Medical malpractice is defined as an act of negligence or incompetence “by a health care provider in which the treatment provided falls below the accepted standard of practice in the medical community and causes injury or death to the patient.”
For a claim to go to court it’s important to establish that a healthcare practitioner’s actions were directly responsible for the worse-off condition of his patient, resulting in injuries that could be physical or emotional in nature, and also extending to loss of pay at work or additional financial costs due to the deteriorated condition.
A doctor may not diagnose properly, may not correct his diagnosis on finding the initial diagnosis was wrong, not warn you about the associated risks or side-effects of a treatment, or simply not you’re your feedback into account as the treatment progresses, thus ending up harming you instead of curing you.
While medical malpractice cases are relatively rare, the most common errors include misdiagnosis, childbirth injuries, wrong medication prescribed, and the wrong dose of anesthesia, among others. Medical malpractice claims are often a maze to navigate and only the most competent of attorneys can bring you the justice you seek.
But before you think of legal action, here is what is needed to keep in mind to even ascertain that you have a claim:
• You were actually physically treated by the doctor/healthcare provider you claim hurt you, and are not basing your allegations off something you read on the Web or overheard during a conversation. You need to be actively under the physician’s care for their actions to have caused you any kind of harm.
• It’s not unusual for treatments to fail or for surgeries to not give you the desired results. A number of variables could be at work here, including your own pre-existing conditions. In such a scenario it becomes very difficult to isolate the real cause behind the failure of a treatment and to pinpoint the blame on one particular person – in this case your doctor.
The failure of a treatment does not alone entitle you to legal action, however. Remember, for a medical malpractice case to stick there should be reasonable evidence that your injuries or pain were caused by the incompetence or negligence of the doctor directly treating you. This is a lot more complicated than it sounds.
What happens when you bring a medical malpractice case?
If you suspect you have been harmed by a wrong diagnosis or a doctor’s incompetence/negligence, you should contact an attorney in your area sooner than later since these cases are time-bound. The exact rules vary from state to state but there is no point in delaying acting on your suspicions. Most initial consultations are free and you will know if you do indeed have a claim or not. For those of our readers based in North Carolina, get in touch with a medical malpractice attorney at our firm here in Raleigh to learn of the legal options available to you.
In some states such cases should be brought before the court no later than 6 months of sustaining the injury, while in other states the limit is a relaxed two years. The North Carolina statute of limitations in this regard is three years from the time of the treatment that caused the injury and no later than four years of it.
There is a cap on damages awarded as well. The multi-million verdicts that you read about in the news are rare, and therefore news. In most cases the payout is considerably lower and the law of this state caps the non-economic damages handed out to the plaintiff at $500,000, albeit adjusted for inflation this year onwards.
After you have approached a medical malpractice attorney will begin a detailed investigation into the account given by you. A lot of factual investigating and analysis will take place, involving a number of hospital staff and spanning possibly months. These are rarely straightforward cases to prove so brace yourself for a protracted battle.
All of the research undertaken by your lawyer, along with the testimony of medical experts, will be presented to the lawyer of the defendant and their insurance claims adjuster. If your lawyer is able to convince the other party of their fault by bringing to table hard-hitting evidence, the ensuing negotiations may yield result and the two parties involved come to a settlement figure.
When such a settlement is not possible, likely, or as per your expectations, you have the option to take your case to trial.
Don’t suffer in silence. Speak up if you suspect you received less than what you should have from your healthcare provider. But don’t stew over it either. Get in touch with a local attorney to know exactly where you stand and put your mind at peace.