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What to know before filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in the United States?

Medical malpractice occurs when an individual, often a patient, has been injured because of negligent care from someone within the healthcare system. 

Medical malpractice lawsuits are one way to secure financial compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses incurred during a medical procedure, life care costs, and lost work wages; however, it all depends on the type of injury.

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical doctors, other healthcare professionals, the hospital, or healthcare facility may be involved in a medical malpractice case. Each medical malpractice case may vary from minor to very severe resulting in important future health or emotional damages, or resulting in death. 

A case of medical malpractice may constitute an event where a healthcare provider or healthcare facility failed to provide adequate care, acted through omission or deliberate negligent care, or caused significant injury to the patient. 

In many cases, patients are marked with important physical or emotional events that may have long-lasting consequences.

Who files the medical malpractice lawsuit?

Medical malpractice attorneys are part of the legal team hired by the malpractice victim to take their case and file a malpractice lawsuit. 

Most lawyers work on a contingency-fee-basis in which case there are no up-front costs. Should the legal process be successful, the legal team will take a portion of the compensation resulting from handling the case. 

If the legal process is unsuccessful, the medical malpractice attorney will not collect any legal fees.

medical malpractice lawsuit

What does the legal team need to file a malpractice lawsuit?

Any situation of potential negligent care should be proven by the patient’s legal team to consider filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The law team would generally need to prove the following in a case:

Failing to meet standards of care may result from a decision or omission made from the moment the patient is first seen by a healthcare professional to the moment they realize a possible situation of malpractice occurred. This decision, or lack of, can be proven to be different from what any other medical professional would have made in a similar circumstance.

To prove this, the legal team may require personal medical records and detailed notes about the progress of the patient’s health or symptoms before or after undergoing medical care.

Only an experienced and qualified personal injury attorney should evaluate the case to be able to determine what information is needed and to determine the possible next steps to take. Every case is different and needs to be evaluated carefully by a legal professional.

Types of Malpractice Injuries

Different factors should be considered for each medical malpractice case that could affect the outcome and type of compensation resulting from a malpractice lawsuit. The following are only some of the possible types of injuries involved in malpractice cases.

Birth and Pregnancy Injuries Malpractice

Birth and pregnancy injuries may take place at any point before, during, or after giving birth and may result in significant injury to the newborn with life-long consequences. Some of the more common birth injuries are the result of one or a combination of situations such as bleeding, lack of oxygen reaching in the brain of the foetus or newborn, facial nerve damage, or skull fractures.

Failure to Diagnose as a type of Medical Malpractice

Failure to diagnose results from the omission or inadequate diagnostic workup resulting in a missed opportunity for adequate treatment.

Failure to diagnose occurs with conditions such as a heart attack, stroke, blood clots, pulmonary embolisms, infections, or cancer. In each of these cases, the time it takes to get the right treatment is crucial before the effects can be reversed.

Other related medical malpractice cases that may occur during diagnosis include:

Errors during Surgery

Errors during surgery are common and often result from preventable mistakes. These errors may be:

Other medical malpractice errors may occur in the Emergency room in which such settings may result in making fast decisions that could have the potential of significant injury to the patient. 

Failure to treat, where, even though the correct diagnosis is made, the treatment is not correctly prescribed. Similarly, prescription drug errors occur when the prescription is for the wrong medication or for the incorrect dosage.

What are the steps for filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

Medical malpractice lawsuits are filed by a medical malpractice law firm representing the injured patient, together they are called the plaintiff. 

Statutes of limitations on medical malpractice

Medical malpractice claims have a limited time before a file can be made. These timeframes are called the statute of limitations.

Medical malpractice lawsuits should be filed before the statute of limitations is reached but these limitations are different for each state.

Generally, they fall between two to seven years. Statutes of limitations also vary on the type of lawsuit that is filed. For example, a personal injury claim has different statutes of limitations than a wrongful death claim.

Reaching a settlement or a verdict

The first step is to gather information and evidence in the Discovery phase. Both the plaintiff and the defendants request all necessary information related to the case.

The medical malpractice claim needs to be assessed by a neutral party with expert knowledge in the medical field related to the case to determine whether the standards of care were breached. This expert witness will need to present their expert testimony.

A medical malpractice case may or may not go to court and reach a trial. Depending on the information gathered during the discovery phase and the expert testimony presented, defendants and plaintiffs may want to negotiate the financial compensation to be paid to the victim out of court. This negotiation is called a settlement.

If the case does go to court, a judge and jury will decide on a verdict based on the information presented in the case.

Many cases are settled out of court because it saves time, money, and resources. 

The settlement amount varies on a case-by-case basis and takes into account economic damages (like past or future medical expenses, or lost wages), non-economic damages (like pain and suffering), the type of injury, to name a few factors involved in the settlement negotiations.

Many states have medical malpractice damage caps to limit the amount of compensation for economic and non-economic damages. Different states have different damage caps, the legal team can better inform you of how the compensation amount was reached.

Article from Skolove Law.