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Archive for the ‘Malpractice’ Category

What To Do If You Are A Victim Of Hospital Malpractice

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Hospital malpractice can be as a result of any hospital staff (this can include doctors, nurses, technicians, pharmacists and/or any other staff involved) improperly or negligently providing medical care and treatment to a patient, whereby the patient suffers harm, resulting in injury or death. The patient bears the burden of proof in such a claim. It must be proven that such health care providers did not meet the accepted standard of care that could reasonably be expected. Standard of care is a guideline, which is based on the specific treatment and is generally determined based on other health care personnel with the same practice and qualifications would have managed the patient’s treatment. When suing for malpractice in a medical situation, it must be established that there was a breach of this standard of care.

Malpractice claims can be based on many different issues involved in a hospital stay. Included, but not limited to, those issues, are mistaken diagnosis, failure to treat or adequately monitor a patient’s condition, failure to order appropriate and necessary testing and/or refer a patient to a specialist, improperly treating the patient, incorrectly administering medications, improperly using anesthesia or medical equipment, performing procedures unnecessarily or without the proper consent, or not taking necessary precautions to prevent life-threatening infection.

The first step in preserving your rights in a malpractice situation is to seek the advice of an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice matters. There are statutes of limitations (which are filing deadlines) associated with lawsuits of this nature, which vary by state and can be quite short in some cases, so you should consult the attorney as soon as possible in order to protect yourself. An attorney will assess the situation and advise you if your case is worth pursuing against the hospital or any of the hospital staff as a result of your injuries or in the case of a wrongful death of a loved one.

As there is no national system which monitors preventable injuries and/or deaths in hospitals, there are no clear statistics available, however, it is estimated that close to 100,000 people die each year due to preventable medical error. In 2001, the Bureau of Justice Statistics cited in a report that in 1,156 medical malpractice suits litigation, 9 out of 10 involved permanent disability or death as a result of negligent care. The win rate in such cases was only 27% and the median award amount for damages was $425,000. This is in contrast to the win rate and average award in tort cases, which are 52% and $27,000, respectively. Obviously, these figures do not represent those cases that settled prior to a trial.

Not all medical error is malpractice, however. If the hospital staff have done all they can do for a patient and have maintained the acceptable standard of care and yet the patient still suffers injury or death, this would not fall under the category of medical malpractice.

What to expect during a malpractice suit

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Following through with a malpractice suit is one of the most difficult and heart wrenching decisions a person can make, but once you’ve finally made the decision to go ahead with your case, the process can be time consuming, emotionally draining and just plain frustrating. Even if you have a fairly expedited proceeding, it can take months or even years for the entire case to work its way through the court system. Here are a few things you can expect when you decide to follow through with your malpractice suit.

Perhaps the biggest toll on someone who has decided to follow through with a malpractice suit is emotional. Not only are you adjusting to life with your new medical condition, but you will be forced to talk about it, relive it and talk about it again seemingly non stop for as long as four or five years after the incident actually happened. For some people, this can be like having it happen over and over again. It can invade your dreams and it can seem like it is dominating your life. Most people imagine that while they go through this step, they feel a constant stream of sadness, but sadness is usually only one of the central feelings present. There is anger that this happened to you when, in most cases, it could have been avoided and there is also the feeling of being victimized, as well, which is often the worst part. For a malpractice suit to go forward and be extended for a period of years, a person needs a support network of family, friends and a good lawyer to get through it all in one piece.

Second, people are often amazed at the sheer amount of time a court case like this takes to weave its way through the United States court system. There is a reason why the courts have the reputation they do; thanks to the huge number of delay tactics lawyers on both sides can employ, a case can be extended almost indefinitely. Legal wrangling of this sort isn’t unusual, it is simply the way the system works and it should be an expected part of each and every malpractice suit filed.

Finally, the cost of a malpractice suit is often overlooked by many families who simply want to seek some form of justice for what happened to them. When we are wronged and we have a legal remedy to the situation, we simply exercise our right and bring forth a malpractice suit. What we don’t do is sit back and think about the fact that we might need this lawyer on retainer for the next four years until the hospital or doctor in question stops putting up road blocks so that a trial can happen and a verdict can be rendered. Combine the lawyer costs with other unplanned expenses and you can see how people have been financially ruined first by the malpractice and then later by the malpractice case.

While this article may be pessimistic in tone, it is vitally important that incompetent doctors and dangerous hospitals be held accountable for their deeds, but it is equally important that you understand exactly what you’re getting yourself into before you file the proper paperwork.

When you should file a malpractice claim

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Making the decision to file a malpractice suit can be one of the most difficult and heart wrenching decisions you ever make. Despite the common perception, the overwhelming majority of people do not file malpractice claims to fleece their doctor and the medical system at large. It is a decision they agonize over since the majority of people have positive relationships with their doctors and medical practitioners. Before you pass up the opportunity to file a malpractice claim, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself.

First, do you feel that the negligence that resulted in your current medical state was preventable? Was it simply a “dumb mistake” or do you feel that it was something that couldn’t have been predicted or prevented, even by the most skilled doctor? If you feel that the incident could have been prevented with only the slightest change in circumstance then you might want to consider filing a lawsuit. Above all else, a doctor and a hospital can’t afford to be careless and a lawsuit may be the only thing stopping a similar fate from happening to someone else.

Since the malpractice event occurred, how have you been treated by your doctor or by the party that you believe to be the cause of the malpractice? Simply “making up for it” often isn’t enough as it does little to correct what originally happened, but if you feel that a good faith effort has been put forth and that you feel that you are being taken care of in a professional and respectful way, then there may not be a need for a lawsuit. On the other hand, if you feel slighted, insulted or otherwise ignored, than you may be dealing with a doctor or a hospital that is grossly incompetent and a lawsuit may be the only way to shine a much needed light on this despicable medical practice.

While most hospitals are crawling with lawyers just waiting for a doctor to make a mistake, it might be worth listening to what a real malpractice lawyer has to say if you are considering filing a lawsuit. It is important, however, to take everything they say with a grain of salt and make sure you question their motives. Yes, most doctors have malpractice insurance, but it is that insurance that causes so much in the way of medical costs to be so high. Suing when you shouldn’t is a huge reason why so many people can’t afford basic medical care.

Finally, it may sound a bit clichéd, but listen to your heart. If you honestly feel that you have been wronged and that no honest attempt to rectify the situation has been made, than it is your right and even your duty to file a malpractice suit. If you don’t feel that way, than you might be better off trusting your doctor and seeing what the future holds on your own.

Malpractice is one of the most serious legal accusations one can make. Be sure you understand what you are getting yourself into before you follow through with your case.

Avoiding malpractice claims

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

It is the ultimate nightmare of any doctor: a malpractice claim. Not only can it ruin your well earned reputation, but it can bankrupt you and leave you essentially unhireable by any hospital or medical organization, and the worst part is that malpractice is pretty much inevitable. Every doctor in North America should have malpractice insurance, and most jurisdictions won’t allow you to practice medicine without, much like you aren’t allowed to drive a car without car insurance. The cost of malpractice insurance is outrageous, to say the least, and it is the single biggest reason why more doctors aren’t super rich, like the stereotype says. Since doctors are human, even if they hate to admit it, and a malpractice suit is simply a matter of time, here are a few tips you can follow to help put off your first malpractice claim for as long as possible.

Malpractice can happen anywhere at almost any time. It can be caused by an incorrect diagnosis that ends up causing someone to die prematurely or it can happen on the operating table when a person suddenly dies during a routine procedure. There is no way to completely prevent those things from happening, but studies have shown that the single biggest cause of malpractice is poor communication.

On the hit television show House, Dr. House is famed for saying that everyone lies, meaning that most people are so self conscious or so afraid of being embarrassed about why they are sick or why they need medical attention that they often lie about symptoms that are presenting or how they really feel, and it is the doctor that is going to be blamed if that patient dies in their care, even if the patient was lying to your face. It is enough to make a person flee from medicine faster than an antelope from a lion. It can be impossible to try to build a legitimate rapport with your patients when you have a waiting room full of people and you’re absurdly overworked, but taking a few minutes to make direct eye contact, to ask honest questions about why a person is there might just make the difference between a person being honest about what’s going on and them lying. It is impossible to really care about every single patient you see every single day, no one anywhere cares that much about their job, but making an honest effort to communicate clearly is essentially the only way to prevent a possible malpractice situation from happening.

On a similar note, every doctor must have a healthy ego if he or she believes that they can save lives and perform acts that are akin to miracles each and every day, but calling for a consult with another doctor can be just what you need to stave off incorrect an incorrect diagnosis, and, in turn, a malpractice suit. Remember, being a good doctor means knowing when to ask for help. The life of the patient supersedes your ego, and if it doesn’t, you are on the fast track to malpractice-ville.

Finding the right malpractice attorney

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Making the decision to file a malpractice claim can be one of the scariest and most traumatic things a person can do. To admit that a doctor has somehow damaged your quality of life, a claim that is often irreversible, is downright terrifying. Along with your family and friends, the stabilizing force during the whole proceeding is going to be your lawyer. Since most of us have extremely negative perceptions of what a lawyer is and how they work, it can seem like Mission: Impossible to find a lawyer we trust and admire, but if you are thinking about filing a malpractice claim, it is absolutely imperative that you do. Here are a few tips for finding the perfect malpractice lawyer.

If at all possible, go with someone you know or someone you have a relationship with. This is important for several reasons. Developing a bond with a malpractice lawyer is extremely important since the emotional strain of your court case is likely going to be quite difficult. If you have a family member or a friend who is a malpractice lawyer, you already have that bond created and as long as you know to keep your personal feelings away from this professional proceeding, you will be ahead of most people when it comes to picking the right lawyer.

If you are in no state to choose your own attorney, make sure those that will pick your lawyer for you know what to look for. Here are a few important attributes you should always look for in a good malpractice lawyer.

The ability to communicate clearly and articulately should be automatic for any good lawyer, malpractice or otherwise. Your lawyer not only has to communicate your case to a judge or jury in a compassionate and caring way, but he or she must also communicate with you, your family and your loved ones about the status of your case, what will be expected from you and more. If your lawyer comes across as a shyster or as someone unsavory, they will likely come across the same way to a judge or a jury. This is one time when it is vitally important to trust your gut.

Experience should also help to be a deciding factor when it comes to litigating your malpractice case, but it shouldn’t be your first priority. Every year, thousands of good lawyers graduate from school and are anxious to build up a history of cases won. Sometimes, a young, hungry lawyer looking to make a name for him or herself will work substantially harder for you than an experienced lawyer who doesn’t feel that he or she has much to gain from winning your case. Experience counts, but not nearly as much as attitude.

As you can see, finding the right malpractice lawyer can be a bit complicated bit it isn’t impossible. The decision to seek a malpractice lawyer should be much more difficult. If it isn’t, you might want to reevaluate your reasons for suing in the first place.

Making sure you have a good case

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

For most people, recovering from the shock and depression often associated with being the victim of malpractice is difficult, but if you are planning on filing a malpractice suit, it is important that you be of sound mind before the trial starts. Much like a rape trial, a malpractice trial can be emotionally devastating to the victim, not only because you are forced to come face to face with the incompetent doctors and hospital staffers, but also because you will likely be asked to relive the entire ordeal in front of a court of law. Here are a few tips you and your lawyer will likely go over before your trial starts to make sure you are completely prepared.

It is important to remember that coaching a witness is illegal and can result in serious legal repercussions if it is discovered. However, you and your lawyer will likely go over your testimony to make sure that you communicate clearly to the court about what happened. The first thing you need to remember is to always be honest about what happened, what you were told and what happened after you found out about the malpractice. Often times, malpractice suits are directly linked to a lack of clear, concise communication between patient and doctor that not only results in the actual malpractice but also extends to the time after the incident occurred. If you can show a legitimate pattern of poor care from the first moment you spoke to your doctor until the present time, you will have a much stronger case than you would otherwise.

One of the jobs that your lawyer will take on himself will be to discover if your doctor has had any problems with any other patients in the past. While court testimony from any other trials will likely be sealed, most judges will allow the mention that other trials happened and that there might be a pattern of incompetent care that has lead to the current situation. There isn’t much you can do in the way of helping here with the possible exception of asking people in the hospital about that particular doctor. If you speak to a nurse who has seen this sort of thing before, you should probably tell your lawyer and she can be summons to testify on your behalf.

Just like any court case, the more witnesses you have to corroborate your testimony, the better off you’ll be. In the lead up to your malpractice incident, you likely attended check ups or briefings with a family member or friend. If you plan on demonstrating a lack of communication, care or understanding that dates back to these initial check ups, it is a good idea to ask your witness to testify as well.

A malpractice case can be a bit tricky since all you have to present to a jury or judge is what happened to you. There are usually few witnesses and if your doctor doesn’t have a history of malpractice, it can seem like your words against theirs. However, honesty is your best ally and with the right preparation and a good lawyer, you can often come out on top.

Settling Malpractice without a court case

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

While the number has never been completely quantified, an outrageous amount of current health care costs are directly tied to malpractice insurance and the cost of fighting malpractice cases in court each and every year. While profits, the cost of medical equipment and salaries also help to contribute to the health care crisis in the United States, malpractice costs are the single biggest component keeping health care from being affordable, which is why most hospitals will do almost anything to keep a malpractice case from going to court. There are several options available to the average patient who feels that they have been wronged, so let’s take a look at a few of them.

If you are a fan of the hit television comedy Scrubs, you have probably seen entire episodes dedicated to convincing a patient to take a settlement for their malpractice instead of going to court. It had become such a well known and expected part of the United States medical system that even people who haven’t been admitted to a hospital in decades know how it works. The one thing that most hospitals will try to do is to get you to sign a form agreeing to forgo a trial and accept a settlement deal BEFORE you speak to a lawyer. In that circumstance, the hospital has a major advantage over the patient who is still likely dazed and confused or even still under a degree of anesthesia due to their botched surgery. They know that their settlement is likely much less than what you might be able to earn in court so they are going to try to get you to sign that paper as quickly as possible. They might even threaten that if you don’t sign it now, the offer will be rescinded and you won’t have a second chance to settle early. The truth is you should never be threatened into signing something you don’t understand, ever, as these tactics border on the illegal and are, at the very least, unsavory. If you feel that you have been the victim of malpractice, you should, at the very least, speak with a lawyer to see what your options are. Understand, however, that a settlement is guaranteed money and that a trial will often be long, tedious, expensive, and you might not even win.

Mediation is also an option available to most people who are seeking the end to a malpractice case. Not only is mediation significantly faster than a court trial, but it can be over and done with in a matter of months from the time of the incident, not years. Hospitals will be more likely to agree to mediation than a court case simply because it allows them to be over and done with the incident much faster. As for the patient, mediation is more risky than simply accepting a settlement but the reward can be greater, too. Make sure you speak with your lawyer before you sign anything agreeing to mediation on your malpractice case.