Frequently Asked Medical Malpractice Questions
Medical Malpractice FAQ’s
What is the definition of medical malpractice?
The term medical malpractice is used to describe a health care failure caused by substandard care. Doctors, nurses and other health care professionals are expected to provide a minimum standard of care. There’s a difference between a doctor’s actions and the patient’s results. An unanticipated treatment outcome or treatment failure may have nothing to do with the standard of care being provided.
This is why it’s vital for suspected instances of medical malpractice to be thoroughly investigated by experienced medical malpractice attorneys.
What is the standard of care?
The standard of care is a cornerstone of tort law (personal injury and civil litigation law). It’s essentially the proper way a reasonable person should act in terms of personal responsibility and accountability. For example, when you get behind the wheel of your car, you are legally required to operate the vehicle with an appropriate level of caution, which you can generally accomplish by following traffic laws.
Professionals in many industries are held to a specific standard of care. Doctors (and lawyers) are held to their own standards of care. In the case of doctors, they are expected to meet the standard of care expected for their specialty. This extends to a variety of traditional doctor duties, like diagnosing patients, prescribing medication and performing surgeries.
The medical standard of care is generally defined by modern-day health care education and training standards and what a reasonable, properly trained doctor would do in a given circumstance.
How can an attorney prove a doctor failed to meet the standard of care?
Your attorney will need to work with a trained physician or another doctor in the same specialty to establish what a responsible, properly trained doctor would do in the same scenario. For example, if your doctor made a prescription error, your medical malpractice attorney would need to file a lawsuit with an affidavit from a medical expert in the same field explaining the proper treatment or procedure and how your doctor failed to meet that standard of care. This Affidavit of Expert is a necessary part of a Georgia medical malpractice case.
What are some common examples of medical malpractice?
- Failure to treat
- Delayed treatment
- Prescription errors
- Failure to provide follow-up care
- Failure to adequately warn patients of treatment or procedure risks or side effects
- Performing unnecessary surgeries or surgery on the wrong site
- Prematurely discharging a patient
- Failure to read or properly interpret diagnostic or lab results
There are many medical malpractice cases that aren’t entirely clear without adequate investigation, like determining if a doctor’s failure to spot a tumor on an MRI qualifies as a failure to meet the standard of care. Other situations are far clearer cut, like scenarios in which a doctor performs the wrong surgery on a patient, like amputating the wrong limb.
My loved one was seriously injured or passed away under a doctor’s care – what should I do?
Not every bad medical outcome will be due to medical malpractice. It’s important to recognize that there are many scenarios in which doctors, nurses and surgeons can meet the standard of care and still fail to reach an ideal treatment outcome.
That’s why investigation is so important. It may be in your best interest to speak with a medical malpractice attorney so they can ascertain the facts of the situation and discover if you have a case.
Who can I sue for medical malpractice?
Any medical professional, business or health care institution that employed those medical practitioners can potentially be targeted with a medical malpractice lawsuit. The health care professionals don’t necessarily need to be doctors. Nurses, physical therapists, lab technicians and physician assistants, along with the hospitals or health care networks that employ them, can potentially be subject to medical malpractice claims.
How are damages determined in medical malpractice cases?
Simply proving your doctor committed malpractice doesn’t necessarily mean you have a case. You must be able to show you suffered an injury due to the mistake and that injury caused damages. Those damages could be physical, financial or psychological.
You might have trouble finding a lawyer to take a case if a doctor prescribed the wrong ointment for a rash and, as a result, it took you an extra two weeks to get clear skin. Even if you can prove you were “injured” due to the malpractice, proving you suffered significant damages due to that prescription mistake may be difficult.
However, many victims of malpractice require corrective surgeries, suffer disabilities or are subjected to long and arduous recovery periods. Your medical malpractice attorney will calculate the additional medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering you’ve been forced to endure due to the medical mistake.
What is the time limit on bringing a medical malpractice claim in Georgia?
Patients and their families have two years from either the date of the injury or discovery of the injury. If a medical mistake was obvious immediately, you have two years after the treatment itself. If a doctor made a medical mistake that went undiscovered, which can happen in failure to diagnose or after some surgeries, you would have two years after the date on which you discovered the error.
Are there caps on medical malpractice damages in Georgia?
Yes. There is a $350,000 cap on non-economic damages for a single health care provider (like pain and suffering, loss of consortium, etc.) in medical malpractice cases. In cases that involve multiple health care providers or facilities liable for your injuries the cap can be increased to $700,000. There is no limit on economic damages (lost wages, ongoing care costs, etc.).
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