Medical errors are more common and more serious than you might suspect. In a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety, researchers concluded that more than 400,000 people a year die from preventable harm to patients in hospitals each year.
According to the Diederich Healthcare 2015 Medical Malpractice Payout Analysis, $3,891,743,050 was paid out in medical malpractice claims in 2014 in the U.S. The report indicates that, of the funds paid out:
- 30 percent was for medical errors resulting in death.
- 18 percent was for significant permanent injuries.
- 17 percent was for major permanent injuries.
- 13 percent was for brain damage, quadriplegia or lifelong care injuries.
If you or your loved one has suffered serious harm because of medical negligence, you may have the right to file a medical malpractice claim for damages. At The Abelson Law Firm, our Washington D.C. medical malpractice lawyer help injured patients and their families seek justice for their losses. We work to hold negligent healthcare providers accountable, and aggressively pursue the compensation patients deserve after serious medical malpractice injuries.
What Do You Need to Prove in a Medical Malpractice Claim?
When patients do not do well with medical treatment or surgery, it is not always a case of malpractice. To establish a solid medical malpractice claim, you must first prove that the healthcare provider was negligent, meaning he or she did something that should not have been done or failed to do something that should have been done, and fell below the accepted standard of care.
Next, you must show that you suffered harm because of the medical practitioner’s negligence. If the medical error caused additional injuries, illness or a worsened condition, or caused the need for more expensive treatment, you may be entitled to recover damages for your economic and non-economic losses.
Qualifying the Injury for Medical Malpractice
It can be tricky to qualify an injury for a medical malpractice claim. In order to establish that the medical practitioner was negligent, you must:
- Show that there was a duty of care, such as the duty established in a doctor-patient relationship, between the healthcare provider and the injured patient.
- Determine the standard of care that applies to that healthcare professional’s level of training under those particular circumstances, and demonstrate that the medical provider deviated from that standard of care.
- Show how the medical practitioner’s deviation from the standard of care caused the patient’s injuries.
- Establish that the patient was injured and to what extent.
In order to show that the practitioner’s conduct fell below the accepted standard of care, you usually must present testimony from another medical professional who is qualified in the same area of medicine as the negligent healthcare provider. That testimony should state what the level of care would be in that situation and how your healthcare provider was negligent.
Medical records are generally prepared by the same healthcare providers who commit medical errors, which can make it difficult in some situations to obtain evidence of exactly what went wrong. However, even if you are unable to obtain evidence of what caused your injuries from the medical records, you may be able to shift the burden of proof to the medical practitioner if you can establish that:
- The evidence of the cause of injury is not available to you.
- The type of injury you suffered would not have ordinarily occurred without negligence.
- You were not responsible for your own injuries.
- The healthcare providers had exclusive control over what caused your injuries.
- Your injuries could not have been caused by anything other than those factors that were within the exclusive control of the healthcare providers.
Identifying the Responsible Healthcare Providers
More than one party may be liable for preventable medical errors that cause harm to patients. Not only medical doctors, but also nurses, anesthesiologists, medical facilities and many other types of healthcare providers may be responsible parties in a medical malpractice claim.
Hospitals and medical practices may not only be held directly liable for their own negligence, but also liable for the negligence of their employees as well. For example, if the hospital fails to investigate the credentials of a medical practitioner it hires, the hospital itself could be deemed negligent if the practitioner causes harm to a patient. Hospitals may also be held liable when they fail to keep enough registered nurses on duty at all times to provide quality care to patients.
When doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners are employees of a hospital, the hospital may be held responsible for the negligent acts of those employees when they are operating within the scope of their employment. Even pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers may be held liable for harm to patients in some cases.
Have I Waited Too Long? – Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is a time limit imposed by law. As provided in DC Code Section 12-301(8), the deadline for filing medical malpractice claims in Washington D.C. is three years.
The time is measured from the date the right to file lawsuit arose. In most medical malpractice cases, the time would run from the date of the medical error. However, in some cases, the three years may be counted from the date the patient discovers (or should have discovered) the injury or condition that resulted from medical errors.
It is always best to consult with an attorney sooner rather than later after injuries caused by medical negligence. Medical malpractice claims can be complicated and time-consuming. If you allow the statute of limitations to expire before filing a claim, you could be forever barred from obtaining compensation for your injuries.
Don’t Try to Represent Yourself in a Medical Malpractice Case
Medical malpractice claims are highly contested and complex legal actions. Healthcare providers and facilities and their insurance companies have teams of lawyer to defend them against medical malpractice lawsuits. If you or your loved one has been injured through medical negligence, it is crucial that you have an experienced legal team with the necessary resources and skills to aggressively seek justice on your behalf.
The medical malpractice attorney with The Abelson Law Firm thoroughly reviews our clients’ medical records, working frequently with doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to identify medical errors. We can help you obtain medical opinions and expert witnesses to support your claim of negligence. Our aim is to obtain the maximum compensation possible for victims of medical malpractice. Contact our office for a free evaluation of your potential medical malpractice case.
- Journal of Patient Safety: A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care
- Diederich Healthcare: 2015 Medical Malpractice Payout Analysis
- Code of the District of Columbia: 12–301. Limitation of time for bringing actions.