Medical Malpractice Claims—An Informative Guide
Most individuals are not aware that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the USA. According to the latest data on deaths by medical error, approximately 250,000 deaths occur annually.
Add to that the cost of errors that result in disability and loss of income and the date figures are well into the tens of millions. (1) These statistics do not even take into account many times the actual non-reported cases as injured individuals from medical malpractice can choose not to report.
Medical malpractice can occur through either negligence, not following the standard of care prescribed by law, or by omission where errors in judgment lead to the injury of patients through lack of knowledge by medical providers and/or hospitals.
Medical Malpractice Claims are Processed as Civil Tort Claims
Civil tort law is simply defined as an injury to an individual that is accidental and not premeditated. Because an injury is involved, however, compensation could and most times should be sought. (2)
The injuries do not have to take place within a hospital admission or surgery. These can occur when diagnoses are delayed or incorrect, or even when an individual is prescribed home care or rehabilitation which exacerbates or creates a new physical illness or abnormality.
Too many individuals revere the medical profession and allow mistakes to go on while spending a lifetime suffering the consequences.The injuries can be life-changing—physically, mentally, emotionally and of course, financially.
3 Main Components of a Medical Malpractice Injury Claim
All three of these components must be met for a case to proceed and be won ultimately.
- Meeting the approved Standard of Care (3)
This is the most crucial component. There is a Standard of Care that is universal in the United States and is issued under the auspices of the American Medical Association. Any plaintiff (the individual filing the lawsuit) must first prove that the Standard of Care was breached.
The Standard of Care applies to the reasonableness of the care that was provided and that a majority of providers would have provided the same or almost the same type of care.
- There must be an injury
If no injury did occur, there is no case. The injury can be physical, mental, emotional, or financial. Some patients can incur the most tragic negligence or omission, but if no injury is apparent of any type, an attorney generally will not proceed.
A good medical malpractice attorney will look into not just present injuries but those that might occur years after the circumstances. It is not uncommon for the full extent of an injury due to medical negligence or omission to be not apparent immediately.
Problems can appear years later as depression, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), or an ability to maintain a career due to developing health problems related to initial negligence or omission.
- Disclosure of material risks, treatment options, and fiduciary benefits
This is called the “Duty to Inform” and each physician must adhere to these rules of disclosure. If there is a simpler treatment that is less invasive or even less costly, this must be disclosed.
While fiduciary is a term mostly used in the financial fields, that pertains to loyalty to a client’s best interests, physicians also have a fiduciary duty to ensure that their loyalty is also only to their patients and not to the procedures or the cost of the procedures.
It also can apply to doctors who have investments in certain medical devices or other outside interests. Doctors are free as individuals to invest or even work for more than one medical facility at a time, so fiduciary responsibility cannot be taken lightly. (4)
The three main components need evaluation by a seasoned malpractice attorney as the quality of life and sometimes life itself are at stake. Years of regret can follow if an attorney is not consulted and medical treatment or a procedure goes awry.
Summary–Informative Guide on Medical Malpractice
When suspecting an injury from medical malpractice, negligence, or omission it is important to act quickly. There is a Statute of Limitations that all attorneys who practice this craft are well aware of. In PA is it generally two years which goes quickly given all the filings and fact-finding needed.
Even if hospitalized for months, it is possible to arrange a video conferencing call or even a hospital visit by an attorney to protect the patient’s rights to the fullest. Pictures of injuries or an interview with the plaintiff at the time of the injury are immensely helpful.
All doctors and hospitals have large insurance companies to protect them, the defendants, and all patients should have the name and contact information of a good medical malpractice attorney on hand before undergoing any procedures, or in the event of an accident that results in incompetent medical treatment.
The time to evaluate attorneys is before they are needed for malpractice claims. Most individuals do not do this, however, so Hoey Legal, led by Christian J. Hoey, Esquire, does offer free consultations if any type of medical malpractice is even suspected. The team at Hoey Legal of Paoli, in Chester County, PA fights to win and shows unparalleled devotion to all clients.