Healthcare professionals are critical to our society. It’s their job to try to keep us healthy, heal us when we’re ill or injured, and care for us when we can’t care for ourselves. The vast majority of times, these people help their patients and their families and the story ends happily ever after. Unfortunately, mistakes are sometimes made and patients suffer serious and sometimes fatal injuries because of the negligence of healthcare providers.
Alderman & Hutcherson helps those harmed by medical malpractice. Medical malpractice or medical negligence cases are complex and require an in-depth investigation, consultation with medical experts and a legal team willing and able to make sure the client’s interests are protected and their legal rights to compensation are maintained.
Estimates of the number of deaths caused by medical mistakes vary widely but are still shocking.
- The Institute of Medicine published a report in 1999 estimating that up to 98,000 people die each year because of mistakes in hospitals.
- The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services stated in 2010 that poor hospital care contributed to the deaths of about 180,000 Medicare patients in a single year.
- A study published in 2013 in the Journal of Patient Safety estimates that between 210,000 and 440,000 hospital patients die each year due to some type of preventable harm. If this is accurate, medical errors would be the country’s third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer.
These studies are limited to hospitals, not the entire healthcare system and just Medicare patients. Tens of thousands more patients are harmed by negligently performed surgeries, medication errors, preventable infections, defective medical products and improper or missed diagnoses.
Medical malpractice is a complex area of law; just because a medical mistake caused harm to a patient, that doesn’t necessarily mean medical malpractice took place. A malpractice case is normally proven by showing negligence took place in some way, resulting in an injury and damages that can be compensated.
The plaintiff (the party filing the lawsuit) needs to show the following:
- The healthcare professional owed a duty to the patient: The doctor, surgeon, nurse, EMT or pharmacist owed a duty of care (the party was supposed to take proper care of and not harm the patient).
- The party failed or breached that duty: There was a violation in the medical standard of care (a reasonable degree of care and skill to be used when treating the patient). Medical records weren’t reviewed or were misunderstood; a test that should have been used was not; the surgeon was too fatigued or under the influence of alcohol or drugs when surgery was performed. Doctors are allowed a range of possible, acceptable treatment or testing options, but they cannot act negligently.
- The failure or breach of the duty caused the injury: Some causal connection must be shown. Perhaps a test wasn’t ordered and the disease progressed to the point where more painful and invasive treatment was needed, or a mistake during surgery resulted in loss of function in a hand.
- The injury resulted in damages for which compensation can be awarded: Such damages include pain and suffering due to the malpractice, the cost of additional medical treatments needed to treat the harm done, lost wages and medical expenses.
Medical experts play a critical role in medical malpractice cases. The expert must practice in the same field of medicine as the health care professional accused of causing the harm. This expert reviews the plaintiff’s medical records, and based on their education, training and experience renders an opinion as to whether the healthcare professional deviated from the standard of care and skill exercised by healthcare professionals generally under the same or similar circumstances. Such an expert would then provide the following services:
- Execute an affidavit to be filed with the lawsuit, stating at least one negligent act or failure to act and the facts establishing each claim
- Render opinions as to what the duty of care was in the case, how the actions or failure to act breached that duty, how that resulted in an injury and the extent and effect the injury has on the plaintiff
- Create reports and testify before and during a trial as necessary.
There are almost a limitless number of possible conditions for which medical treatment is needed and any number of ways a person can be examined, tested and treated. A patient may be cared for or tested by a range of professionals, including paramedics, nurses, radiologists, pathologists, doctors and surgeons. At any time during treatment, a mistake by any one or multiple professionals could result in an injury and be the basis for a medical malpractice claim.
If you believe that you or a family member has been the victim of medical malpractice, contact Alderman & Hutcherson so we can discuss the medical treatment, the mistakes that happened, how the law may apply and the best ways to protect your legal interests and rights to fair compensation. Call (478) 476-9110 or use our online contact form to schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced Georgia medical malpractice lawyer.