It is the scenario no patient ever wants to endure: having an illness or injury, going to the hospital only to have the condition worsen because of a doctor's mistake. Unfortunately, thousands of patients across the country unwittingly become part of this vicious cycle. Take the case of Ryan and Leah Jeffers, whose two-year-old daughter nearly died while waiting five hours for care in a Sacramento hospital's emergency room; or the case of Ana Jimenez Salgado, a Los Angeles woman who had both of her breasts removed after she was mistakenly diagnosed with breast cancer.
While these catastrophic stories indicate that medical professionals should be held accountable for their mistakes, there are considerable questions as to whether one should bring a malpractice lawsuit. This article will explore that question by providing some examples of viable claims and detailing the types of errors that lead to malpractice suits.
There are a myriad of medical malpractice claims involving a wide range of procedures, from failing to diagnose a dangerous condition to operating on the wrong side of the body. Regardless the injury or procedure, attorneys in medical malpractice cases seek to prove that the physician breached (or fell below) the duty of care to the patient by deviating from accepted standards of practice, and that the error resulted in harm to the patient.
Many patients who are dissatisfied with their doctor (or the result of a procedure) may seek damages in a lawsuit, but courts only focus on actual damages stemming from medical malpractice. To determine if you may have a case, consider these factors:
- Did you recover? - If an error during surgery caused you to have complications or additional injuries, these could be considered significant damages and may support a lawsuit.
- What was the standard of care? - Rudeness or disrespect is not actionable, but ignoring patient requests that lead to further harm may give rise to a lawsuit.
- Were conditions communicated? - If revisions to a patient's medical chart were not communicated, or a doctor was not properly updated regarding a patient's condition, those in charge could be held liable.
Among the errors that lead to medical negligence claims, an overwhelming number begin with poor communication among medical professionals. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, a survey of nearly 3,000 nurses indicated that over half of them worked with people who did not follow safety protocols or felt unsafe about speaking up when checklists or handoff procedures were not followed. The report also suggested that communication must improve in order avoid preventable surgical errors.
If you or a loved one has been harmed in the midst of a medical procedure, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can advise you of your rights and options.