Medical malpractice results when a medical professional makes a mistake that causes harm to the patient, requiring compensation for damages.
While everyone makes mistakes in life, mistakes in medical treatment can be disastrous, resulting in real pain and suffering or even wrongful death. Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional, such as a doctor, nurse, hospital staff, dentist or technician, neglects or omits adequate treatment to a patient resulting in harm to the patient. In a malpractice case, the medical professional violates the accepted practice of similar professionals and inflicts real harm or injury. Studies show that medical mistakes account for over 1 million injuries and at least 100,000 wrongful deaths each year.
If you’ve been injured or hurt in any way as a result of medical malpractice, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney right away to make sure your rights are protected and you receive adequate compensation to cover your medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and more.
Common Types of Malpractice
A case of medical malpractice can include any type of error or inaction during medical treatment that directly causes you or a loved one harm. Examples include:
- Orthopedic mistakes such as surgery performed at the wrong level or improper placement of hardware.
- Misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose or a delayed diagnosis that allows your condition to worsen.
- Wrong site surgery.
- Anesthesia mistakes, either through overdose of medication or multiple drug interactions.
- Prescription drug errors, whether the wrong type of drug was prescribed, a drug was prescribed that causes an interaction with other prescriptions or medication was prescribed to someone who is allergic.
- Birth trauma and obstetric mistakes that harm your child.
- Gastric bypass mistakes and other abdominal surgical errors such as punctures of surrounding tissues and organs.
How Medical Malpractice Claims are Proven
It is important to understand that you have rights if you have been hurt by your doctor or other medical professional. An experienced attorney will begin by listening to your story and reviewing the facts to determine if the case meets the basic requirements for malpractice:
- An established relationship exists. Basically, this means you cannot file a lawsuit after you took advice from a doctor who wasn’t actually treating you.
- The health care professional was negligent. To prove negligence, we will need to show that the medical professional did not provide treatment in a reasonably skilled and competent manner. This is the most important part of your case!
- This negligence caused you real harm or injuries. Next, we will need to prove that the action or inaction from the health care professional directly resulted in actual damages such as additional medical expenses, pain and suffering, mental anguish, lost wages or reduced earning capacity. If your loved one was killed as a result of the mistake, loss of companionship, funeral costs and other damages may be compensated.
Many malpractice lawsuits result from misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of a medical problem, injury or illness. If your doctor’s error in diagnosis led to improper treatment, delayed treatment for the condition or no treatment being provided at all, your condition may worsen and even result in death. It is important to note that a diagnosis error alone is not enough to qualify for a case of malpractice as even a very skilled professional can make errors while exercising reasonable care. To prove misdiagnosis, an evaluation of the medical professional’s course of action and decisions to reach the diagnosis must be examined. This is known as examining the differential diagnosis method used by the physician. This method is a system professionals use to identify medical conditions based on an evaluation of the patient. To prove malpractice based on misdiagnosis, it must be proven that one of the following things occurred:
- The medical professional included the correct diagnosis on the differential diagnosis list but did not perform the necessary tests or receive second opinions to fully investigate the viability of this diagnosis.
- The medical professional did not include the correct diagnosis on the differential diagnosis list when a reasonably competent medical professional under similar circumstances would have.
In some cases there may be other human error involved such as a technician who missed something important on an x-ray or test results which were not read properly. Also, the medical professional may have been relying on faulty diagnostic equipment. In these situations, there may be more than one medical professional liable for the damage.
Finally, a misdiagnosis case involves proving that the misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis resulted in further harm. This may include a medical condition that progresses farther than it should have, unnecessary medical expenses and anxiety over treating a condition that did not exist.
Surgical errors can lead to drastic complications and death. However, a bad outcome following surgery may not be the result of malpractice. Nevertheless, a small percentage of bad results following surgery are the result of malpractice. While there are many possible mistakes that may be made during surgery, the following are especially common:
- Wrong site surgery, which happens when the surgery is performed on the wrong part of the body. This includes surgery performed at the wrong level of the spine.
- Improper placement of hardware/screws which can cause damage to surrounding nerves and organs.
- Retained surgical instruments left in the body, including gauze or sponges, which may cause a serious infection. Patients with compromised immune systems or other problems may experience deadly results of this problem.
- Punctures of surrounding tissue/organs by a staple, scalpel or laser.
- Nerve damage, resulting from improper use of anesthesia.
Unfortunately, many surgical errors are not apparent right after the surgery and some are subtle. Whether the doctor is exhausted from long hours during the surgery, sick or otherwise impaired, mistakes can happen without any malicious intent. The key to proving a cause of medical malpractice from a surgical mistake requires determining if the mistake could have been avoided if reasonable care was exercised. These cases often hinge on the standard of care and what a reasonable surgeon would have done in the same circumstances and showing exactly how the doctor failed to measure up to this standard of care. A case also requires proving actual damages to the patient.
Surgical errors can cause further extensive medical expenses and follow-up procedures, lost wages or further pain and suffering and even long-term health consequences. Filing a claim for medical malpractice can help you get compensation to cover these damages and more, although it is necessary to work with an experienced malpractice attorney who knows how to present such a complex case.
The Institute of Medicine estimates up to 100,000 people die in the United States each year as a result of preventable medical mistakes. Unexpected death is one of the most traumatic and stressful experiences, suddenly forcing you to deal with a funeral, taking over finances and making important probate decisions, all while going through a terrible mourning period.
A lawsuit against the doctor or hospital is probably the last thing on your mind after you have lost a loved one and many people believe that a lawsuit is not worth pursuing as it will not fix the mistake or bring back their loved one. However, you may want to consider a lawsuit if you are struggling to pay for medical expenses, funeral costs and other expenses and a health care provider is responsible for the death.
Survivors may file two types of lawsuits after a loved one dies as a result of medical error: a wrongful death action or a survivor action. In most cases, both of these medical malpractice claims can be filed at the same time with two types of damages.
A wrongful death action occurs when the patient died as a result of a medical mistake that should not have occurred and family members suffered direct losses as a result. In this type of case, the hospital or physician responsible should compensate family members for any damages and loss as a result of the wrongful death. These cases do not allow the family to sue for the harm or injuries inflicted on their loved one but rather they sue for the damages as a result of the loss of their family member. Damages may include loss of qualify of life, love and emotional support or financial support.
A survivor action occurs when the patient died due to medical mistakes that should not have occurred, which caused pain and suffering to the patient before death. If the patient had survived the treatment, they would have had the opportunity to pursue action against the doctor to recover compensation and the doctor should not be allowed to avoid liability because the patient died. In these cases, the hospital or doctor may be required to pay compensation for pain and suffering to the loved one’s estate.
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