Becoming the victim of a medical error seems impossible to most people. Unfortunately, it happens a lot more frequently than you think. In fact, medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States.
These errors can result from defective medical devices, surgical mistakes, or prescription mix-ups. For patients, this could lead to serious injury or even death.
When this happens, lawsuits are often filed to defend the victim’s rights and seek compensation for damages. However, this is a complex process.
If you’re the victim of a medical error, there are some things you need to know about malpractice lawsuits. We’re going over ten key facts.
1. A Lawsuit is Time-Sensitive
If you’ve sustained an injury that you believe was a direct result of a medical error, you need to act quickly. Most states have a statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.
There are also guidelines surrounding most statutes of limitations. For example, some state laws may indicate that the allotted time period starts the day the medical error took place. Others dictate that the statute of limitations begins when the victim discovers their injuries.
If you don’t file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs out, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to seek compensation.
2. You May Have to Go Through a Review Panel
Before filing a malpractice claim, many states require the victim to submit the case to a review panel. They’ll review all evidence and listen to testimony to decide if malpractice occurred.
This review panel doesn’t issue any awards to the victim and is not a replacement for an actual lawsuit. However, your state may require this step before you move forward.
If the panel finds that malpractice occurred, this will help your case once the official lawsuit begins.
3. Getting a Medical Assessment
In addition to going before a review panel, some states require patients to get a medical assessment before filing a lawsuit. This involves a physical evaluation by a physician unrelated to the doctor involved in the malpractice.
The physician will attempt to determine if your injuries are a direct result of the medical error. If they are, they’ll issue a certificate of merit.
Once you hire an attorney, they’ll need to file this certificate on your behalf.
4. Notification of a Potential Lawsuit
Once you’ve decided to file a malpractice lawsuit, it benefits you to provide notification to the insurance companies and medical facility. Many times, a notification results in an internal review and the insurance company will offer a settlement.
The best approach is to hire an attorney before you provide notification of a lawsuit. If you don’t have an attorney, the insurance company may try to intimidate you into dropping the suit or settling too early.
An attorney will protect your rights and negotiate on your behalf, so make sure you hire one before proceeding.
5. You Need the Right Kind of Attorney
When looking for an attorney to represent you, it’s important to seek out someone with medical malpractice experience. Hiring the first personal injury lawyer you find could end badly.
You need someone with years of experience representing people who’ve sustained injuries after an error by a medical professional or hospital. This experience will prove invaluable during your lawsuit.
When consulting with attorneys, don’t be afraid to ask about their track record. You want someone who you can depend on.
6. What Your Attorney Must Prove
During a medical malpractice lawsuit, your attorney will need to show evidence of several things. The strength of this evidence will make or break your case.
First, they’ll need to prove doctor negligence. This means that the doctor didn’t provide the proper standard of care.
Second, they’ll need to show that your injury resulted in damages such as disability, lost wages, and medical bills. These damages will determine the compensation you’ll need to fight for.
7. You Must Obtain Your Medical Records
The strongest evidence you have in a medical malpractice lawsuit is your medical records. As soon as you feel you’ve sustained an injury, request your records.
Your attorney will need access to them right away. They’ll need to examine them in order to begin building a case. They may also want to have medical experts look them over.
If you don’t have your records and want your attorney to obtain them for you, you’ll need to sign a release. This states that you allow another party to have access to them.
8. You Don’t Always Have to Go to Court
After you file a medical malpractice lawsuit, you may start to get nervous about your trial. The truth of the matter is that many malpractice cases get settled before going to court.
If the evidence against the doctor is strong, their insurance company may offer a settlement right away. Your attorney will need to enter into negotiations to ensure you get what you deserve.
9. Watch Out for Insurance Companies
It’s important to remember that insurance companies want to pay out as little as possible. This means they may make you an offer right away. There’s a good chance this amount will be much lower than you deserve.
Some insurance companies will even resort to intimidation to get you to settle. Remember, nobody can force you into a settlement.
10. Malpractice Lawsuits Take Time
When filing a malpractice lawsuit, keep in mind that these cases can take a long time. Even the mediation process can take a while.
If your case goes to trial, it could take anywhere from a month to several years. Make sure the damages you’ve suffered are worth the effort. When consulting with an attorney, it may help to ask if they think you have a solid case.
Becoming Familiar with Malpractice Lawsuits
If you’ve been injured due to the negligence of a doctor or healthcare facility, you have the right to seek compensation.
Medical malpractice lawsuits are huge undertakings, so make sure you understand the steps involved. Use this list as a reference when filing your lawsuit.
We hope you found this article helpful. Check out the rest of our site for more healthcare information and tips.