Every year, thousands of people die and thousands more are injured from careless or intentional acts of healthcare providers. When these medical errors are not criminal, they can still provide a foundation for a medical malpractice lawsuit if they cause a patient significant harm, injury, or death. Doctors, nurses, chiropractors, dentists, optometrists, psychiatrists, or even the hospital itself are accountable and can be held liable for errors, negligence, or incompetence.
What Is Hospital Negligence?
Medical negligence is most easily described as a mistake of omission. There is a standard of care which needs to be upheld, and diagnostic mistakes can lead to not receiving the proper treatment or medication for the malady. The standard of care is simply what any reasonably competent medical provider would have done treating a patient with a similar condition or in a comparable circumstance. Experts can assist understanding the standard of care that applies to your case.
Not every mistake or regrettable accident that happens within hospital walls displays negligence, but it is important to know that you can seek compensation for incompetence and negligence by hospital employees. A sound medical malpractice claim can be made if there is evidence that the doctor or medical professional was negligent. The top medical malpractice claims are for diagnostic, medication, surgical, and obstetric errors. The key factors to your case involve showing or proving a doctor’s or medical professional’s made a mistake, and that you were harmed by this mistake.
Injury or Damage
Before you file a lawsuit, you also need to be able to display that the mistake caused you damage or further harm. Experiencing a bad outcome is not necessarily proof of medical negligence. A worsening medical condition or brain damage are prime examples of damage or injuries for a medical malpractice case. In extreme cases, amputating the wrong limb, or care resulting in death are clear evidence of harm.
Doctors as Independent Contractors
Many doctors are not hospital employees, but are instead independent contractors. This suggests that the hospital is not liable for the doctor’s actions. However, in certain circumstances, the hospital may still be held accountable for the actions of the doctor.
A hospital can be liable for a doctor’s malpractice if:
- The hospital does not make it clear that the doctor is not an employee
- The hospital sets the fees the doctor can charge
- The hospital controls the doctor’s working and vacation hours
- The doctor was present when the mistake was made
- The doctor had control to prevent the negligence of another hospital worker
When You Suspect Negligence
The first step if you suspect doctor or medical provider negligence is to contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. You have likely gone through a very traumatic incident, and writing down the details is of critical importance. Medical malpractice law is regulated by extremely complex rules, which vary from state to state. The malpractice attorney will conduct a thorough review of the case details, to determine if action can be taken on the case.
Preventing Hospital Negligence
It would be best and ideal if hospital negligence could be avoided altogether in the first place. Unfortunately this is not always the case, but there are actions you can take to help mitigate a potential negative outcome. First and foremost, do not be intimidate by the medical system. While you should trust your nurse or doctor, do not be afraid to speak up on your own behalf when you think something is wrong, and do not be afraid to get a second opinion.
Keep a log of any illnesses or maladies you experience, including your symptoms as well as the severity and duration of the symptoms. In the 10 minutes or less that you see a doctor, you may forget something that does not seem important to you, but can have a great impact to correctly diagnosing your issue. Providing this information to your doctor can greatly assist in making a proper diagnosis.
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Stein, Alex. “Toward a theory of medical malpractice.” Iowa Law Review. May 2012: 1201+. Academic OneFile. Web. 7 Oct. 2014.
“What Is Medical Malpractice?” American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys. American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys. Web. 7 Oct. 2014. < http://www.abpla.org/what-is-malpractice/>