People are vulnerable when they are sick and in need of medical care. At the same time, while they feel weak and perhaps out of sorts, they are forced to rely on others for support and treatment. Unfortunately, it can also be a time when medical mistakes can be made.
Every year, thousands of Americans die, and countless more are injured due to medical malpractice, a medical error caused when a medical professional is negligent in caring for a patient.
Duty of Care and Medical Malpractice
Legally, a doctor or medical professional owes a patient what is known as a duty of care. When the duty of care is breached, and a doctor does not give the patient adequate medical care and causes them harm, it is considered medical malpractice.
Medical malpractice cases can result from many factors – too swift of a decision on the operating table, a miscalculation in physical therapy, or a misreading of an x-ray – just to name a few. However, there is one consistent thread, breach of care, that is woven through all medical malpractice cases.
So how can a patient prevent becoming a victim of medical malpractice? Unfortunately, patients cannot control everything that happens to them while receiving medical care. However, they are not powerless either. They should take steps, starting with being attentive and assertive, and follow some of the below tips that could help avoid medical malpractice.
- Don’t delay seeing a medical provider. The best way for patients to succeed at being healthy is to stay on top of any issues affecting their physical and mental health.
- When a patient receives a medical diagnosis, they should pay close attention, no matter how difficult the news is to hear. They should take a deep breath and recognize it is time to become – their own best advocate.
- It’s a good idea to bring another set of eyes and ears to medical appointments. A patient can benefit from having a trustworthy person who can understand the details of their condition and treatment to accompany them. Although they may not want to share such a personal experience, there are benefits to having someone support them and witness the interaction with the medical professionals.
- After the initial diagnosis and before beginning treatment, patients should select a medical team they feel comfortable with and consider getting a second opinion. Patients need to explore options and collect referrals.
- Patients should not be intimidated to ask questions or seek further clarification at medical appointments.
- Consider researching the diagnosis. While an excellent medical professional is a treasure trove of information, patients should also gather facts independently. There are many organizations with objective and reliable information on their websites, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the American Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society.
- Before signing any documents for medical treatment, a patient should read everything entirely and understand their and their doctor’s risks and responsibilities.
The Importance of a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
When someone is sick and seeking medical treatment, they hope to receive the best care possible. Unfortunately, sometimes people don’t receive proper care and instead suffer severe injuries because of medical errors. Healthcare providers must be held accountable for injuries to patients due to medical malpractice and negligence.
If someone suspects they have been injured because of a medical mistake, they should consult a medical malpractice lawyer to protect their legal rights as soon as possible. They must understand that doctors and medical staff have support to help them navigate the legal system. An individual patient may not be trained in such legal matters. They should rely on the expertise of a medical malpractice lawyer to not only hold the negligent party responsible, but also to help them receive the compensation they deserve for medical expenses, lost wages, loss of enjoyment of life, pain, and suffering.
For an incident to be considered medical malpractice, certain types of error(s) must have occurred, and a medical malpractice attorney can help you determine if you have a case. Medical malpractice errors include the following:
Failure to diagnose/Delayed diagnosis: When an illness or condition is not identified correctly, this is known as a failure to diagnose. This could cause the patient to experience other symptoms, be prescribed incorrect medications and assigned the wrong treatment plan, or the worst-case scenario – die.
Surgical errors: A surgical error increases the risk of complications and may lead to more severe illness or further surgeries. Along with mistakes made in surgery, there can also be mistakes made with anesthesia.
Medication errors: Prescribing incorrect drugs, handing out a wrong dosage, or an illegible prescription are common medical mistakes. Such mistakes can lead to catastrophic consequences.
Emergency room errors: Emergency rooms can be chaotic, and the medical personnel and staff working in them could be tired and overworked. It is the responsibility of the medical facility to provide safe and reliable conditions to all patients.
Birth injuries: Birth injuries occur to a child during the birthing process. Common birth injuries include Cerebral palsy (CP), forceps injuries, Brachial plexus palsy, facial paralysis, breaks, and fractures. While not all birth injuries are permanent, those that are often require years, even a lifetime, of care.
If your family is suffering because of a negligent medical professional, you could have a medical malpractice case. Contact Paulson & Nace to schedule a free case evaluation at (202) 463-1999 or contact us online for more information.
Both an Emory School of Law graduate and MBA graduate of Goizueta Business School at Emory, Chris Nace focuses his practice on areas of medical malpractice, drug and product liability, motor vehicle accidents, wrongful death, employment discrimination and other negligence and personal injury matters.