How to File a Claim
Medical malpractice is a legal term used to describe doctors causing harm to patients. It occurs when a physician fails to competently perform his or her medical duties as anticipated. The requirements and rules concerning medical malpractice vary from state to state, so it is important to consult an attorney if you believe you have a medical malpractice case.
In general, to file a medical malpractice claim, you must prove four things:
1. You Worked with the Doctor
You must prove that you hired the doctor, and the doctor agreed to treat you. There must be a working relationship, even if you did not pay directly out of pocket for the services. So, for example, if you received bad medical advice from a friend who happens to be a doctor, it would not qualify as medical malpractice.
However, if you visited a doctor’s office and received care, even if your insurance coverage paid for that care, it could be a case of medical malpractice. There are instances in which doctors in hospitals oversee care without treating patients directly, but medical malpractice might still be an issue, which is one of the reasons it is so important to have the support of an experienced attorney.
2. Doctors Actions were Negligent
Next, you must prove negligence on the part of the doctor. Simply being unhappy with your care is not enough to qualify as medical malpractice. Patients eligible to sue for malpractice must show the doctor’s actions caused harm in a manner that is out of the ordinary for a competent doctor. Doctors are not required to provide the best care in every single situation, but the care must be “reasonably skillful and careful.”
Proving this in a medical malpractice lawsuit often requires the testimony of a medical expert discussing appropriate medical care. He or she can explain what is expected and how the accused doctor deviated from that standard of attention. Medical malpractice attorneys have access to many different types of medical experts and can help you build your strongest case against the doctor who caused you harm.
3. Doctor’s Negligence Caused the Injury
Often, a patient is already sick or injured when he or she visits a doctor, so it is important for medical malpractice victims to show their injuries or illnesses were a direct result of the doctor’s negligence. It can be tough to show a causal link to a doctor’s actions and the outcome for a patient if that patient is being treated for an illness or injury that might have also caused the outcome.
For instance, if a patient is being treated for cancer and does not survive, the surviving family members would need to show it was the doctor’s action or inaction that led to the death, as opposed to the disease itself. Again, a medical expert is usually called on to give testimony.
4. An Injury Led to Specific Damages
Assuming a patient shows a doctor performed below standards, medical malpractice can only be proven if the patient suffered harm as a result of the doctor’s behavior. Medical malpractice requires a patient suffer:
- Physical pain
Additional medical costs
Lost time at work or lost earning capacity
If a doctor’s action did not cause any of these consequences, even if the action was incompetent, medical malpractice is not present.
Types of Medical Malpractice Claims
Most medical malpractice claims fall into one of the following categories:
- Failure to diagnose
Failure to warn patients of known risks
If believe you are a victim of medical malpractice, consider the following:
You should consult an attorney and file your claim as soon as possible following the injury. There are statutes of limitations that vary from state to state. You might need to submit your claim to a malpractice review panel before filing a lawsuit. Panel do not award damages and are intended to prevent too many medical malpractice lawsuits from being filed. The findings from the review board can be used in court, whether they are favorable or unfavorable for the patient. You might be required to give notice to your doctor before filing a medical malpractice claim. Usually, expert testimony is required at trial, and who qualifies as an expert varies from state to state.
There might be limits or caps on awards, which means no matter the severity of your case, you might receive no more than a pre-determined amount.
Medical malpractice cases are governed by complex rules. If you believe you are a victim of medical malpractice, contact a qualified attorney to review your case.