Medical malpractice describes what happens when a doctor or healthcare provider harms a patient by making a mistake in providing care, delivering treatment, or making a diagnosis. The care provider could harm the patent either intentionally or unintentionally, and the damage can be caused by negligence or failure to act.
When people think of medical malpractice lawsuits, they often associate them with healthcare professionals such as surgeons or physicians. However, any medical professional who provides care can find themselves facing a medical malpractice claim if they behave negligently or recklessly.
Consider a Medical Malpractice Claim
Medical malpractice occurs more frequently than most people would like to believe. A John Hopkins University report discovered that medical malpractice is the third most common cause of death in the United States, with approximately 250,000 people per year dying due to malpractice or medical negligence.
However, it’s believed that the actual number of fatalities is far more significant, as medical malpractice claims are often swept under the rug. If you think you or a loved one may have been the victim of medical malpractice, filing a medical malpractice claim with an experienced lawyer could help you find the justice you deserve.
Medical Malpractice Cases
The American Medical Association (AMA) conducted a report that found 34% of all physicians had been sued during their medical career. In addition, the older a physician gets, the higher the likelihood that a medical malpractice action has been brought against them.
However, the increase in medical malpractice cases correlating with physician age is likely because an older provider has seen more patients than a younger doctor. Per the AMA report, approximately 50% of doctors over the age of 55 have had a medical malpractice case brought against them.
Types of Medical Malpractice
Many scenarios can result in medical malpractice lawsuits. For example, a physician may have acted negligently or prescribed the wrong medication.
Various actions can be considered medical malpractice, and the action in question will usually fall under a specific category. Malpractice categories include the following:
As much as patients like to believe that medical professionals are infallible, doctors are human, which means they will make mistakes. Sometimes this mistake may be providing an unfit treatment method, providing an appropriate treatment inappropriately, or not completing the treatment.
Actions that fall under this category would be errors like leaving a surgical instrument in a patient’s stomach or not giving them the required number of chemotherapy treatments for their lung cancer. Giving a patient an incorrect dose of medication or prescribing two drugs that interact dangerously with each other could also fall into this category.
Failure to Diagnose
The results can be tragic when a medical professional fails to diagnose an illness. If a medical professional doesn’t correctly diagnose a patient’s condition, and a more negative outcome occurs than would have otherwise, the doctor can be charged with medical malpractice.
For example, if a medical professional fails to diagnose a patient’s illness as diabetes, and the patient goes on to suffer complications from the disease that requires them to have an amputation, they may be able to win a medical malpractice suit. Failure to diagnose an illness and prescribe appropriate treatment can cause severe physical harm or even death.
Failing to Warn Patient of Known Risks
One of the responsibilities of a medical professional is ensuring the patient is aware of any risks or potential adverse reactions associated with a medical treatment or drug. This obligation is known as the duty of informed consent because the patient must be fully informed of the risks of a treatment or medication before they can consent to receive care.
An example of such negligence in this category would be a doctor suggesting a form of lung cancer treatment to a patient without telling them that the therapy negatively affects other organs. Patients who suffered an injury because they were not properly informed about a treatment’s dangers may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim.
Medical Malpractice Law in the United States
Medical malpractice law falls under a category of law known as tort reform, and personal injury attorneys usually handle these cases. While states may have slight variations in their rules regarding medical malpractice suits, many factors of medical malpractice law stay consistent regardless of state.
Patients who suffered physical harm due to the action or inaction of a surgeon or other medical professional should attempt to recover compensation. Medical errors can have life-long consequences for the patient, and the patient is entitled to seek fair compensation for their injuries.
Adversarial Malpractice Torts
Nearly all medical malpractice cases in the United States are handled through adversarial malpractice torts. Although some states utilize a no-fault system for specific medical negligence claims, Kansas does not. Patients injured because a physician acted negligently or did not inform them of known risks associated with their procedure must prove the medical care provided to the patient was insufficient.
Medical malpractice cases require a court to determine that a doctor’s negligence caused the patient’s injuries. To prove negligence, your attorney must provide legal documents, expert testimony, and even statements from your insurance company to support your claim that the doctor caused your injuries.
How to Prove a Medical Malpractice Claim
Malpractice cases involve patients who have suffered harm because of a medical error. A medical malpractice claim cannot be filed unless a negligent act has injured a patient.
To prove your claim, there are certain things you must establish with your medical malpractice lawsuit. All of the following elements must be proven to meet the basic requirements for a medical malpractice claim:
That a Doctor and Patient Relationship Existed
To file a medical malpractice claim, you must prove that you and your doctor have a professional relationship; specifically that a doctor-patient relationship existed. Patients must provide medical records showing a history of receiving care and visiting the medical facility.
They may also need to provide evidence that the medical procedure they are claiming occurred did take place or submit verification from their insurance company that they received and paid for their treatment. Unless a doctor-patient relationship existed, you will not be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
That a Standard of Care Was Established
A standard of care is the title given to treatments that are widely accepted as the proper treatment for a given disease or injury. In theory, if you were to walk up to a medical expert and ask them how to treat an illness, each one should give you a similar answer. Doctors are expected to perform a standard baseline level of care, and failing to do so constitutes medical malpractice.
That a Breach of the Duty of Care Occurred
Medical malpractice cases involve patients whose doctors were responsible for providing competent care but fell short. Patients must show that the professional duty owed to them was not fulfilled. Expert testimony is also often necessary to highlight how a breach of care occurred since the consulting physician can offer their perspective on whether the doctor fulfilled their duty to the patient.
Just because a patient is unhappy with the outcome of their treatment doesn’t mean that the medical care they received was subpar. Scheduling a free consultation with a medical malpractice attorney can help you determine if you have a valid claim before you commit to a lawsuit and the legal fees that accompany it.
That Breach of Care Caused the Injury
If the treating doctor caused your harm through negligent behavior, you must be able to prove the harm you experienced was caused by the doctor’s treatment. Proving this aspect of a medical malpractice lawsuit can be challenging because it can be difficult to prove that a patient’s injuries are from negligence, not the patient’s medical condition.
Injured patients can claim that the risks doctors took were unwise, but in order to prove negligence, they will need evidence. Usually, a medical expert will need to be called in to support your belief that what happened constitutes medical malpractice.
That the Injury Caused Damage
Malpractice claims are only legitimate if the injury caused damages. Therefore, the patient must prove that the care provider’s negligence resulted in damages like medical expenses, pain and suffering, or other adverse effects of the injury.
Special Requirements in Medical Malpractice Claims
Medical malpractice lawsuits are held to strict rules. When filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, you may feel as if you are constantly jumping through hoops trying to seek compensation for the harm done to you.
Working with experienced personal injury attorneys ensures that you will not overlook any legal elements that could prohibit you from seeking justice. The following requirements are just a few of the hurdles a lawyer can help you navigate:
Statute of Limitations
In Kansas, you have two years to file a medical malpractice lawsuit if a doctor’s negligence caused you injury. The clock starts when the damage occurs, or, if the injury could not reasonably have been discovered until later, from when the average person could be expected to become aware of the doctor’s error.
Kansas has a statute of repose that applies to medical malpractice lawsuits. This statute prevents the injured patient from making any malpractice claims once four years have passed. The patient must pursue legal action within four years of care, and even if they discover an issue outside that window, they cannot file a medical malpractice suit.
The Medical Malpractice Screening Process
If any party in the lawsuit requests it, a review panel called the medical malpractice screening panel must evaluate the legitimacy of a malpractice claim. Before the lawsuit can move forward, the panel will review the evidence and complete a report based on their findings. The panel will consist of three healthcare providers, one chosen by the defendant, one by the plaintiff, and one chosen jointly, as well as a court-selected attorney who will act as the panel chairperson.
In the report, the panel will state whether the doctor met the expected standard of care and whether the doctor caused the victim’s injuries. The report will be admissible as evidence in the lawsuit, and either side may call the panel members to provide expert testimony at the trial.
FAQ: Medical Malpractice Claims
How Much Is a Malpractice Case Worth?
There isn’t a set number that victims can expect to collect from their medical malpractice claims. Instead, numerous factors will determine the amount of compensation the patient can recover.
Factors such as whether the doctor shared known risks with the patient, whether improper treatment was administered, the severity of the patient’s injuries, and the severity of the negligent act will all impact the amount of money they could receive. To ensure they have the highest chance of being awarded a significant medical malpractice payout, the patient must work with an attorney skilled in medical malpractice law.
Can I File a Lawsuit Against the Hospital?
Medical malpractice liability typically falls on the healthcare provider who behaved negligently. However, in situations where a hospital employed a doctor without verifying their credentials or running a background check, or continued to employ them after issues arose, the hospital could be held liable along with the care provider.
A medical malpractice attorney can advise you on whether you should take action against the professional who treated you, the hospital, or both. You deserve compensation for your injuries if you are injured when a medical professional makes a mistake or because the hospital didn’t perform its due diligence when employing care providers.
Can I Sue if My Doctor Didn’t Tell Me Every Risk of a Procedure?
Successful medical malpractice lawsuits have been filed and won by patients whose doctors failed to communicate the known risks of a procedure. Your doctor has an obligation to tell you about significant risks associated with your treatment. Still, they are not required to go through every single potential risk associated with a procedure.
To prove your doctors failed to live up to the expected standards of professional conduct, you’ll have to prove that a competent medical care provider would have told you the risks your doctor didn’t. You’ll also have to prove that you had a physician-patient relationship with your doctor and that they were the party who had a duty to inform you of the risks.
Do I Report Medical Malpractice?
When you report malpractice, you are helping prevent other people from suffering due to a doctor’s negligence. Reporting negligent behavior is necessary and ensures that care providers are held responsible for their actions and upholding the duties of their position.
Report a care provider who has breached the standard of care to the State Medical Practices Board. If you wish to pursue a claim, you’ll want to schedule a consultation with a lawyer specializing in personal injury or malpractice law.
Can I Only Sue Doctors For Medical Malpractice?
Although you may associate physicians with medical malpractice lawsuits, nearly any healthcare professional you have a doctor-patient relationship with can be sued for medical malpractice. Areas of the healthcare sector that frequently see malpractice claims include:
The Emergency Room
When you visit an emergency room, you are counting on healthcare professionals to treat your injury or illness correctly. Unfortunately, an emergency room’s high-stress and fast-paced work conditions create the ideal environment for mistakes. Since emergency rooms are not traditional hospital facilities, you will likely have a challenging time pursuing compensation for a minor injury.
While standards of care are still applicable, it is assumed that even competent doctors could make minor errors when working with the urgency emergency rooms require. Claims for severe injuries and mistakes will not be affected by the location they occurred, however. If you are unsure if your injury is significant enough to pursue compensation for, reach out to a personal injury attorney to discuss the details of your situation.
The Dentist Office
Although dentists aren’t the first medical professionals most people associate with medical negligence lawsuits, they can be sued for malpractice when they fail to provide reasonable care to their patients. Some common reasons dentists may have suits filed against them include the following:
Failure to diagnose certain conditions
Failure to properly administer anesthesia
Failure to acquire informed consent before a procedure
Failure to provide a referral to a specialist or surgeon if appropriate
Mistakes are also reasons why a claim may be brought against a dentist. For example, even routine tooth extractions can have long-lasting negative effects if performed incorrectly.
Can I Sue for Medical Malpractice If I am Prematurely Discharged From the Hospital?
If you have been discharged prematurely from the hospital, you may be able to bring a malpractice claim against the doctor that released you. Since the doctor will likely try to cite overcrowding or understaffing as their reason for discharging you, you’ll have to prove that a reasonable care provider would not have released you.
To prove that you were discharged inappropriately, you will need an expert witness to testify a competent doctor would not have found you ready for release in the same situation. Once liability has been placed on the doctor, you may be able to recover expenses for any following care and compensation for your pain and suffering. If your early discharge created issues that impacted your ability to work, you might be able to pursue reimbursement for lost wages.
How Do I Know If I Am a Victim of Medical Malpractice?
Sometimes it can be hard to tell if you are the victim of medical malpractice. Since simply being unhappy with the outcome of your procedure or treatment doesn’t make what occurred malpractice, you may wonder if you should pursue a claim.
When negligence is glaring, it is easy to identify, but more subtle injuries or errors are easy to miss. If you suspect your care provider may have acted negligently, you’ll want to hire a lawyer with experience handling malpractice cases. They will be able to advise you on whether your situation constitutes malpractice.
Let a Lawyer Handle Your Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Filing a successful claim against a healthcare practitioner requires knowing all the complexities of the rule and regulations governing this area of law. As a result, the average individual will struggle to prove the validity of their claim against a healthcare provider or hospital. Failing to hit any of the markers required to file a malpractice claim will derail your chances of receiving compensation for your injuries.
From finding a credible health care professional to act as a witness to collecting evidence, your attorney will handle the legwork and ensure your case is as strong as possible. When you work with a legal professional, you’ll feel peace of mind knowing you have someone pursuing justice on your behalf.
Contact Wendt Law Firm P.C. Today
Don’t let a medical mistake have a lasting impact on your future. Instead, work with a law firm that goes the extra mile to secure the best possible outcome for your case.
Schedule a free consultation with Wendt Law Firm P.C. today by calling 816-542-6734. Make sure you don’t miss your opportunity to seek compensation for medical malpractice.