpractice, it’s important to take the proper steps next. Otherwise, you may miss out on the opportunity to be compensated for your hardships. Here’s what you need to do if you’re a victim of malpractice.
Find a Different Doctor
Before you take any legal action, it’s important to take care of your health first. If your doctor was negligent and caused you harm, you need to find a new doctor that will treat you right and, hopefully, reverse or prevent any more damage.
Request All Medical Records
You’ll need to request all of your medical records from the hospital or office where the medical malpractice occurred. These records will be key evidence in your malpractice claim.
Go through the record carefully and see if there are any discrepancies or inaccuracies. If there are, be sure to keep a journal of what really happened. Do this as soon as you can because your memory can get fuzzy if you wait too long, and your reliability may be questioned in court.
Contact an Attorney
Now it’s time to contact a personal injury attorney to represent you in court. Find an attorney that has plenty of experience winning past malpractice lawsuits. Meet with that attorney and make sure they are a good fit for your case.
Then, you need to share every detail of what happened. Be as thorough as you can and provide any evidence and records you have collected. You’ll want to show your attorney how the negligence has affected your life, so they can present that in court.
From this point forward, it’s important to not speak to anyone about your malpractice case aside from your attorney. You may be contacted by the defendant’s attorney, who will ask you questions about the case. If you are contacted, you should direct their questions to your attorney.
When Negligence Occurs, Take Action
Don’t let doctors and other healthcare professionals get away with medical malpractice. If you think you’re a victim, take action and file malpractice claims with a personal injury attorney.
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