When your doctor makes mistakes, how do you hold him or her accountable?
Hopefully, if you are undergoing a medical procedure, your doctor has given you no cause to believe he is committing medical malpractice. But the sad reality is that not everyone who graduated from medical school should be a doctor.
This is true of every profession, to be sure, but a passed exam does automatically lead to complete understanding of anatomy and physiology. It would be nice to put your complete trust and confidence in the individual performing surgery, but even the greatest physicians are only human. They can make mistakes, they can be tired, they can be distracted. Sometimes these mistakes are costly, dangerous and deadly.
According to the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys, medical malpractice “occurs when a hospital, doctor or other health care professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes an injury to a patient. The negligence might be the result of errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare or health management.”
This would involve a violation of the standard of medical care, an injury caused by a doctor’s negligence, or injuries that result in significant damages.
If you suspect medical malpractice, chances are you may have experienced one of these examples of negligence:
- Unnecessary surgeries or medical procedures
- Ignoring or misreading laboratory results
- Surgical errors
- Incorrect medications or dosages
- Failure to recognize symptoms or to order testings
Here is what to do if you suspect medical malpractice on the part of your doctor.
What to do if you suspect medical malpractice: don’t contact the hospital - yet
The first instinct on the part of an injured patient is often to reach out to the doctor or hospital administrators to ask for help or demand recourse.
According to the National Law Review, a recent case illustrated that this is not a wise choice. In that case, a patient sent an informal letter to her doctor stating that she would “move to the court” if they didn’t settle with her in regard to “medical negligence.” The hospital denied her claim, and when the patient took them to court, it was determined that her initial communication served as pretrial notice.
Medical malpractice claims have strict statutes of limitation that are often far shorter than other personal injury cases and require sending notice to the doctors involved, not to mention that expert witnesses for trial need to be identified early in the process. The process becomes even more complicated when trying to figure out whether the hospital is public, private or charitable, since each comes with its own unique filing requirements.
Don’t talk about it, especially online
When you’re injured, the need to vent about your troubles often takes form as posts on social media. You find online support groups, post on forums, tweet your thoughts, and leave a perfect trail of breadcrumbs for attorneys to follow. These posts becomes exhibits A, B and C.
There is no delicate way to say this, but if you or a loved one is injured, keep quiet online. Attorneys are now trained to gather social media posts for use against other parties, and you don’t want your medical malpractice lawsuit undone by Google. Get a therapist if you really need to talk about things, because at least there you have client confidentiality.
Get a medical malpractice attorney - fast
You will need someone who specializes in medical malpractice law to make sure you file suit correctly. As soon as you realize you’re injured, talk to a lawyer.
Some states, like California or Ohio, only offer one year during which plaintiffs can file a medical malpractice suit. If you’re running out of time, just get any attorney to file and then switch to someone more specialized. (Though this isn’t necessarily advisable, since there are indeed unique filing requirements and not every attorney knows them. But the point is to file soon so you don’t miss your window.)
How to find the best medical malpractice attorney for your case
It’s important to do plenty of research and choose a medical malpractice lawyer with many years of experience in this type of legal work. Has he written any treatises or authored any law books? Has he given lectures? Is he an adjunct professor at a law school? These are all good things and should factor into your decision. There are complicated procedural issues that arise in medical malpractice cases, and you want the person who, literally, wrote the book on it. Here is a handy explanation and a list of questions for choosing your personal injury attorney.
Also keep in mind that medical malpractice attorneys fall into one of two camps:
1. They defend doctors against medical malpractice lawsuits
2. They represent patients who have been injured.
Make sure you hire someone who bats for the right team if you’re considering filing a lawsuit because you suspect your doctor of medical malpractice.
Read more and see where to find a lawyer in How to Find the Right Medical Malpractice Attorney for Your Case.