5 Steps to Take Right Away If You Think You Were the Victim of Medical Malpractice
We often hold doctors accountable to unrealistic expectations of perfection. The truth is, no matter how good a doctor’s education or training may be, they’re only human—and all humans make mistakes.
Understanding what to do when medical malpractice happens is vital to protecting yourself or a loved one throughout the legal process. Realizing that you or someone you love may have been a victim of medical malpractice can be a scary and upsetting thought, but there are a few basic things you can do to protect your claim.
Defining Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider, such as a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional, fails to meet the accepted standards of practice in the medical community, resulting in harm to the patient. This failure could be due to negligence, errors, or omissions in the patient’s treatment, diagnosis, aftercare, or health management.
To be considered medical malpractice, it must be proven that the healthcare provider’s actions or lack of action directly caused the patient’s injury and led to damages such as physical pain, mental distress, additional medical costs, lost income, or reduced earning potential.
Examples of Medical Malpractice
While there are several different causes for medical malpractice, a few of the most common scenarios are listed below:
- Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis: A doctor may fail to diagnose a severe condition like cancer in a timely manner, leading to a delay in necessary treatment and a worsened patient outcome. If a competent doctor under similar circumstances would not have missed the diagnosis, this might be considered malpractice.
- Surgical Errors: This could range from operating on the wrong body part, leaving surgical instruments inside the patient’s body, or causing unnecessary damage during surgery.
- Medication Errors: This could include prescribing the wrong medication, incorrect dosage, or failing to account for harmful drug interactions. If a patient suffers harm as a result of such errors, it may be considered a case of medical malpractice.
- Childbirth Injuries: Medical negligence due to things like improper use of medical tools, failure to monitor vital signs, and not performing a C-section in time during the labor and delivery process can result in injuries to a newborn or the mother.
- Anesthesia Errors: An anesthesiologist failing to gather a comprehensive patient medical history, incorrectly administering anesthesia, or failing to monitor a patient’s vital signs during a procedure could lead to severe harm, including brain damage or even death. Anesthesia errors are less common than surgical errors but can have equally, if not more, devastating outcomes.
What to Do if You Suspect Medical Malpractice
Step 1: Document Your Experience
It’s essential to maintain accurate records of your medical journey. Begin by documenting all aspects of your medical condition and treatment, such as dates, names of medical professionals, medications prescribed, and any unforeseen complications or outcomes. This will provide valuable information for future reference. Medical bills, photographs, and any other evidence will also significantly increase your claim’s chances of reaching a favorable outcome, so save all paperwork throughout your medical treatments.
Step 2: Obtain Your Medical Records
Medical documents are essential to any medical malpractice case. Medical records establish a standard of care by detailing treatments offered, received, and any procedures performed. They can also establish proof of negligence by showing if there was a deviation from the normal standard of care, proving a link between medical malpractice and an injury.
Step 3: Get a Second Opinion
If you suspect you’ve received substandard care, it may be worth seeking a second opinion from another healthcare professional. They can assess your condition and the treatment you received, potentially shedding light on whether you may have been a victim of medical malpractice.
Step 4: Avoid Direct Communication with the Healthcare Provider
While you might feel compelled to confront your healthcare provider about your concerns, avoiding direct communication about potential malpractice is generally better. Anything you say might later be used against you in a legal setting or tip your provider off that you are preparing a lawsuit. Additionally, you should also avoid posting about the malpractice on your social media accounts and consult with a lawyer before talking to your medical provider or their insurer.
Step 5: Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney
Medical malpractice cases can be complex and challenging to navigate. An attorney with experience in medical malpractice will be able to assess your situation, guide you through the process, and advocate for your rights. It’s crucial to consult with an attorney as soon as possible since legal time limits (statutes of limitations) may apply.
Realizing that you’re a victim of medical malpractice can leave you feeling uncertain and vulnerable, so it’s crucial to remember that you have legal rights and options to seek justice. Document your experience, gather your medical records, seek a second opinion, avoid direct confrontations, and reach out to a competent medical malpractice attorney.
Remember, the legal journey in medical malpractice cases can be a complex and lengthy process. However, with the proper steps and legal assistance, you can confidently navigate this journey to seek the justice you deserve.
If you believe you’ve been the victim of medical malpractice, don’t hesitate to act. Reach out to a trusted, experienced legal professional who can guide you through the complex legal terrain of medical malpractice. Remember, your health and rights matter.