According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.—right behind heart disease and cancer.
In 2012, over $3 billion was spent in medical malpractice payouts, averaging one payout every 43 minutes. There are things that you can do to avoid becoming an unfortunate part of these statistics—to be your best health-care advocate.
How do you determine if someone is the victim of medical negligence?
A malpractice claim exists if a provider’s negligence causes injury or damages to a patient. However, experiencing a bad outcome isn’t always proof of medical negligence. On occasion, health-care providers will inform a patient that the person has received negligent medical care from a previous health-care provider and—presumably in an effort at complete honesty—will sometimes tell a patient that they, themselves, have made a mistake. A quick, honest “apology” might prevent a future claim, or provide an opportunity for a settlement without the need for litigation. Insurance companies typically want to settle with an injured person directly if they can, and this allows them to do so before the full extent of injuries are known, as well as preventing the injured person from hiring an attorney who could increase the settlement value of the claim through their representation.
It’s vital to note, however, that the prosecution of medical malpractice cases—in addition to having a high likelihood of failure—can be extremely expensive, stressful and time-consuming. It’s estimated that medical errors kill roughly 200,000 patients in the U.S. each year. Yet only 15% of the personal-injury lawsuits filed annually involve medical-malpractice claims, and more than 80% of those lawsuits end with no payment whatsoever to the injured patient or their survivors.
Consequently, most experienced medical malpractice attorneys will not pursue a case unless the injuries and damages documented in the records—after they’ve been reviewed by an expert in the pertinent specialty—are substantial and justify it.
What should you do if you suspect that you’ve been subjected to negligent care? Is there a statute of limitations?
Contacting a seasoned malpractice attorney should be the first step. A thorough review of the case details—this includes everything from securing pertinent medical records to interviews with the patient, family members and friends—should be conducted by the attorney to determine whether the case is actionable.
Statutes of limitation—deadlines by which a lawsuit must be filed or be permanently barred—differ from state to state, as do the procedural requirements that must be met before a medical-malpractice lawsuit is filed. It’s always best to seek guidance from an attorney licensed in the state where the alleged malpractice occurred.
What can patients do to lessen the likelihood that they’ll experience medical malpractice?
Being proactive about medical care is undoubtedly the best step. Patients should do research to understand their health condition, and document their symptoms. They should ask health-care providers a written list of questions that they feel are important, and expect—indeed, demand—full and complete answers.
It’s also critical not to allow yourself to be intimidated by the medical system. Speak up and advocate for your own well-being. If patients sense that something is wrong, they should tell—or ask—their health-care providers. Although it’s important to trust your doctor or nurse, it’s also important to listen to your body … and use common sense. Also advisable: Have a family member or friend accompany you on important visits to health-care providers.
What are some of the most common reasons why legitimate medical-malpractice claims go unexplored?
Patients choose not to pursue valid medical-malpractice claims for numerous reasons: Some are concerned that other doctors will learn of their cases and refuse to treat them. Some fear—incorrectly—that it will lead to an increase in the cost of their medical care. And others forgo valid claims due to the perceived personal and financial costs associated with litigation.
If you have a malpractice lawsuit claim and need someone to turn to, call Tad Morlan today!