Our state’s medical professionals undergo rigorous education and training in order to be able to provide treatment to patients. While many of these professionals also have extensive experience, the reality is that these skilled workers are human, meaning they are prone to making mistakes. The problem, of course, is that a mistake in the medical field can leave an individual with serious injuries that can have life-long ramifications.
Have you been hurt while receiving medical care? If so, then you’ll need to know what you can do to protect your interests moving forward, which usually means seeking out the compensation you need and deserve. Below are some things that you’ll need to keep in mind when deciding whether pursuing a medical malpractice claim is right for you.
Ask whether a doctor/patient relationship existed
In most cases, this is pretty easy to prove. Generally speaking, when a doctor acts affirmatively to provide you with treatment, then a legal relationship has been established. This affirmative act may arise when a doctor examines you, orders testing, agrees to conduct an operation, or prescribes medication.
Consider the applicable standard of care
To prove medical malpractice, you’ll have to show that your doctor failed to live up to the applicable standard of care. This is a slippery concept to grasp, primarily because the standard can vary based on location, equipment, and personnel. For example, a rural hospital in upstate New York likely won’t be held to as high of a standard as a hospital in New York City that that has cutting edge technology. This issue is often hotly contested at trial, which means that you’ll probably need an expert to help you establish the applicable standard of care.
Identify how the standard of care was breached
You’re also going to need to show how your doctor failed to adhere to the applicable standard of care. This is usually the meat of a claim and can include the following:
- Failing to order appropriate tests
- Misreading test results
- Delaying diagnosis
- Performing a wrong procedure or performing it on the wrong body part
- Committing a surgical error
- Providing unnecessary treatment
- Administering the wrong medication or medication in too high of a dose
- Providing treatment without informed consent or that goes beyond the scope of informed consent
Who can help you prove your case
Witnesses who work at the hospital can be key witnesses, but medical records and expert testimony can be just as powerful. Also, keep in mind that you’re trying to establish liability, but you’re also trying to show the extent of the harm you’ve suffered. So, be sure to gather documentation that shows your medical treatment, your prognosis, and your most recent employment and salary information.
Be prepared to negotiate and litigate
Once you prepare for trial, you’ll know the strength of your case. At that point, you can gauge how hard you can push for resolution during settlement negotiations. You’ll know what is an acceptable offer and when an offer is so low as to justify taking the case to trial. Also, by being prepared for trial you’ll be able to competently address any evidentiary issues that may arise.
It’s okay to feel a little anxious about these matters. After all, there’s a lot on the line. Any mishandling of the five issues mentioned above can lead to a failed claim, which means you might be saddled with enormous medical debt and lost wages, as well as unsettled physical and emotional pain and suffering. If you find that unacceptable, then it may be time for you to consider seeking out help to build the strongest claim possible.