How Do I Know if I Have a Medical Malpractice Case?
How Do I Know If I Have a Medical Malpractice Case?
Medical malpractice is a broad and complex area of law, with many variables that can affect each case. Errors in judgment and negative outcomes occur often in the medical world, and not all these situations are eligible for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to discern the difference, and many people avoid seeking justice because they assume that pursuing a malpractice claim is either inappropriate or out of their reach. Though certain elements must be in place to claim medical malpractice, these can be difficult to assess if you are not a trained legal professional. To help, we have assembled three signs of medical malpractice and outlined the four elements of a malpractice case.
How Do I Know if I Have a Medical Malpractice Case?
There are many different indicators of a medical malpractice case, and those can differ depending on the type of treatment involved as well as the nature of your injuries. However, these three common signs should serve as a red flag.
1. Abnormal Unsatisfactory Results
Though it is not possible for anyone—even a medical professional—to predict every possible outcome of a procedure, a procedure that goes as it should usually causes a known set of outcomes. When highly unexpected and unfavorable results occur, this could be a sign of medical malpractice.
For example, consider a patient undergoing a cardiac valve replacement. The expected recovery time is usually 6-12 weeks, though a patient experiencing pain slightly outside this period is likely in the normal range. However, at 16 weeks post-op, this particular patient is having trouble breathing and is feeling tightness in the chest. Upon performing x-rays, physicians discover that a member of the surgical team left a sterile cloth inside the patient’s chest cavity.
Obviously, this was a mistake, and it is so abnormal for a mistake like this to happen that the patient likely has a medical malpractice case. The presence of abnormal physical symptoms long past the normal recovery period for the surgery is a good indicator that an unusual circumstance took place.
2. Lack of Informed Consent
Doctors and medical professionals are obligated to inform their patients of the risks associated with a medical procedure. Of course, there are thousands of possible risks involved with most procedures, but physicians must inform you of foreseeable risks. This process of ensuring the patient has all the pertinent information necessary to willingly elect to have the procedure is called informed consent. If your doctor or nurse fails to inform you of all the risks associated with a procedure and one of them occurs, you may have a medical malpractice case.
In order to claim medical malpractice due to lack of informed consent, the following must be true:
- A doctor did not give the patient the necessary information that would have been given by any other qualified medical professional in the same situation.
- If the doctor had properly explained the risks, the patient would have declined to get the procedure.
- The patient was harmed during the procedure.
If these are true, it was impossible for the patient to give informed consent, because they were not properly informed. Informed consent is legally required for a procedure to occur.
3. The Healthcare Professional Admits The Mistake
This is not a very common situation, but it is the most straightforward way to determine medical malpractice. Of course, you are not likely to hear a doctor say, “I have committed medical malpractice.” However, there are other ways for a medical professional to admit something went wrong and they are at fault. Examples include:
- They give you or your family an apology.
- They offer compensation for a situation.
- They admit that a medical error has occurred.
Even if the medical professional or hospital is forthcoming about their mistakes, you can still seek damages if you have been hurt. In fact, this type of admission can strengthen your medical malpractice case. Remember, an apology will not help you pay future medical bills.
Elements of a Medical Malpractice Case
If you experience any of the above circumstances, it is critical to understand that each of four elements must be present to bring a medical malpractice case. Your attorney must show that:
- You and the medical professional in question willingly entered a doctor-patient relationship.
- The medical professional thus had a duty to care for you as a patient.
- The provider breached that duty and failed to provide the standard of care expected of a reasonable person with similar training.
- The breach of care caused your injuries and their associated financial damages.
To determine whether these four elements exist in your case, obtain the counsel of a Baltimore area medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.
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At Peter Angelos Law, we have been serving Baltimore, MD as well as Frederick, Annapolis, Bowie, and Maryland state-wide for a number of years. We have extensive experience in medical malpractice cases, and can help you to achieve a settlement that will relieve you and your family from financial burden. Together, our skilled attorneys can ensure that a medical professional’s mistake does not take an additional emotional or financial toll on your life. For more information about medical malpractice, contact us today to schedule a consultation and begin building your case.