Q. What is medical malpractice?
A. If a medical provider makes an error that results in injury to you, you may be able to sue the provider to compensate your injuries. The underlying basis for a medical malpractice claim is that your injury is the result of treatment that fell below the accepted standard of medical care for that particular field of professional expertise.
Q. What are the standards of medical care?
A.Standards of care are the legal guidelines used to determine whether health care providers are negligent. If a health care provider has failed to act in a manner as would be expected of a reasonably competent practitioner in the same or similar circumstances, then that health care provider has breached the standards of care and is negligent.
Q. Is every medical injury or death considered malpractice?
A. No. There are various situations where an unfortunate outcome or injury – even death – is not the result of malpractice. In these situations, the bad outcome may have been caused by unknown reasons or by risks and complications that were consented to.
Q. Does signing a consent form waive my rights to file a lawsuit?
A. Signing a consent form in and of itself does not waive your rights. Additionally, the consent form may not contain all of the relevant information that it should or it may have been signed without adequate explanation. Even if you signed a consent form, you did not consent to substandard medical care. A doctor’s failure to meet the acceptable standard of care is not the same as consenting to the normal risks of a procedure.
Q. What if I really like my doctor and trust him, but something went wrong?
A. Any patients enjoy a good, trusting relationship with their health care providers. Despite good relationships, medical mistakes do occur and people are unnecessarily injured. If you have been injured during the course of medical treatment, you owe it to yourself and your family to pursue the matter and determine whether filing a medical malpractice is appropriate, regardless of your relationship with your health care provider. Virtually every health care provider has professional liability insurance to cover medical malpractice claims.
Q. What damages are available in a medical malpractice action?
A. Medical malpractice victims can sue for all of the direct consequences of the injuries arising from the medical treatment at issue. These damages include actual economic losses such as the costs of reasonable and necessary medical care, rehabilitative services, costs of domestic services, and loss of earnings. The law allows compensation for future medical and care expenses that you can prove will be reasonably necessary to treat the injury caused by the malpractice. Your claim may include income you can prove will probably be lost in the future because of the injuries. Loss of earning capacity is also allowed when you can prove you are less able to earn a living as a result of the injuries caused by the malpractice.
You are also entitled to non-economic damages for physical pain and suffering, mental and emotional suffering, physical impairment, inconvenience, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium (diminishment of relations with your spouse).
Damages may be awarded to your family for loss of care, companionship, love and affection. If it is a loved one who has died as a result of medical malpractice, you as a family member may be compensated for their wrongful death. Wrongful death damages may include medical and burial expenses, loss of income that would have supported the family members, emotional suffering, and loss of the pleasures of the family relationship.
In order to recover punitive damages, you must show actual malice by the health care provider. This means that you must show, by clear and convincing evidence, that the health care provider’s conduct was motivated by evil motive, intent to injure, ill will, or fraud. Punitive damages are not available in wrongful death actions. Punitive damages are relatively rare in medical malpractice actions.
Q. How can I figure out how much my case is worth?
A. Many different things affect the damages amount in a medical malpractice case. And although we are prohibited from promising that we can obtain a certain amount of money for you, our experience allows us to make good estimates of what a judge or jury might award. Many elements play into damages estimates including:
- The severity of the injury
- The effects of the injury on your life
- The degree of negligence of the health care provider
- Past medical history
- Pre-existing injuries
- Prior claims history
The greater the difference between your quality of life before the accident as compared to after the accident, the higher your damages tend to be.