The experienced attorneys at Roden Law know that victims of medical malpractice often have a lot of questions about the legal process.
That is why we have answered several frequently asked questions about medical malpractice claims to help give you a better understanding of the many aspects of these types of lawsuits.
If you believe you were the victim of medical malpractice, contact one of our Savannah medical malpractice lawyers for a free legal consultation. We can help you determine if you have a case and can pursue compensation.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Many people think any mistake or error made by a medical professional is considered medical malpractice.
However, medical malpractice is much more complicated. Mistakes or errors are only considered malpractice if they were a result of poor care that fell below the accepted standards in the medical community and resulted in an injury to the patient. If a similarly-trained medical professional in a similar situation would have acted differently, you may have a medical malpractice case.
However, even if there was a violation of accepted medical standards, medical malpractice does not occur unless you can show that it caused you to suffer an injury. In some cases, the injury is a worsening of your existing medical condition.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for Medical Malpractice?
Any health care professional who provides or assists in your treatment could potentially be held liable for medical malpractice, including:
- Physician assistants
- Nurse practitioners
- Hospital staff members
- Laboratory technicians
What Are the Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice?
Most medical malpractice cases can be divided into a few categories, including:
These are mistakes made in the administration of anesthesia before, during and after a medical procedure. Common examples include:
- Failing to properly monitor patients who are under anesthesia
- Administering the wrong type of anesthesia
- Failing to tell patients not to eat or drink before receiving anesthesia
- Keeping a patient under anesthesia too long
- Failing to supply enough oxygen when the patient is under anesthesia
- Overdosing a patient on anesthesia
These mistakes could lead to long-term injuries, like brain damage.
Some of the most common surgical errors include operating on the wrong body part or leaving surgical tools inside patients.
Other examples of surgical errors include:
- Operating without informed consent
- Damaging nerves, tissues or organs
- Performing an operation on the wrong patient
This is a type of medical malpractice that happens when a doctor diagnoses a patient incorrectly or does not diagnose an illness at all. This often happens with severe medical problems, like cancer or stroke, and can be fatal.
When a patient is misdiagnosed, the doctor often begins treatment for a disease the patient does not have. This allows the existing illness to get worse, and in some cases progress to a point where it is untreatable.
Sometimes misdiagnosis is due to a failure of the doctor to correctly interpret the patient's symptoms and determine the specific illness the patient is suffering from. There are also cases where errors at the lab, including mistakes by technicians or malfunctioning equipment, produce incorrect test results.
Prescription Drug or Medication Errors
Doctors and other medical professionals could be held liable for medical malpractice if they prescribe the wrong medication, administer it incorrectly or give a patient the wrong dosage. Another common example of a medication error is prescribing a medication that has harmful interactions with a patient's other medications.
Why Do I Need a Medical Malpractice Lawyer?
A medical malpractice lawsuit is one of the most complicated, time-consuming types of lawsuits there is. You need extensive legal knowledge to have a chance of building a strong case. You also need the resources to conduct a thorough investigation to gather evidence and determine the full value of the damages you suffered.
These are some of the reasons why you should strongly consider working with an attorney. An experienced attorney has the legal knowledge and know-how to investigate and build your case. An attorney will also have the resources and access to medical experts that are necessary to have a chance of obtaining compensation.
Another advantage of working with a lawyer is that he or she will be an advocate against high-priced lawyers for doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies. You need someone who knows how to fight for your best interests when the other side is focused on paying out as little compensation as possible.
The attorneys at Roden Law understand how devastating medical malpractice can be to your health. That is why we are prepared to manage every aspect of the legal process so you can focus on your recovery, which is the most important thing for a victim of medical malpractice.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Medical Malpractice Lawyer?
The lawyers at Roden Law take cases on a contingency fee basis. This means your consultation is absolutely free and we will not charge for representing you unless you receive compensation at the end of the legal process. If your case is a successful, we collect a percentage of the settlement to cover the costs of investigating your case and representing you in legal proceedings.
How Long Do I Have to Sue for Medical Malpractice?
Georgia's medical malpractice statute of limitations limits the amount of time our Savannah personal injury lawyers have to file your lawsuit. Under this law, you cannot file a lawsuit more than two years from the date of injury or death caused by medical malpractice. This statute is explained in Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) 9-3-71.
This means if you fail to file a lawsuit within two years of your injury or your loved one's death, you are prohibited from doing so. That means you could miss the chance to collect compensation.
However, there are a few exceptions to this general rule:
- Statute of repose – This says you cannot file a lawsuit more than five years from the date the medical malpractice occurred. This is for situations when victims were not immediately aware they were a victim of medical malpractice. This statute often comes into play when the person filing the lawsuit was a victim of misdiagnosis. In these situations, it could take weeks, months or longer to determine your illness was misdiagnosed.
- Foreign objects – If a foreign object was left in your body, you must file a lawsuit within one year of the date you discovered the foreign object.
- Lawsuits by minors – The two-year statute of limitations does not begin to run until a victim turns seven years old. If the statute of repose applies, it will not start running until the victim turns 10 years old.
How Long Does a Medical Malpractice Case Take?
Medical malpractice cases often take a long time to reach a conclusion. The investigation can take a long time, as can the legal proceedings.
It is difficult to put a time frame on how long your case could take, but it might be anywhere from two to four years. This is particularly true if you have to go through an entire trial. If you settle out of court, it could take less time.
How Much Are Medical Malpractice Cases Worth?
The value of a medical malpractice case is based on the damages you suffered, such as:
- Medical expenses – We will review receipts and bills for all past and current treatment you are receiving. We will also carefully evaluate your medical issues to determine your future medical bills, including bills for prescription drugs, medical procedures and medical testing.
- Lost wages – Some injuries are so severe you are unable to continue working for a certain period of time. That is why we are prepared to pursue compensation for these wages. We can work with you to calculate all wages you lost.
- Lost earning capacity – If the injury is severe enough, it could affect your earning capacity even after you reach the point of maximum medical improvement. For example, you might not be able to work the same number of hours or continue in the same field as you did before your injury. Our experienced attorneys know how to calculate the value of wages you would have earned if not for your injury.
- Pain and suffering – We can also help calculate the value of the physical and emotional problems caused by your injuries, like anxiety or depression. In some cases, these damages are worth more than medical expenses and other economic forms of compensation.
- Lost companionship – Serious personal injuries often affect your relationship with your spouse. For instance, you may not be able to help out around the house like you used to. You may also struggle to provide your spouse with the same level of love and affection as you did before you were injured.
What Do I Need to Prove to Recover Compensation?
When you file your lawsuit, you are required to submit an affidavit from a medical expert who will testify that you were a victim of one or more acts of malpractice. This requirement is explained in O.C.G.A. 9-11-9.1.
Once your lawsuit is filed, you will need to establish five things to prove medical malpractice occurred:
- Existence of doctor-patient relationship – This simply means there was an agreement for you to receive treatment from a medical professional. This agreement is created once you receive treatment.
- Duty of care – A duty of care exists once the doctor-patient relationship has been established. A duty of care is a legal requirement to provide medical care that fits accepted standards in the medical community. Accepted standards are based on what a medical professional with similar training would do if he or she was in a similar situation.
- Breach of duty of care – This means the medical professional accused of medical malpractice did not meet the duty of care for the situation. The duty of care can be breached because of the medical professional's actions or his or her failure to act.
- The breach of duty of care caused your injuries – This means we must establish a direct link between medical malpractice and the injury you suffered. Our lawyers will likely have to disprove claims from the other side that your injuries were the result of something besides medical malpractice.
- You suffered damages – This means you incurred medical expenses, experienced pain and suffering, or had a variety of other damages.
What Do I Do After Suffering Medical Malpractice?
The most important thing for any victim of medical malpractice is to obtain medical treatment. A qualified medical professional can review your condition, determine your injuries and begin appropriate treatment.
Once you have begun treatment, contact Roden Law to discuss your potential legal options. An attorney can help you determine if it is in your best interest to pursue a lawsuit.