Medical Malpractice Frequently Asked Questions
As a patient, you place trust in your medical care team to put your health first. But the medical care you receive is not always optimal. In some cases, a doctor will do something, or fail to do something, that deviates from the standard of care, i.e. no reasonable doctor in the same specialty would have taken the same actions. Medical malpractice is a serious legal issue, patients often need lawyers to help them be their own advocates.
Is Medical Malpractice Obvious to Patients?
Unfortunately, you may be a victim of medical malpractice and not even know it. Medical malpractice is vastly under-reported even when care teams and doctors know it has happened. Patients are in the unfortunate position of having to rely on the advice and expertise of others when it comes to deciding whether their doctor has acted appropriately.
Does a Bad Outcome Mean There Has Been Medical Malpractice?
You may be reading this post because a medical procedure, or that of a loved one, did not have the result you hoped. Perhaps a corrective surgery was unsuccessful, time in hospital resulted in an infection, or you bled out during your operation. It takes strength and courage to decide to dig for more information and assess your legal options.
Unfortunately, complications of medical procedures or hospital stays are relatively common. The simple fact of a bad outcome does not mean there has been medical malpractice. However, injury or damage to a patient is necessary for there to be a malpractice claim. Therefore, you have to have suffered harm in order to support a malpractice lawsuit, but that fact alone does not mean you will win.
Doctors should discuss the risks of any procedure with patients before going ahead. Patients will also sign a consent form that identifies those risks. But since medical care is complicated with many moving parts, a bad outcome can indicate a legally actionable issue. That’s why discussing your circumstances with a medical malpractice attorney who knows the law, and is on your side, is so important.
What Steps Should I Take if I Suspect Malpractice?
It can be difficult to know how to handle the situation, especially if you are still under the care of the doctor who you suspect may have been guilty of malpractice. It can be troubling to feel you must follow the advice of the person who may have harmed you. If you are uncomfortable with your doctor’s care for any reason, you should consider transferring to another physician.
From a legal standpoint, the first step is to discuss your concerns with a lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice. While other lawyers may be committed to supporting you and advocating for your rights, only a medical malpractice attorney can see you through all potential steps, including a possible legal claim. This area of the law is complicated, and your ongoing health treatment is of the utmost priority.
You or your attorney should request copies of your medical records. It may be a good idea to interview people, such as friends and family, who know about your care and how the procedure affected your life. Since there is a statute of limitations on a malpractice claim, which means that you only have a certain amount of time after the procedure to take legal action, you should consult with a lawyer as soon as you are able.
If I Suspect Malpractice, Is a Legal Claim The Next Step?
Unfortunately, medical malpractice is a tough legal area. Not every health care provider’s mistake or departure from the accepted standard of care is worth a lawsuit. Even though a patient has the right to go to court, they typically have to hire an expert to provide testimony in order to win. The expense and stress involved in a lawsuit means only a case likely to win significant damages is worth pursuing. This is especially true since doctors, and their insurers, will fight very hard on the other side.
Is It Likely My Doctor Will Settle a Malpractice Claim?
Most doctors do not settle malpractice claims. If they do, that information is reported to a national database. Doctors who settle malpractice lawsuits always have that black mark by their names, something that will undoubtedly harm their careers.
In addition, many doctors will go to court rather than settle because medical malpractice is very difficult to prove. Even if doctors know they have committed malpractice, they and their insurance companies also know it will be a difficult and expensive court battle for a patient. Patients who are already vulnerable because of the harm caused by a medical mistake may decide the legal route is simply too risky.
Despite the gloomy outlook, every year brave patients go to court with medical malpractice claims and win. It takes courage to contact a lawyer to talk about these deeply troubling and personal issues, but those who do often find they can receive compensation for the harm caused. In Kansas, medical malpractice attorneys Prochaska, Howell & Prochaska can provide the advice, guidance and advocacy patients deserve to have their voices heard.