Medical malpractice could cause irreparable damage, pain, suffering, and in some cases, death. Many people who go to a doctor trust their diagnosis and expect to receive careful treatment. But there are times when the doctors make a medical error or are guilty of medical negligence. In these situations, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be the only way for an injured party to get closure and compensation for mistakes made by medical providers. Not all malpractice suits are the same, however. In each case, the doctor failed to provide a reasonable duty of care to the patient. It’s the job of the medical malpractice lawyer to prove that the healthcare provider was in the wrong, by collecting and presenting evidence of negligence.
As The American Medical Association notes, at least one in three clinicians will be defendants in medical negligence lawsuits their careers. Even with this high rate of medical malpractice lawsuits, getting a win (and the medical malpractice settlement) is relatively low. Stat Pearls informs us that eight out of ten of those suits ends with the physician winning. Closing a malpractice suit in Houston with a win requires an experienced medical malpractice lawyer on your side. Before we can explore how one wins a medical malpractice suit, we must first understand the term.
What is Medical Malpractice?
A paper published by Oxford University informs us that medical malpractice may be defined as a standard of care that is below what another similarly qualified doctor would apply in similar circumstances in a medical facility with a similar specialization. In essence, it looks at the negligence of the doctor in a particular situation. However, in Houston, you have a two-year window to file your malpractice suit. The state’s statute of limitations for medical-related lawsuits only extends to that period of time.
There are a few things that stand out as necessary to establish the case with any malpractice suit. These are:
- The existence of a doctor-patient relationship: The legal requirement here is that you hired the doctor, and the physician agreed to be hired. Once a healthcare professional has begun seeing and treating you, the court will consider this sufficient evidence of a doctor-patient relationship.
- The doctor was negligent in his or her duties: it’s not enough that you were displeased with the results of medical procedures. The doctor must have been remiss in performing their obligations to the client. The doctor’s care doesn’t even need to be the most skillful, just within the standard of care that a doctor should have when dealing with a patient. If it isn’t, that’s negligence.
- The negligence of the physician-led to injury: As with most legal cases, injury is the basis of the suit. If the medical care provider’s failure didn’t lead to any damage, then there’s nothing that the court can do to compensate the injured person. The doctor’s actions must be the reason for the injury. If a patient dies through disease or pre-existing conditions, the physician can’t be held responsible unless their negligence sped up the patient’s demise.
- Specific types of damages resulted from the injury: These damages may include birth injuries, pain, suffering, anguish, additional medical bills, and even loss of work hours. Malpractice suits only come to fruition if damages result from the physician’s negligence. If no injuries came from the negligence, there’s no compensation for the victim to recover.
Understanding the Standard of Care
The standard of care or duty of care is a simple term to break down. The medical fraternity recognizes the standard of care for a physician to be performing their duties along the same lines that someone else of similar qualifications and experience would in the same circumstances. In many cases, the only way for the plaintiff in a malpractice lawsuit to establish the standard of care is to have an expert medical witness testifying on their behalf. Clinical guidelines that professional groups have published may also be used to outline an acceptable duty of care.
The critical facet of any medical malpractice lawsuit is establishing the gap between what the physician should have done (adequate care) and what actually happened (incident of malpractice). Houston medical malpractice lawyers with extensive knowledge and experience can demonstrate the existence of this gap by:
- examining your medical records
- comparing existing standards of care with the treatment you received
- looking for hospital errors in the way your case was handled from the first day of treatment.
How Do You Prove Medical Malpractice?
In order for Houston medical malpractice lawyers to win a suit, they must show negligence regarding the duty of care and that this negligence resulted in injury for their client. Many times, victims lose their cases because the doctor could prove the injuries were not due to failure but to a pre-existing condition. The actual harm you suffered must also be quantifiable to win a judgment in your favor. As mentioned above, these kinds of damages could include the amount of time you lost from working while injured and the cost of your medical bills.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice doesn’t merely come in one form. Anything that may be considered negligent behavior could fall under malpractice, including premature birth and prolonged surgery. Among the most common malpractice types that patients encounter are:
- Improper Diagnosis: A competent doctor would be expected to notice the symptoms and correctly diagnose the patient. If the diagnosis made by the medical professional was wrong in this sense, then the patient may be able to sue them for malpractice.
- Medical Treatment Issues:Competent doctors would be expected to treat a patient a particular way. If a victim’s doctor decides to follow an alternative course of treatment that leads to injury, they are liable to be sued for malpractice. This also includes anesthesia errors, surgical errors and other similar medical errors.
- Not Warning Patients of Potential Risks: When undertaking treatment, especially experimental procedures, doctors are expected to warn patients of the risks they’ll be exposed to, such as allergic reaction or potential nerve damage. This notification is known as the duty of informed consent. If the physician fails to tell the patient of the expected risks, then the patient may sue them.
Other examples of malpractice our personal injury lawyers handled include:
emergency room errors
Types of Injuries Suffered by Medical Malpractice Victims
Many patients suffer catastrophic injury due to unnecessary surgery, or treatments prescribed by an incompetent healthcare professional. Some are left with brain damage or disfigurement, leading to loss of enjoyment of life, long term emotional damage or even permanent disability. When prescription drugs do more harm to patients than good, you have the right to obtain financial compensation from the negligent party.
When you agree to give a surgical procedure or other types of treatments performed in healthcare facilities, you expect an adequate quality of care. When, instead of improving your condition, the doctor makes your condition worse by their negligent actions, you are entitled to compensation for your financial losses, as well as for your non-economic damages.
What Special Requirements Exist in Malpractice Cases?
Malpractice cases are unique in how they play out. Within Texas, a handful of stipulations exist for malpractice claims, including:
- Statute of Limitations: Texas’s law books only allow for a period of two years after the injury for the plaintiff to file suit. If you don’t manage to file your lawsuit within this period, the court will dismiss the case without consideration. It’s of note that this suit must be brought within two years of the act or omission occurring and not from when it was discovered. This is why it is important to hire a malpractice law firm as soon as you note that you suffered injury due to a medical procedure, prescribed drug or any other kind of treatment performed by a doctor. Contact McDonald Worley Law Firm.
- 60-Day Notice of Claim: In Texas, you’re required by law to serve a notice to claim to each medical entity being named in the suit. These claims may be filed by either you or your lawyer on your behalf. When you serve the requests, it pauses the clock on the statute of limitations.
- Authorization for Release: On serving the notice of claim, you should also ensure that each health care provider named in the suit is given authorization for the release of protected health information. This authorization allows the firms to start investigating your hospital malpractice claims internally using documents from all involved parties.
- Expert Report Submission: Texas malpractice suits have a stipulation that after the medical firm has submitted their “answer” to the claim, a medical report signed by an expert must be submitted. These reports must include the expert’s curriculum vitae, and the plaintiff or their attorney must be submitted within 120 days of the medical firm’s reply to the claim. If you don’t comply with the medical experts report, then the suit may be dismissed as a result.