Intellectual property

How to Sue a Doctor – Medical Malpractice

A recent study by Johns Hopkins University shows that medical errors account for 10% of all deaths in the country.

However, there is a difference between medical negligence leading to death and loss of life as an undesired healthcare outcome.

When a doctor makes a mistake that causes harm, the injured patient may have a valid claim to sue them for medical malpractice.

A malpractice claim helps you recover compensation for any losses you may have incurred due to the doctor’s negligence or wrongdoing.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice is when a healthcare provider makes errors or does not provide a patient with the standard level of care, causing them harm. Medical errors can occur during treatment, diagnosis, or aftercare.

Often, medical malpractice results in severe injuries or death. Patients may also have to pay expensive medical bills in the future and lose income due to extended time away from work. Some examples of medical errors that result in harm to the patient include:

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Failure to diagnose.
  • Incorrect prescription or dosage
  • Unnecessary surgery
  • A surgeon leaving a foreign object in the patient’s body.
  • Defective medical devices used for surgery.
  • A surgeon operating on the wrong body part.

Damages You Can Recover from a Medical Malpractice Claim

Medical malpractice can result in additional injuries, complications, and follow-up treatment. You can sue the doctor to recover these damages as well as:

  • Payment of related physical therapy and future medical bills
  • Compensation for lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Inconvenience caused by the malpractice.
  • Lost income
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Poor quality of life caused by the malpractice.
  • Emotional distress and mental anguish
  • Lost spousal companionship or support

These damages fall into two categories:

  • Economic damages: These are damages with monetary value, such as medical bills, disability costs, or lost wages.
  • Non-economic damages: These have no finite monetary value. They include pain and suffering, emotional distress, or even loss of life.

In some cases, the negligent party may have to pay punitive damages. These are damages that serve as consequences of causing significant harm.

Punitive damages help the at-fault party understand the magnitude of their actions and deter future occurrences.

How to Sue a Doctor for Medical Malpractice

So, how do you sue a doctor? Follow the steps outlined below to get started:

Determine If You Have a Claim

Before filing a claim, you must determine whether you have a case. This allows you to move forward with the process confident that you will get compensation.

All doctors follow a strict duty of care. Any treatment they provide must meet the same standards of care another trained physician would offer under similar circumstances.

You may have a claim if you can prove the doctor’s actions or omissions fell below the required standards.

Check the Statute of Limitations in Your State

Once you have determined that you have a valid claim, there is a limited duration within which you must make your claim.

The statute of limitations in medical malpractice is the deadline by which a patient with a claim must file a lawsuit.

The clock on the statute of limitations starts running immediately after an incident occurs. However, in some cases, you might only discover medical malpractice after some time. The discovery rule allows you to file your claim 2-3 years after discovering the incident.

States with the discovery rule also have a hard deadline, so even if you discovered the malpractice two years after it occurred, you might only have a 4-5 year absolute deadline. For instance, if five years have passed before discovery, you cannot file a claim.

Check the statute of limitations for medical malpractice in your state to determine whether you can file a lawsuit.

Research Your State’s Procedural Laws

In most states, you must notify the doctor before filing a claim. More states have also passed torts to make medical malpractice lawsuits more challenging and prevent them from increasing healthcare costs.

There are procedural rules you must follow before filing your claim, including:

  • You must give the doctor notice that you intend to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
  • You must obtain an affidavit or certificate from an expert showing reasonable grounds for your claim.
  • Submit your claim to a medical malpractice review panel before going to court.

Patients must fulfill specific requirements in their state before they can file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Consult a medical malpractice attorney to determine which procedural laws you must follow before filing your suit.

Determine Whether You Can Negotiate a Settlement

Most healthcare facilities and medical practitioners have medical malpractice insurance. When you issue the notice, if the insurer accepts responsibility for any harm or injuries caused, they will offer a settlement.

The settlement can be a lump sum payment or a scheduled payment plan that allows you to receive your money over time or at once to recover your losses. If you accept the settlement, you cannot sue the doctor.

However, a settlement gives you peace of mind, and you have the certainty that you will get compensation. Unlike going to court, which can be lengthy, expensive, and without assurances of payment, a settlement resolves your case faster.

You should involve a medical malpractice attorney during the negotiation process to ensure you receive fair compensation.

File a Lawsuit

You can still file your lawsuit in court if you cannot negotiate a settlement. Before filing your complaint, you must pay court and filing fees. The doctor will also receive a notice that you have filed a lawsuit before the discovery process begins.

Get the Right Legal Help for Medical Malpractice Claim

Hiring a medical malpractice lawyer gives you access to specialized knowledge and expertise. When you risk handling the claim alone, you can make mistakes that negatively affect your chances of getting a fair settlement. Sometimes, you might make mistakes that result in denying your medical malpractice claim.

The at-fault party will likely have a team of lawyers with years of experience. They will exploit your lack of knowledge to deny your claim or pay little compensation. However, with a qualified attorney on your side, your rights are protected.

An experienced medical malpractice attorney has the legal knowledge to maximize the value of your claim and ensure you recover a fair settlement. They can also identify any damages you might have overlooked in your claim to ensure you do not have to pay out of pocket for future medical treatments.

In addition, victims of medical malpractice do not have the skills to negotiate with seasoned lawyers retained by the healthcare facility. A medical malpractice attorney can negotiate your claim and even counter their offer to ensure you receive maximum compensation.

Summary

Your doctor is responsible for caring for you and improving your condition in your time of need. When they fail to uphold their duty of care, they must be held accountable for their negligence.

A medical malpractice lawyer can help you file your claim and even get expert witnesses to testify in court if needed.

Contact a medical malpractice attorney today to determine whether you are eligible for compensation.