Healthcare providers usually try their very best to ensure positive outcomes for patients. However, there are times when things still don’t go right. When a patient’s condition becomes worse or they encounter unexpected complications, it can be very difficult for them and their loved ones. Many consult a medical malpractice lawyer and consider filing medical practice claims against the doctor, nurse, midwife, hospital or another provider.
While this may appear to be the way to receive compensation, there are some things that must be considered before proceeding. This is already a difficult time, so you need to know the steps that are involved and whether you can realistically expect compensation. Your medical malpractice lawyer will be able to guide you further but these are some things you need to do.
Confirm it is really medical malpractice
A poor outcome is not automatically medical malpractice. At the heart of medical malpractice is negligence. You need to be able to prove that the healthcare provider did not provide you with the standard of care another professional would in the same circumstances. You and your lawyer will need to show that the doctor was negligent and that this negligence injured or harmed you or your loved one.
Things you can claim include the following:
- Failure to diagnose
- Medical errors
- Birth injuries
- Medication errors
- Emergency room errors
- Nursing home abuse
- Leaving surgical instruments in the body and
- Failure to diagnose cancer.
In many states, you may need to file what is called a certificate of merit. This shows whether the injuries or harm you sustained were linked to negligence. You need to reach out to an expert who will go over your medical records and certify that the first doctor did not follow accepted standards and therefore caused your injuries. With this information in hand, your lawyer will then file the certificate.
Settlement amounts vary for successful claims. Damages can include medical bills, loss of income, loss of future income and loss of enjoyment of life. In cases where a loved one died, the spouse and children can often recover damages. These damages usually include those which the person would have received if they had lived. Some damages are covered under medical practice and others fall under wrongful death statutes.
Talk to the medical professional and their licensing board
You are free to engage the services of a lawyer as early as possible after the injury. However, you should contact the doctor, nurse or other professional before you file the claim. This gives them an opportunity to explain what went wrong and whether they can do something to make the situation better. Depending on your condition, they may offer to treat you free of charge to fix the problem. You won’t know unless you speak to them before taking legal action.
If you do not get satisfaction in that way, you should also contact the healthcare worker’s medical licensing board. They can warn or discipline the provider depending on their investigations and also advise you on how to proceed.
Know how long you have to file a claim
Maybe your health has deteriorated over time or you now find yourself facing health problems which think may be linked to a previous procedure. You need to be sure that can still file for medical malpractice at this point. States have time limits in place within which you must act if you want your case to be heard.
Patients usually have at least a year within which to file. In some states the time limit varies based on the type of injury or when it was discovered. In those cases, you may have as many ten years within which to file. In Kentucky and Louisiana patients have a one-year limit while in Ohio they have one to four years depending on the circumstances. The ten-year upper limit applies in Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia. Your lawyer will be able to advise you on whether you are still within the statute of limitations.
Negative medical outcomes are hard to handle. While it can be easy to lash out at the doctor, nurse or hospital as a whole, you need to ensure that the law is on your side. While you need to act within the required time limits, you also need to be sure you really have a case. Pursuing a futile case can lead to more emotional pain.