Medical malpractice lawsuits are part of how medical mistakes are corrected. When a doctor, therapist, allied health professional, pharmacist, nurse, dentist or a healthcare facility such as a clinic or hospital has failed a patient, it is a breakdown in what patients can rightfully expect. And it can kill.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Patient Safety found that as many as 400,000 Americans die each year due to medical mistakes. The study concludes these deaths need to be called out if that number is to be reduced.
Medical malpractice lawsuits help patients recover damages resulting from medical negligence. For example, if a patient suffers an injury due to a doctor’s error, and that injury precludes the patient’s ability to work, the doctor’s insurance company should provide the income to that individual that they would otherwise be able to earn, and cover added medical and therapeutic expenses. If the patient died due to the error, then survivors may be compensated for economic losses (e.g., income to the household) and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
To succeed, the medical malpractice attorney has to prove three basic factors. They are:
- The medical care provider failed to meet the minimum standard of care.
- This failure, the medical mistake, caused an injury or illness in the patient.
- That injury or illness had a material, costly effect on the patient.
The plaintiff in a medical malpractice lawsuit pays nothing unless he or she recovers compensation from the responsible party. Medical malpractice attorneys refer to this as working on a contingency basis.
From the time a lawsuit is filed to resolution will likely require one to four years. Importantly, patients and families need to file as quickly as possible.
There is a statute of limitations for filing suit in a medical malpractice case, however these vary by circumstances and the age of the victim (in general, injuries involving children allow for longer periods between the medical error and filing suit).
In other words, initiate contact with a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible – for the sake of your family, and to help prevent future mistakes from being made.