July is Medical Malpractice Awareness Month. Organized by the National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association (NMMA), this observance strives to reduce a patient's risk of becoming a victim of malpractice and to educate the public about what to do after being harmed by a healthcare provider's negligence.
Types of Malpractice
Medical malpractice refers to more than just a poor outcome for a patient. To qualify as malpractice, the provider's conduct must violate established standards for patient care. Some examples of malpractice include:
- Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose. Although many medical conditions have overlapping symptoms, misdiagnosing a condition or neglecting to make a diagnosis can be malpractice. Doctors have a duty to order diagnostic tests and/or to refer a patient to a specialist for a correct diagnosis.
- Medication errors. Prescribing incorrect medication, administering an incorrect dosage, or failing to account for side effects and drug interactions before giving a patient a new prescription are types of medication errors that might be considered malpractice.
- Failure to obtain informed consent. Before a patient can receive treatment or undergo a procedure that carries a risk of side effects, he must be told of the benefits and potential risk associated with the decision. If the patient isn't provided with the information necessary for informed consent, this can form the basis of a malpractice claim.
- Surgical errors. When a patient is having surgery, performing the operation incorrectly, performing the wrong procedure, or leaving surgical tools inside the patient can be considered malpractice.
- Failure to monitor. Failing to monitor a patient's vital signs, including blood pressure and temperature, is a common type of nursing-related malpractice.
- Hospital acquired infection. Patients who acquire an infection related to poor sanitation in a hospital or other healthcare facility can seek malpractice damages.
- Failing to communicate test results. Patients who aren't informed of their test results could have a malpractice claim if the test reveals a condition that requires additional treatment.
- Pregnancy and childbirth errors. Failing to properly monitor an expectant mother during pregnancy and childbirth can be malpractice if it causes harm to the woman or her baby.
Medical errors can be caused by a number of different factors. Lack of training, fatigue, communication breakdowns between staff members, or inadequate recordkeeping procedures are common reasons for many types of malpractice claims.
Filing a Malpractice Claim
Anyone who cares for patients can be found guilty of malpractice. This includes doctors and surgeons, as well as nurses, nurse practitioners, dentists, and ophthalmologists. In many cases, the hospital or healthcare facility itself might be found liable, as well.
To win a malpractice case, you must be able to prove the following four key elements:
- Duty. The case involves the existence of a provider/patient relationship.
- Breach of duty. The provider failed to meet the accepted standard of care for the patient's condition.
- Damages. The patient suffered an injury.
- Causation. The patient's injury is related to the provider's failure to meet the accepted standard of care.
Proving damages and causation are the most difficult parts of winning a case. You must be able to establish that you suffered harm as the result of the provider's actions. If the provider's actions didn't worsen your condition or cause a new injury, you're not eligible for compensation. If it's possible that your condition or injury was caused by something else, the provider can't be held legally responsible.
If you win your malpractice claim, you can receive compensation for medical expenses, lost wages or loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering. If the case involves a patient who died as the result of medical malpractice, the victim's spouse, parent, or adult child can initiate the suit.
Protecting Your Legal Rights
Since malpractice law is difficult to understand, having access to qualified representation is essential. An attorney can gather evidence to support your case and help negotiate for the highest possible settlement.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault’s experienced legal team is dedicated to assisting Louisiana residents who have been victims of malpractice in building their claim for compensation. Please contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.