Medical malpractice occurs if a patient is harmed or injured by their doctor or other medical personnel who fails to perform their medical duty in a competent way. But just because your doctor makes a mistake in your care, it’s not necessarily medical malpractice.
Patients sue for medical malpractice when they receive poor medical treatment, a mistake in diagnosis, lack of consent, or a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality resulting in injury or harm. It takes a great deal of trust to put your life in the hands of a doctor.
But doctors are human, and mistakes do occur. When a doctor fails and you are hurt or injured as a result, you may be entitled to compensation. Here’s what you need to know before suing for medical malpractice.
The Doctor-Patient Relationship
In order to prove malpractice, you must show you had a doctor-patient relationship with the physician you are suing for malpractice. You must have evidence showing you hired the doctor for their medical service.
If a doctor gave you bad advice at a party, this is not medical malpractice. It must be a doctor who has seen and treated you for a medical condition.
If you have records of doctor’s appointments, it’s easy to prove a doctor-patient relationship. It becomes more difficult when the physician is involved in your care but didn’t treat you.
A Doctor’s Negligence
You may be unhappy with the medical care your doctor provided, but that doesn’t mean the doctor is liable. If you are thinking of filing a medical malpractice suit, you must show negligence.
You must show that the doctor harmed you in a way that a competent doctor under similar circumstances would not. The standards for medical malpractice are not that a doctor provides the best possible care, but instead, “reasonable and skillful care.”
Whether or not a doctor provided “reasonable and skillful care” is at issue in a medical malpractice claim. Most states require a patient filing a medical malpractice suit to have an expert discuss acceptable standards of care and explain how the defendant deviated from the acceptable standard.
A Doctor’s Negligence Caused Injury or Harm
Often, malpractice cases involve patients with pre-existing conditions or injuries. This can make determining whether a doctor was negligent or not more complicated.
The patient must show the doctor’s negligence or incompetence “more likely than not” caused injury or harm. Even if it’s evident the doctor performed below acceptable standards, the patient can only sue if they suffer harm.
Examples of harm include:
- Mental suffering
- Lost wages and earning capacity
- Additional medical expenses
If you feel you have suffered harm due to a doctor’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. It’s a good idea to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Suing for Medical Malpractice
Many different situations can result in medical malpractice claims. Medical decisions or mistakes that harm a patient fall under the category of malpractice. This could include surgical mistakes, prescribing the wrong drug, or others. Here are some common types of malpractice.
Failure to Diagnose
It’s frustrating for patients who are sick but do not have a diagnosis. You may have a viable malpractice claim if you can show another competent doctor could have made a different diagnosis leading to a more favorable outcome.
If a doctor provides improper treatment in a way that no competent doctor would, you may have a viable medical malpractice claim. It may also be malpractice if a doctor orders the correct treatment but administers it in an incompetent way.
Failure to Inform Patient of Potential Risks
Doctors must inform patients of the potential risks from procedures or treatments. This is “informed consent.” If a patient would have rejected the treatment if properly informed, the doctor may be liable if the treatment harms the patient.
Medical Malpractices Cases Are Time Sensitive
If you are thinking of filing a medical malpractice claim, you should find out what the time limit is for filing in your state. In Illinois, you have 2 years from the date of the injury to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
You must make your claim against the doctor directly, but in some cases, you can sue the hospital or other health care facility. It’s a good idea to speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible if you suffered an injury at the hands of a physician or other medical care provider.
The Duration of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
The vast majority of malpractice suits settle without going to trial. Most cases resolve outside of court. Some cases are dismissed and others reach a settlement.
If your case does go to trial, you want an experienced malpractice attorney by your side. They should have a high success rate of winning malpractice cases for their clients.
Medical malpractices cases can take months or even years before reaching a settlement. Usually, a patient only has to be present at trial on a few occasions.
Your attorney should keep you updated throughout the legal process. Not all medical malpractice cases last for long periods of time. When the evidence of malpractice is obvious, the case may last as little as a few days to a few weeks.
Choose the Right Medical Malpractice Attorney
Choosing the right attorney is critical. Many malpractice cases are complicated, and you need an attorney who has expertise in this area of law and understands what it takes to win.
If you have suffered an injury or harm due to a doctor’s negligence, you may feel frustrated and uncertain about suing for medical malpractice. Before you make any decisions, you should speak to a medical malpractice attorney about your case and the chances of receiving compensation for your injuries, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more.
If you are in need of a medical malpractice lawyer in the Chicago area, the legal team of Trapp & Gellar would love to help. Contact us today.