According to a 2016 study by Johns Hopkins University, nearly 250,000 Americans die each year due to medical errors. These errors can range from poor moment-to-moment decisions all the way to doctors and hospital staff failing to comply with the medical standards of care.
No matter what the cause, these tragedies send family members reeling as they try to determine what their next steps should be.
For this, the justice system has measures in place that allow individuals to sue any and all of the involved care professionals to ensure that you are compensated for damages and loss suffered at the hands of these mistakes. This is known as filing a medical malpractice case.
In the article below, we will walk you through some of the key features of a medical malpractice case, necessary documents, and why you should always seek the help of an experienced medical malpractice attorney to help you in your case.
What Counts as Medical malpractice?
In law, there are two different terms many confuse as the same: medical malpractice and medical negligence.
While the terms are undoubtedly related, they have different legal implications with one being more severe than the other.
For our purposes here, understand that to qualify for medical malpractice, the negligent act on behalf of the medical professional must directly contribute to the suffering of the patient. This results in a breach of the standard of care— a term used to describe the deviation from the correct way of treating a patient.
Examples of actions that can result in a malpractice case include:
- Failure to diagnosis or misdiagnosis
- Incorrect medication management or dosing
- Surgical failures such as leaving an instrument inside the body
- Failure to educate patient on risks
- Performing the incorrect surgery or a surgery in an incorrect location
- Discharging a patient too early
For more information on the nuances between Medical Malpractice and Medical Negligence, you can read our article on the topic.
Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is the cutoff point where you can or cannot file a lawsuit. For state-level lawsuits, each state has their own rules on the matter.
Regarding the Arizona Revised Statutes section 12-542, an individual can file a medical malpractice claim within two years of the event. This is an important figure to keep in mind as you will not be able to file your claim if you are in violation of this rule.
What materials you need
When compared to simple “slip and fall” personal injury cases, medical malpractice cases require a far greater amount of documentation and labor to both get filed and to litigate. This is because the accusations in these cases are much more severe, often requiring insurance companies to expend a great deal of money in damages, especially if an individual has suffered permanent and debilitating injuries.
The documents you collect and produce throughout your case are known as written discovery materials. These cover any documents, videos, or recordings of the incident, in addition to written personal accounts that may have been recorded at the time of the event.
In the beginning stages of the case, you will want to obtain a full copy of medical records to give to your lawyer. This will allow them to look through the timeline of events, in addition to your recollection of it, and determine how they wish to argue your case. You will then give written permission for both parties in the lawsuit to view these records as part of the evidence in litigation.
As the case progresses through discovery, there will likely be requests from both yourself and the defendants to produce various documents related to the case. This could include documents such as nurse or scribe notes, digital records. Medication records, and even check in sheets and other such documents.
What professionals to reach out to
If you and your attorney decide that litigating, rather than settling, your case is the better option, you will need to involve a medical expert. In the legal field, this means a trained medical professional who has reviewed the documentation of your case and can give testimony on their expert advice in how the patient was incorrectly handled.
For plaintiffs, having a solid medical expert who will advocate for your side of the case and point out breaches in medical care is often the most important component to your outcome.
What Are My Damages?
The damages of a medical malpractice case are the monetary funds you receive as compensation for your hardship. In the event the plaintiff is alive, they can request damages on their behalf. In the event that the plaintiff is deceased, family members can request damages on their behalf and on behalf of the estate of their passed loved one.
Damages are broken down into two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are those which can be calculated in dollars and cents, such as:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss in earning capacity
Non-economic damages are more subjective, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment
- Loss of a normal life
Finally, there is the possibility that, in addition to relieving damages for the case, you can ask for compensation for costs and attorneys fees. While these are not always awarded, speak to your lawyer to see if you can include this in your overall settlement amount.
Projected timeline of the Case
The timeline of a medical malpractice case largely varies based on how you, your lawyer, and defendants handle the case. Some can be settled quickly with the insurance companies, while others which are heavily contested can span for years, multiple depositions, and potentially even a jury trial.
A Tuscon law Firm for Medical Malpractice Needs
If you or a loved one have been wronged by a health care worker, it is integral that you find a medical malpractice lawyer who is not only experienced and knowledgeable, but trustworthy and compassionate about your case.
With over 25 years of litigation experience, the BBerry Law Office can help you with your medical malpractice claim from initial assessment all the way through litigation and trial. Call (520) 347-8484 to schedule a consultation to explore your options for a fair outcome.