What is medical malpractice in general?
Medical malpractice is when a doctor or a medical professional, like a nurse, acts negligently and harms their patient. Damages may be awarded based on the severity of the injuries suffered by the patient, and any associated economic losses resulting from the medical error. Different states have different regulations governing the maximum cap on damages from medical malpractice lawsuits, and different statutes of limitations.
Types of Medical Malpractice
Physical pain. Patients could suffer physical injuries as a result of medical errors, resulting in acute or chronic pain.
Mental/psychological. Emotional distress associated with medical errors can be disabling, affecting one’s quality of life and ability to function on a daily basis.
Medical expenses/bills. Medical errors can lead to follow up treatments and procedures, which can result in higher than expected medical expenses.
Loss of ability to work/loss of earning capacity. Medical errors can result in short or long term disability, treatments that prevent people from returning to work, or disable people from ever working again. In these cases, people experience lost earnings damages. Lost earnings damages seek to compensate patients for the potential income he or she would have received if the medical error had not occurred. The damages resulting from economic losses may be subject to caps in different states.
Mistakes do Happen – Complications
- Obstetrics (Pregnancy)
- Birth injury. Birth injury is defined as an impairment of the neonate’s body function or structure due to an adverse event that occurred at birth. Birth injuries range from major permanent injuries to minor conditions.
- Cerebral palsy. This refers to a group of conditions that affect muscle tone, posture and movement. It is caused by damage to the immature brain as it develops. Birth complications can disrupt the oxygen supply to the baby’s brain and result in cerebral palsy.
- Spinal injury/brachial plexus injury. Birth injuries relating to the spinal cord can occur when doctors strain a baby’s neck by twisting, pulling or using tools to deliver the baby. Brachial plexus injury (Erb’s palsy) can be caused by stretching, traction or compression, resulting in weakness/paralysis of the arm.
- Intracranial hemorrhage. An intracranial hemorrhage/bleed can be caused by birth trauma. This could have serious consequences, such as permanent brain injury or cerebral palsy.
- Delay in emergency C-section. Sometimes, an emergency Caesarean section could be required during the birth process. A delay in the procedure could result in brain injury, cerebral palsy and other birth injuries.
- Delayed diagnosis (e.g. oncology). Patients could suffer severe health consequences if a doctor fails to make a timely diagnosis of a serious medical condition. Health care professionals may be considered negligent if they misinterpret test results, fail to screen for certain medical conditions or fail to refer for an appropriate specialist consult. They may be liable if their negligence caused or contributed to the patient’s harm.
- Examples of misdiagnosis that could result in harm include: cancer, heart attack or stroke
- Prescription errors
- Medication errors are common in hospital and general practice, and can result in harm to patients. Receiving the wrong medicine can place the patient’s health and well-being at risk. These could be due to wrongly prescribed drugs or dosages, mislabeling, failure to provide the proper usage directions or failing to check for potential medication interactions.
- Drug allergy. Allergic reactions to medications can sometimes be serious. These could result in anaphylaxis, decreased blood pressure and other side effects. If your doctor knew about your allergy yet prescribed a medication leading to a severe complication, it might be in your interest to file a medical malpractice claim.
- Surgical errors
- A surgical mistake can lead to corrective follow-up procedures and escalating medical bills. The issue is whether the injury could have been avoided with due care and diligence.
- Infection. Surgical site infections are common. There are many causes of infection following a procedure. However, infections may sometimes be avoidable or could have been prevented from worsening if detected early. Failure to diagnose infections and administer the appropriate treatment can lead to severe complications.
- Hemorrhage. Internal bleeding during and following (post-operative hemorrhage) a procedure could result from surgical errors.
- Anesthesia-related. Serious complications associated with anesthesia injuries are death, brain damage or nerve injury. These may result from the improper administration or dosage of anesthesia.
- During surgery, general anesthesia may be used – mistakes may be related to wrong dosage of anesthesia, improper intubation and improper monitoring.
- Wrongful death
- A wrongful death occurs when a patient dies as a result of medical malpractice. This can result from hospital negligence, medical negligence, failure to diagnosis an illness or misdiagnosis.
Source: Medical Malpractice Insurance Claims in Seven States, 2000-2004. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
What do medical malpractice law firms do?
If you or a loved one suffered from medical malpractice, it is important to find a good medical malpractice lawyer. Medical malpractice cases can be emotionally challenging. We treat each case personally and believe in helping you find the best attorney and speaking up for your rights.
Every case is different. The settlement amount/damages depend on the impact of the medical injury on earning ability and lifestyle, and the jury’s perception of the injured party. There are many factors that could determine if the case is successful.
It can be difficult to deal with the emotional stress associated with worrying about your case, while suffering from the medical error.
Statute of Limitations
Every state sets a strict time limit for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, that usually ranges between 1-3 years. After this time period expires, the injured party loses the right to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit.
If you believe you have suffered an injury due to a medical error, it would be important for you to speak to a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible, to learn your legal rights and not miss the state’s statutes of limitations.