Reports from government and medical agencies reveal the shocking figure that more than 250 patients per day die as the result of medical malpractice. Thousands more are injured on a daily basis. However, not every bad outcome means that malpractice was committed. How does one determine the difference between a medical error caused by negligence and a bad result caused by an unfortunate risk or complication of a procedure?
Although countless dedicated medical professionals work to save lives and promote health, errors can occur at many levels. Some of these errors occur with mistaken lab tests, overworked technicians, understaffed nurses, physician error and general incompetence.
Medical errors are committed in many different ways. For example, a doctor may fail to diagnose a condition, a radiologist may misinterpret an x-ray, mammogram, CT Scan or MRI, a physician may diagnose and treat the wrong condition, an obstetrician may improperly delay the performance of a c-section, a pathologist may misinterpret a pap smear, an anesthesiologist may improperly manage an airway, a nurse may give the wrong medication, a pharmacist may dispense the wrong medication, or a surgeon may fail to adequately explain the risks of a given procedure.
Some of the factors in deciding to pursue a medical malpractice claim are based upon the following:
Breach of the standard of care. You must prove that the doctor made a mistake -- a mistake that a reasonable and prudent doctor would not have made under the circumstances. Generally, this requires an expert witness (another doctor) to come forward and testify that your doctor did make a mistake. As you can imagine, this is not an easy process, since doctors do not like to testify against each other. Finding good expert witnesses is the critical part of most medical malpractice cases.
Causation. In addition to showing the doctor made a mistake, you must show the doctor's mistake caused an injury to you. To look at it another way, people go to doctors because they are sick. Even the best medical treatment cannot provide a cure at times. So, you have to be able to show that IF the doctor had not made the mistake, the patient would have gotten better, or would not have been injured as much. Again, it is critical to get an expert witness who is willing to offer such testimony
Damages. Finally, you have to show that damages resulted from the doctor's mistakes. Damages can consist of anything from death to serious injury. Damages may also include lost wages, medical bills, paid and suffering, mental anguish, or the loss of a loved one. Often, economists and other experts are necessary to calculate and present these damages in court.
Only a qualified expert who reviews all applicable medical records can distinguish between a medical error caused by negligence and a bad outcome because of an unintended, but known and accepted risk of surgery. If you or someone you know believes they have been the victim of medical malpractice, contact the law firm of law Rosen Louik & Perry, P.C. for a FREE consultation. At Rosen Louik & Perry we have dedicated our careers to holding medical professionals responsible for their mistakes with the goal of improving the health care system.