Malpractice claims are often thought of by the general public as being related to surgical errors or mistakes made by a specialist. However, primary care physicians can also make mistakes that qualify as medical malpractice. In fact, since your primary care provider is the first person you see when you are experiencing a health issue, there is a greater potential for this type of malpractice claim.
About Primary Care Malpractice
The term malpractice is used to refer to deviations from the accepted standard of medical care that healthcare professionals are expected to provide their patients. Examples of behavior that might constitute the basis of a primary care malpractice claim include:
- Keeping incomplete or inaccurate records
- Failing to perform wellness tests and exams such as cancer or heart disease screening
- Not referring a patient to a specialist when there are signs of a serious medical condition outside the primary care doctor's expertise
- Prescribing the wrong dosage or the wrong medication for a specific condition
- Failing to monitor the effectiveness and side effects of prescription medications
- Neglecting to follow up on test results in a timely manner
- Misdiagnosis of a common medical condition such as meningitis or appendicitis
Note that primary care malpractice most often refers to physicians but can refer to nurse practitioners or physician assistants, as well. No matter who provides your primary medical care, he is expected to abide by professional standards intended to keep patients safe.
Elements of a Malpractice Claim
There are four essential elements necessary to have a successful medical malpractice claim: duty, breach of duty, damages, and causation:
- Duty refers to the existence of a doctor-patient relationship. The length of the relationship is irrelevant, so it doesn't matter if you've been seeing the same primary care physician for years or you've only recently begun seeing this care provider.
- Breach of duty refers to acting in a way that is outside the recognized standard of care for a patient's condition. It does not matter if the error was a deliberate mistake or a simple oversight.
- Damages refers to the verified harm you suffered as the patient such as having limited treatment options due to a delayed diagnosis of cancer.
- Causation means the damages could only have been caused by the malpractice action, as opposed to being attributed to some other source.
Expert testimony is a vital part of the process of building a successful malpractice case. Doctors with expertise similar to that of your care provider will need to testify about what should or should not have been done to treat your condition.
Note that verifiable damages must be available for the case to proceed. Even if your doctor acted outside the established medical guidelines for patient care, you have no malpractice claim if you weren't harmed in some way by this error.
Time is of the essence when it comes to filing a malpractice case. Louisiana's statute of limitations law requires you to file your claim for compensation within one year of the action that formed the basis of the malpractice. If the action was not immediately discovered, you have one year from the date of discovery or the date in which the action should reasonably have been discovered. However, there is a maximum of three years from the date of the malpractice act to file the claim, even if the error was not discovered within this time. If you do not file within the timeframe required by the state's statute of limitations law, the judge will not allow the case to proceed.
Types of Compensation Available
Your medical malpractice settlement can include compensation for the following types of damages:
- Medical costs for treatment of complications due to malpractice
- Anticipated future medical needs, if the error left you disabled
- Lost wages due to the malpractice
- Loss of future earning potential, if you've been left disabled
- Pain and suffering, including both physical and emotional trauma
The Value of Experienced Legal Representation
Malpractice law is quite complex, so retaining legal representation is the best way to protect your right to a fair settlement. An experienced attorney can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, giving you the necessary freedom to focus on healing from your injuries. Contact us online or call our office directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation with the dedicated attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault.