What's The Difference Between Medical Malpractice and Just a Mistake?
Medical malpractice cases are some of the most complex injury cases. While most doctors do their best, and get good results for their patients, sometimes mistakes are made. When a doctor or other medical professional makes a mistake that falls below the standards of the medical profession, this is considered medical malpractice.
If you get seriously injured by medical malpractice, you might be able to get money for your injuries.
Who Determines Whether Something is Medical Malpractice or Just a Mistake?
This is ultimately decided by a jury. If you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice, your first step should be to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. Your lawyer will review the medical records and might send the records to be reviewed by a doctor. This doctor might end up being the “expert witness” in the case. An expert witness is different than a fact witness, or eyewitness. An expert witness can't testify about what happened from the standpoint of someone who was there or saw the aftermath of an incident. An expert witness can opine on whether based on the medical evidence, the medical professional in question acted within or below the standard of care.
If the expert witness believes that there has been malpractice, your lawyer might decide to file a lawsuit. Once the lawsuit starts, the insurance company for the defendant(s), the doctor, hospital, chiropractor etc., will hire a law firm for the defense of the case. During the lawsuit, the insurance company claims adjuster might be so convinced of the merits of the case, that she could decide to settle it before trial. If not, your case could proceed all the way to a jury verdict.
What Are Some Examples of Medical Malpractice?
Failure to diagnose– Failing to diagnose certain conditions can lead to disastrous results. A typical example is a failure to diagnose a potentially cancerous growth on radiological films. By the time the growth is seen again years later, it may be too late.
Failure to diagnose cases can also originate in the emergency room. A common example is failure to diagnose compartment syndrome. Compartment syndrome is a condition where pressure builds to painful levels within muscle. It is often caused by trauma. If someone presents to an emergency room with compartment syndrome, it is a medical and surgical emergency. Doctors must perform an emergency fasciotomy – a procedure where the skin and fascia (connective tissue) are cut open to relieve the pressure. If the fasciotomy is not performed in time, it can lead to massive injuries including a need to amputate muscles and even entire limbs.
Leaving foreign objects in body – During surgery, doctors use a variety of instruments. These are occasionally left in the body accidentally. The most common object left behind is a sponge. This can lead to pain, infection, amputation, and even death.
Operating on wrong side of body or wrong body part – A famous case from Florida involved a doctor performing gallbladder surgery who noticed what he thought was a large, horseshoe shaped tumor. He removed it. It turns out the patient had a rare condition called “horseshoe kidneys” where his kidneys had fused into 1 mass. Thus, this doctor inadvertently removed a healthy patient's kidneys. The patient was forced to go on dialysis and the kidney transplant list.
Failure to properly administer anesthesia – Think Joan Rivers and Michael Jackson. When people undergo medical procedures, they trust their lives to anesthesiologists who are tasked with making sure the patient is unconscious for the appropriate amount of time, and wakes up unscathed.
Postoperative negligence – A surgeon's job doesn't end the minute the patient is sewed up. A doctor must monitor the patient to make sure there are no postoperative complications. A doctor's failure to properly supervise a patient's post op care can lead to numerous disastrous outcomes including death.