Most doctors, nurses, and other licensed practitioners go to school for many years. These professionals know a lot of information to help you when you get hurt or sick. People typically place their trust in medical staff members to get better. Nevertheless, a visit to the hospital can go wrong.
In some cases, a mistake or an error results from a doctor’s negligence. Medical professionals’ actions can cause significant damage, and you could face significant financial stress on top of your mental anguish.
Injured individuals can feel helpless at times, and several may not even realize that negligence has happened. Some can benefit from a consultation with a San Antonio medical malpractice lawyer. They may find out that they’ve suffered from medical negligence and have the right to pursue compensation in a legal claim.
What Constitutes Medical Negligence?
Doctors’ actions amount to medical negligence if they failed to provide adequate care to a patient. To constitute medical negligence under the law, a doctor would need to fail to provide the same level of attentiveness to a patient that another competent doctor would have offered in the same circumstances.
In a medical negligence case, the question of the appropriate standard of care comes up. A patient must show how the healthcare provider deviated from the standard, and the deviation needs to have harmed the patient in some way.
If a mistake did not hurt someone’s well-being, then the patient doesn’t have a valid claim. Just because a patient’s condition has worsened doesn’t necessarily mean that the doctor engaged in medical negligence. Some illnesses prove challenging for physicians to treat, and the doctor may provide reasonable care that doesn’t necessarily benefit a patient.
In cases of negligence, the health care provider must have failed to identify the illness or appropriate treatment in a situation where another skilled doctor would have taken appropriate action. Medical negligence lawsuits involve complex laws and proceedings, and many different legal questions will come up.
An attorney can help investigate the possibility of any wrongdoing.
Who Can You Sue for Medical Negligence?
Many people may think that only doctors can bear liability for incidents of medical negligence. In most cases, injured patients do name their doctors as defendants in these types of cases. Any licensed medical practitioner can bear liability for your injuries, however. In fact, some injured patients may sue their nurses or other care providers for negligence.
Anesthesiologists could get into trouble for anesthesia errors. You could sue a member of the hospital staff or the hospital itself. In general, you cannot file a claim against the hospital if a doctor made a mistake, however.
Most doctors serve as independent contractors rather than employees of a medical facility. Some hospitals do formally employ their doctors, however. Even if a doctor doesn’t qualify as an employee of a facility, you still may sue the facility if certain conditions apply.
Multiple groups could bear liability for medical negligence. When you speak to a lawyer, he or she can determine all of the relevant parties that you may qualify to sue.
Examples of Medical Negligence
A wide range of decisions and actions can fall under the category of medical malpractice. Many past patients have experienced the consequences of a misdiagnosis. Roughly 12 million people in outpatient care receive a misdiagnosis every year.
Annually, an incorrect diagnosis of a medical condition results in around 40,000 to 80,000 deaths. Several doctors can make a misdiagnosis even when they use reasonable care. Multiple illnesses share the same warning signs, and not every symptom presents itself. If your physician unreasonably misdiagnosed you, this may constitute negligence.
Not every surgical procedure will have a positive result, but errors can happen. For negligence to occur, the doctor would have had to perform the wrong procedure. Medical staff may have failed to monitor a patient in the recovery room or to prevent infection.
You could prove carelessness took place if a surgeon left equipment behind in your body or damaged nerves. Various mistakes during surgery can happen. Besides the operating room, a staff member could make an error in a hospital’s emergency room. For example, a doctor might send a patient with symptoms of a stroke home prematurely.
Giving birth is not a simple process most of the time. The mother or child could face injuries and other complications, and doctors try their best to mitigate the risks. However, the staff could bear responsibility for birth injuries, like shoulder dystocia, cerebral palsy, and Erb’s palsy.
Four Elements of Medical Negligence
When you make a medical negligence claim, you have to show how the health care provider acted carelessly. A lawsuit has to meet four elements of negligence. First, a doctor-patient relationship must exist between a doctor and a patient.
For the relationship to exist, you must have hired the physician, who agreed to offer medical services. You cannot file a claim just because you overheard a doctor advise someone else. Once medical staff begins to treat you, they owe you a duty of care.
As mentioned before, doctors have to meet a standard of care. They must act with reasonable skill and care. A breach in the duty of care means that the doctor acted negligently and that another knowledgeable doctor would have done something different.
An undesirable result does not always mean a physician provided substandard care. A patient may not have a valid claim if just because he or she feels unhappy about the outcome of a treatment. Patients must prove negligence took place and caused them harm.
The actions of a medical staff member have to worsen a patient’s condition directly. Many people already have an injury or underlying health condition. A hospital could argue the disease caused a person to die instead of a doctor.
A medical negligence attorney can gather evidence to show the connection. You must also prove that the negligence caused you to suffer quantifiable damages. Damages include further healthcare expenses, missed wages, physical and mental pain, and lost earning capacity.
You Can Sue Despite Signing a Consent Form
Many treatments, procedures, and clinical trials provide a consent form for patients to sign. The form provides details of the treatment and any benefits and possible risks. You usually have to sign one before you begin the procedure.
If you signed a consent form, you could still sue for damages. The document does not prevent claims against a health care provider who acted carelessly. A form may not have identified the entire medical procedure and all reasonably known risks.
Even if a consent form listed a risk, it might not have reported the likelihood accurately. The document may have stated a complication had a 10 percent chance of occurring. If in reality, the procedure involved a 25 percent likelihood of the complication occurring, then you may have a medical negligence claim on your hands.
If the medical staff pressured you into signing, you may also qualify to pursue a claim. You may have written your signature while you were not mentally competent, as well.
A patient may have dementia or was under the influence of medication or alcohol. Medical staff cannot gain consent unless you are fully aware at the time of signing.
You might not think you have the right to sue. You still should consult a medical negligence attorney to know for certain. An attorney may surprise you with news of potential compensation.
The Statute of Limitations for Medical Negligence
When you learn of possible medical negligence, you should initiate a lawsuit right away. You have a limited time to do so before you lose the chance to recover compensation. The deadline may vary in each jurisdiction. Injured patients in San Antonio have two years from the date of the incident to file.
Under the statute of limitations, the clock begins to count down the day the medical negligence took place. However, ongoing treatment stemming from a misdiagnosis may actually cause a patient’s health to decline. In this situation, the deadline would extend to two years after the last day of the treatment.
When the victim is under the age of 12, you can file a claim on the child’s behalf any time before he or she reaches the age of 14. Texas has a statute of repose for medical negligence cases as well. You have a maximum of 10 years regardless of when you discovered the negligence or the treatment ended.
You have 60 days to send a notice of claim to each healthcare institution after you file a case. To avoid the denial of your claim, get started on your case as soon as possible. You can meet the deadline with the help of a lawyer.
Medical Negligence Damage Caps
When both parties negotiate a settlement, your attorney will strive to get the at-fault party to agree to provide sufficient compensation to cover the full cost of your injuries. The economic and non-economic damages will factor into your claim’s value. Many states have laws that limit how much a person can receive in certain types of cases.
People refer to the limitation as a damage cap. A cap reduces the liability of service providers, and insurance companies do not feel the need to increase rates to doctors. As a result, doctors do not have to raise the prices of their services.
In Texas, medical negligence cases have damage caps. The caps only apply to non-economic damages, like a reduced quality of life and emotional distress.
In a lawsuit, each injured patient can receive up to $250,000 when suing a single health care provider. The maximum amount increases up to $500,000 per injured person when suing multiple medical entities.
Economic damages do not have damage caps. As the case progresses, your attorney can give you an estimate of what you could receive from a settlement.
The Likelihood of Settlement Before a Trial
Every lawsuit involves a different timeline that will dictate how long it lasts. One case can go on for less than a year, and another might take three years. If your claim ends before trial, you do not have to wait long to receive money. Trials can drag out the lawsuit process, and most people do not want to move to the courtroom.
If you prefer to settle outside of court, you face a high chance of achieving a successful negotiation. An estimated 93 percent of medical negligence cases end before they go to trial. The remaining 7 percent go before a judge for a final verdict.
Trials mean more time and money, so both parties tend to agree before the trial begins. However, one or both sides may not feel satisfied with the offered compensation. As a result, the lawsuit may proceed to trial.
What Makes Medical Negligence Trials Difficult to Win?
If your case goes to trial, then your chances of receiving compensation decrease. Roughly 21 percent of injured people win the verdict. Proving medical negligence already presents challenges for the plaintiff. Many doctors will not admit they made a crucial mistake, and they can argue how a disease or injury has multiple ways to treat it.
In many cases, the presence of a jury could influence the result. Most jurors understand that treating patients involves complex and dynamic decisions and may sympathize with doctors. Doctors have to use their best judgment and make many difficult decisions, and jurors know this.
Jurors understand that not every outcome will end well, and doctors make mistakes sometimes. They tend to give health care providers the benefit of the doubt. However, if the trial ends in your favor, you could end up with more in compensation.
Should I Retain a Medical Negligence Lawyer?
Many people may hesitate to talk to a lawyer, and the cost of hiring one may contribute to a delay in getting legal help. Some people might try to find more affordable solutions to get the answers they need. Other victims may file a personal injury claim without an attorney.
If you want to file a medical negligence lawsuit, you should consider retaining a lawyer. Your attorney can go through and analyze a significant amount of medical evidence. Firms can ensure you meet deadlines on time, so you can focus on improving your health. Lawyers make the process more efficient and save you time.
Overall, many lawyers can save you money as well. Cases usually become expensive, and firms bear most of the cost. Generally, you do not pay unless you win the case. Once your attorney gets the check, he or she will deduct a portion for fees. You discuss the fees before you file a lawsuit.
Additionally, lawyers may use a few strategies and can negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf. You can receive plenty of money without worrying about the insurance company’s attempts at a low offer.
If your case goes to trial, you have a better chance at success with an attorney by your side compared to handling your case on your own. Contacting a San Antonio medical malpractice attorney generally will likely prove worth it in the end.