Winning compensation for medical mistakes is rarely straightforward or easy. Errors made by doctors and health care workers are far more common than many people realize. A John Hopkins University School of Medicine study estimated that about a quarter million deaths in the U.S. each year could potentially be traced back to a medical error. If the study’s methodology and data accurately reflect a reality of our modern health care system, that would make medical errors one of the leading causes of death in the country.
Another study found that about seven million patients in the U.S. are affected by medication errors each year, resulting in about $40 billion of additional health care costs.
Based on those figures, it seems like people should be filing and winning medical malpractice claims daily.
Although there are significant differences between medical malpractice injury and wrongful death cases and other types of injury claims, like car accidents or slip and falls, there are some commonalities. One of those commonalities is the need to prove negligence. Someone else’s carelessness caused your injury and you suffered physical, financial and emotional damages as a result of their mistake.
The researchers who performed the John Hopkins study made sure to clarify the medical errors they identified often had nothing to do with the quality of doctors or the care a health care worker provided. They even asserted legal action wouldn’t be an appropriate response to many of the deaths tracked in their study. Some of the causes they identified included:
- Fragmented insurance networks
- Inadequate patient care safety nets
- Poor health care protocols
- Variations in doctor and health care worker practice patterns
- Inadequate accountability measures
- Systematic problems like poor care coordination
It’s hard to hold a systemic problem financially liable for a death or illness. To have a successful medical malpractice case, you need to be able to prove a reasonable, properly trained doctor or medical worker would not have made the error that caused your injury. If it turns out the root cause of your injury was an institutional issue that impacts every patient and doctor, you might have trouble making your case.
Proving Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice cases can be a lot more complex than auto accident or premises liability injury cases. There are a couple extra things an injured patient or surviving family members of a patient will need to prove to win compensation.
- There was an established doctor-patient relationship between the injured person and the medical provider
- The medical provider made a mistake due to negligence (failed to uphold the proper duty of care)
- The negligence resulted in the patient’s injury
- The patient’s injuries resulted in specific damages and additional costs
The damages part is especially important. You will have trouble winning a claim against a doctor who gave you Advil instead of antibiotics if you ended up getting better without the antibiotics and you didn’t suffer any long-term negative side effects.
Medical malpractice plaintiffs need to be able to show they suffered measurable damages due to the mistake. Damages could include things like:
- A lot of additional health care costs because of the mistake
- Additional surgeries and rehabilitation time
- Missed work or career setbacks because of the mistake
- The mistake left them with a permanent disability or scarring
- The medical mistake caused chronic physical pain and psychological anguish
Essentially, you need to have experienced true financial, physical or emotional suffering as a result of the error. Simply claiming it took you an extra week to get better likely won’t be enough to justify a claim for a medical error.
Proving a Doctor Didn’t Uphold Their Duty of Care
Making a mistake doesn’t necessarily mean a doctor was negligent. Your medical malpractice lawyer will need to work with another doctor in the same field to prove what your doctor did was inappropriate for your situation, and that a reasonable, properly trained doctor wouldn’t have made the mistake. That kind of expert testimony can be expensive, which is one of the reasons why some personal injury attorneys shy away from time-consuming medical malpractice cases.
Does That Mean I Shouldn’t Try to Get Compensation for a Medical Mistake?
No – if you believe a doctor’s mistake caused your serious injury or the death of a loved one, you should strongly consider speaking with a personal injury lawyer. If you have a compelling case, a medical malpractice attorney might take it.
The only way to find out for sure is to start scheduling free consultations with Atlanta attorneys. A quick conversation with an experienced lawyer doesn’t cost you anything, so you’ve got nothing to lose.
Contact the Dressie Law Firm today by calling 770-756-6333.