Individuals and families who have come away from an interaction with a medical professional worse—not better—than they were before seeking medical treatment are right to ask: What do you do if you suspect medical negligence? It’s not easy knowing what to do if you think you may be a victim of medical malpractice. The first step you take should be to contact a medical malpractice lawyer you trust. This is a highly complicated area of the law, and it’s best to seek experienced legal guidance before taking any matters into your own hands, even before contacting the doctor or hospital you suspect may have committed medical negligence.
Let’s look at the definition of medical malpractice in personal injury law, and some practical ways you can move forward after suffering what you believe may be an instance of medical malpractice. The medical malpractice lawyers at Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC are always available to answer questions and advise you of the legal options that may be available after injury.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
How do you know if you are a victim of medical malpractice? Before learning what you should and shouldn’t do if you suspect medical malpractice, it’s helpful to have a clear understanding of what medical malpractice actually is, as defined by the law.
Any person who works in the medical profession—including doctors, nurses, technicians, dentists, and hospital staff—are required to provide patients with a certain standard of care. This standard is recognized by healthcare professionals in the medical field as the acceptable and reasonable method of treatment by careful, skilled medical providers. A patient has the legal right to expect this level of care from their doctors and other healthcare professionals. It is the duty of a doctor to uphold this standard of care when interacting with any patient. But when this duty is breached and a patient is injured as a result, it may be a case of medical malpractice. In order to prove medical malpractice, it must first be established that:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed
- The doctor owed you a duty of care
- The doctor violated the duty of care
- You were injured as a result of the breach of duty, and suffered specific damages
If you were the victim of medical malpractice, your lawyer will need to work hard to find the evidence necessary to support your case and prove that negligence occurred, that you were injured, and that you are deserving of compensation for your losses. This is not always a straightforward process, and your medical malpractice attorney will need to examine medical records, conduct exhaustive investigations, and seek the testimony of medical experts in the field. In a case of medical negligence, the injury wouldn’t have occurred if another doctor had been treating you. So it’s important to make sure that negligent doctors and other healthcare providers are held liable for the actions that harm others.
Some examples of medical malpractice include:
- Surgical errors
- Delayed diagnosis
- Failure to diagnose
- Failure to treat
- Improper treatment
- Prescribing the wrong medication
- Administering the wrong medication
- Prescribing drugs with dangerous interactions
- Birth injuries
- Anesthesia errors
- Failure to protect from infection
- Unsterilized equipment
- Failure to warn of known risks
If you suffered one of the examples listed above, or another instance of medical negligence, you may be considering filing a medical malpractice claim against a negligent professional or hospital. This is an important step in the recovery of many individuals and families who may suddenly be facing compounded medical expenses, severe pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, or the loss of the ability to work and earn income. Your medical malpractice lawyer will take all these factors into consideration when calculating the amount you should be compensated.
Signs to Look for That May Indicate Malpractice
Being displeased with the care your doctor or nurse provided does not mean that medical negligence occurred. But if you visited a healthcare provider for treatment and things became much worse, you may have reason to believe that malpractice occurred. In some cases, it may be instantly obvious that things did not go as they should have. For example, if a nurse administers medication that your chart clearly states you are allergic to, the effects will be immediate. But if, for example, a surgeon makes an error during surgery, you may not be aware of the impact until weeks, months, or even years after the incident. While not an exhaustive list, these are a few of the signs that could indicate medical malpractice has occurred:
- Your doctor doesn’t follow up after treatment
- The prescribed medications are having no effect, or are making you worse
- You develop new pains and symptoms that last for days or weeks
- Your doctor or nurse doesn’t listen to or discredits what you’re feeling
- Your treatment doesn’t seem to match your condition
- You didn’t consent to your treatment
- You were not informed of treatment options
- You develop an illness or infection after leaving the hospital
I Suspect Medical Malpractice, What Should I Do Next?
Not everyone knows what to do after medical malpractice. Because it is such a complicated legal matter, many people are hesitant to take steps toward beginning investigations into the issue, and are overwhelmed by not knowing where to start. It’s natural that your first reaction might be to reach out to the doctor or hospital that treated you. You may want to confront them about the incident and inform them that you suspect medical negligence resulted in your injuries. But that’s not the best idea, for several reasons.
One important issue is the statute of limitation for medical malpractice cases. The statute of limitations dictates the amount of time you have to file a claim after the incident. In Mississippi, you have two years from the date the healthcare provider committed the negligence that resulted in injury. This deadline can be affected by when the harm is discovered. Because it can be very difficult to prove medical malpractice, it’s important to get in touch with your lawyer right away to begin looking at the details of the situation and what action should be taken. Additionally, if you contact the doctor or hospital yourself and accuse them of negligence, that could be taken as the discovery of the illness and initiation of legal action, even if you haven’t spoken with a lawyer yet. This can create issues relating to the statute of limitations and result in your claim being denied.
Medical malpractice law is a serious matter governed by a complex network of rules and deadlines. If you are in even the early stages of wondering whether or not you were a victim of medical negligence, it’s highly advised that you reach out to a practiced legal professional for advice before proceeding. Moving forward without a skilled attorney substantially increases the likelihood that your claim will be denied and you will not be able to obtain the compensation necessary to cover your medical bills, lost wages, and other related expenses.
The law firm of Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC specializes in complex medical malpractice cases. We always begin with an initial meeting at no cost to you. We will hear your story and gain an understanding of your situation. This will help us determine whether you have a medical malpractice case, and how we may be able to represent you. Reach out to our office to schedule a free consultation.
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