Friday, June 1, 2012
Health Care and Medical Malpractice
According to the Newsome Melton law firm, despite the abundance of excellent medical care, doctors are human and they occasionally make mistakes. A patient can be harmed due to negligence or mistreatment by a medical provider. If injury can be proven, then a case of medical malpractice should be argued. To be considered malpractice, it must be proven that harm was caused when the medical provider acted outside acceptable terms of standard care. A case can be brought against the practicing physician, the hospital in which the treatment occurred, and any state or federal agencies responsible for supervision of the hospital. A doctor could be at fault for misdiagnosing a patient or skipping a customary step during treatment. Any errors that occurred in the training of hospital employees resulting in neglect or sanitation problems are also grounds for a lawsuit.
Medical malpractice happens when a health care or medical provider is negligent when treating a medical condition, according to ExpertLaw.com. Malpractice can occur from an action taken by the medical practitioner, or by the failure to take a medically appropriate action. Some examples of medical malpractice include:
• Failure to diagnose, or misdiagnosis of a disease or medical condition;
• Failure to provide appropriate treatment for a medical condition;
• Unreasonable delay in treating a diagnosed medical condition;
A health care provider may also be legally liable if the patient does not give "informed consent" to a medical procedure that results in harm to the patient, even if the medical treatment is properly performed. Much more detail can be found at this website: http://www.expertlaw.com/library/malpractice/malpractice.html#3 .
According to MedicalMalpracticeHelp.com, it is impossible for a victim to know if their claim is worth presenting in court without first consulting an attorney. The most proficient advice will come from a lawyer that is experienced in handling medical malpractice cases. Many firms are willing to work on a contingency basis. This means that the law firm will only get paid if the victim is offered a pre-trial settlement or an award in court. Since it is unrealistic to assume that the ruling will favor the plaintiff, a lawyer will not argue a case that lacks substantial proof of injury.
Damage caps, liability reform, and time limitations can all affect the outcome of a medical malpractice claim. Each of these factors is dictated by the state’s government. It is best to seek council with a lawyer that has previous experience in the victim’s general location. Limits on the maximum amount awarded for malpractice claims vary from state to state. A few select states do not have any damage caps, while other states have very low boundaries in place, according to Newsome Melton.
Additionally, according to the law firm, liability reform is an aspect of law that not only changes from state to state, but is also constantly evolving. Terms of liability can be amended several times a year and are difficult to keep up with for those outside the legal profession. Many states mandate their own restrictions that define when a medical malpractice suit can be filed. Two years is the average time limit for most claims. Due to strict time limitations and complicated guidelines, a victim should schedule a legal consultation as soon as possible if malpractice is suspected.
Medical malpractice lawsuits have existed in the United States for more than 150 years, though today, most medical errors are never pursued in court, and a large majority of claims never result in any kind of payment to patients. And even though the direct and indirect costs of such suits account for only 2.4 percent of total health care costs, that’s still $55 billion yearly. To say nothing of the even more important social costs, an issue addressed by The Journal of the American College of Surgeons.
As reported in the NY Times, researchers surveyed more than 7,000 surgeons and found that nearly one in four were in the midst of litigation. Surgeons involved in a recent lawsuit were more likely to suffer from depression and burnout, including feelings of emotional exhaustion and detachment, a low sense of accomplishment and even thoughts of suicide. Other studies estimate that, depending on the specialty, anywhere from 75 percent to 99 percent of practicing doctors will over the course of a lifetime be threatened with a lawsuit.
According to the NY Times, doctors who have been sued may end up practicing defensive medicine, ordering unnecessary tests and medications or refusing to treat patients with more complex illnesses altogether as a safeguard against future litigation. Those same doctors can also become burned out, which can lead to even more errors, and more malpractice claims. And, one way to disrupt the negative cycle is to improve communication between patients and doctors, so that patients are aware of the risks that can occur despite a doctor’s best efforts. Another important step is instituting programs that continue those conversations even after an error occurs. But change will require looking at malpractice reform in a new way, one that gives weight not just to the economic costs but to the ways reform might affect how patients and doctors interact.
It is a good idea for a victim to speak with several law firms specializing in medical malpractice cases, according to Newsome Melton. The victim can then assess which group will provide the best legal assistance. A worthwhile attorney will offer a free consultation to determine the strength of a potential client’s case. Before the suit can proceed, the plaintiff will need to obtain a certificate of merit. This is acquired when another health care professional reviews the relevant medical documents and records of the victim. If proof of medical malpractice is found, the health care professional will serve as an expert witness in trial. The testimony will state that the acting physician deviated from normal medical standards, resulting in damage to the victim. The plaintiff’s attorney will file the certificate of merit, confirming that they have consulted with a licensed physician and obtained evidentiary support.
Medical malpractice issues are pretty complex from a legal standpoint. Who should be held responsible for errors in medical treatment? How can concepts like "informed consent" affect a case? What about damage caps in med mal cases? According to Medical Malpractice.com, medical malpractice suits require a substantial amount of investigation before being able to proceed with a case. For much more detail about that information and for individual state laws about medical malpractice, visit this site: http://www.medicalmalpractice.com/topics/state-state-medical-malpractice-laws .
If you feel that you have been a victim of medical malpractice, seek professional legal advice about your situation or case before proceeding with litigation. There may be a valid opportunity to seek damages, or there may be no real option that would allow a lawsuit to be filed. Opinions from your friends or relatives are not considered legal advice, unless one of them happens to be an attorney. And a law firm that specializes in these types of cases would be best for consulting and further action, but only after reviewing the merits of your file.
As a patient, it’s always best to seek a second opinion for major medical or health care decisions, but when you undergo surgery or other complicated medical procedures, always know that there can be risk, and sometimes substantial risk that the outcome may not be successful. That’s why it pays to have good counsel and great doctors.
Until next time.