Choosing a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Serving the Children of Washington, D.C.
It is almost impossible to imagine the nightmare of poor medical care injuring or killing a child. But these tragedies happen, even when children are under the care of elite medical institutions. Fifteen years ago, an 18-month-old girl died as a result of preventable medical errors while in the intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore. Last year, according to the Boston Globe, one patient died and two patients were given overdoses as a result of medication errors at Boston Children’s Hospital. These horrific stories are part of a troubling pattern. According to research published by at Johns Hopkins in 2016, medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States.
When doctors and other healthcare professionals fail to give a child adequate care, and the child suffers harm, the child and her parents may have a claim for medical malpractice. Of course, monetary damages cannot replace a child, nor fix a debilitating injury, but they can help pay for expenses and suffering, and they can help guard against medical providers making errors that hurt even more children.
At The Abelson Law Firm, we represent children and their families who are victims of medical malpractice, and fight to hold those responsible for a child’s medical injury accountable.
Pediatric Medical Malpractice Facts
According to the Centers for Disease Control, as of the early 2010s, children visited doctor’s offices, urgent care centers, and emergency departments about 250,000 times per year. A 20-year study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2008 and reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the most common medical malpractice claims resulted from misdiagnosis of pediatric conditions involving “meningitis, appendicitis, nonteratogenic anomalies [such as foot and spine deformities], pneumonia, and brain damage in infants.” A separate study of medical errors in pediatric cases found that 45 percent of harmful pediatric medical errors are preventable.
How Does Pediatric Medical Malpractice Happen?
The 2008 Pediatrics study suggested that misdiagnosis of pediatric conditions can often result from a doctor’s “cognitive error” (the doctor either misunderstands something about the case, or just makes a mistake) or from a failure of “telephone triage” (such as when a parent calls a pediatrician’s office and receives an incorrect assurance that a sick child will be okay). As the case of Boston Children’s Hospital above suggests, medication errors can also place children at risk because of weight- and calculation-related mistakes.
Healthcare problems that affect patients generally can also affect child patients. When doctors are overworked, tired, multitasking, or distracted, a child may not get adequate care. When different members of a medical team do not communicate effectively about a case, a child can be harmed. And, when doctors and medical staff do not take the time to listen to parents about their child’s condition, critical information that could save a child could be ignored.
What Kind of Damages Can Victims of Pediatric Medical Malpractice Recover?
When a child is harmed as a result of substandard medical care, it may result in a need for long-term care. For example, a preventable brain injury at birth could saddle the child and parents with a lifetime of medical expenses that would otherwise never have been necessary. Or, a failure to diagnose pneumonia may force a child to spend extra time in intensive care, which can be terrifying and traumatizing. If a medication error causes physical harm to a child, damages may also be awarded for pain and suffering.
Of course, if a child dies as a result of inadequate medical care, nothing can possibly lessen the parents’ pain. But, in those tragic cases, courts may award punitive damages and order corrective measures to make sure that a medical provider never again harms a child the same way.
Warning Signs of Pediatric Medical Malpractice
Medical staff should tell parents and children if they have made a mistake that results in harm to the child. But, that doesn’t always mean that it happens. Sometimes, they do not realize a mistake has been made. Sometimes they are too guilty, or embarrassed, or afraid, to admit to a child and parents that something went wrong that could have been prevented.
Instead of assuming medical staff will always tell you if your child has received inadequate medical care and has been harmed by it, look for clues and warning signs. At the hospital, pay attention if certain medical staff seem guilty, or upset, or angry, about a course of treatment for your child. Listen for offhand comments that seem strange. Finally, when in doubt, ask questions. Be your child’s advocate. Make sure you know what is going on, and if it feels like someone is making decisions without explaining them to you, speak up.
What to Do if Pediatric Medical Malpractice Occurs
First and foremost, if you believe your child has received, or is receiving, substandard medical treatment, do everything in your power to keep your child safe. That may mean changing doctors or hospitals, seeking a second opinion, or in extreme cases, calling law enforcement or government authorities. At a minimum, it means asking questions and insisting that you and, to the extent possible, your child, understand the decisions and recommendations that are being made about the child’s medical care.
Once the situation is stable, consider contacting an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Having a child injured or die after receiving medical treatment is almost too traumatic to imagine. No one going through such a trauma should try to handle the investigation of a medical error on their own. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can gather medical records, interview witnesses, and communicate with insurance companies and healthcare lawyers on your and your child’s behalf, with the goal of making sure that responsible parties are held accountable and of ensuring that no child is harmed again the same way.
At The Abelson Law Firm, we represent children and their families who have been victims of medical malpractice. If you believe you or your child has been harmed by substandard medical care, contact us today or call (202) 331-0600 for a free evaluation of your legal rights.