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What to Do If You Suspect Medical Malpractice: Immediate Steps

What to Do If You Suspect Medical Malpractice

When you seek medical treatment, you expect your healthcare professional to provide excellent care and help you heal. When a doctor or other healthcare provider harms you during your care, you may have experienced medical malpractice.

Medical malpractice can take many forms, from misdiagnosis to surgical errors. It can cause physical, emotional, and financial harm that devastates your life and family. If you are the victim of medical malpractice, you deserve to know what steps to take to protect your rights. Powers & Santola, LLP provides a free initial consultation, which you can take advantage of by calling us today.

Don’t Talk to Your Current Doctor About Your Suspicions of Medical Malpractice

Don’t accuse your doctor of medical malpractice. They may get defensive and make it more challenging to pursue your case, such as blocking you from getting the medical records and other information you need. An experienced attorney can provide legal advice and a legal strategy tailored to your case. 

Also, avoid posting any information about your current doctor online. While you might be concerned about other patients or want a sense of accountability, your words could be misconstrued, or you could even face legal claims made against you. A better strategy is to work closely with an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can advise you on the steps to take. 

Get a New Doctor

Your health is the most critical priority. If you seriously believe your current doctor is not providing appropriate care, you must get a new one immediately. Returning to the same doctor could endanger your health and compromise your legal claim. 

While you might be concerned about being harmed again when you seek medical attention, neglecting your health could make it worse. A new doctor can provide an accurate diagnosis and medical treatment. 

When you meet with your new doctor, explain why you want a second opinion and your concerns about your previous treatment. This can help document your concerns in your medical records and serve as evidence later in the process. 

You must meet with medical experts as part of your medical malpractice claim. The role of these experts is to explain the applicable standard of care that other similarly educated healthcare providers would have provided under similar circumstances and how your doctor deviated from this standard. This process will likely involve being examined and answering many questions about your health, so it is helpful if you are comfortable talking about this information. 

Understand What Medical Malpractice Is

Medical malpractice is a complex topic about which many people are confused. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in the deaths of more than 250,000 each year. Given that many cases of medical malpractice go unreported, and doctors are unlikely to admit to their mistakes, medical malpractice is far more common than many think. 

Medical malpractice occurs when healthcare providers deviate from the standard of care and harm their patients as a result. The standard of care is the same care that another healthcare provider in the same specialty area and with a similar background would provide under similar circumstances. It ensures that patients receive careful and skilled medical treatment from their medical provider. Various healthcare providers have standards of care they must adhere to, including doctors, surgeons, dentists, nurses, physical therapists, mental healthcare professionals, technicians, and hospital staff. 

The legal elements to establish a medical malpractice claim include:

  • The existence of a doctor-patient relationship.
  • The doctor owed you a duty of care.
  • The healthcare professional violated the duty of care.
  • You were injured as a result of the healthcare provider’s violation of the duty of care.
  • You suffered damages for which the court can compensate you.

There are many different types of medical malpractice, including:

  • Surgical errors, such as nicking an artery during surgery, leaving foreign instruments in the body, or performing surgery on the wrong body part.
  • Delayed diagnosis occurs when the condition is eventually diagnosed, but the delay in its diagnosis results in harm to the patient.
  • Misdiagnosis, in which the patient is diagnosed with a condition they do not have.
  • Failure to diagnose, in which the patient’s condition is not diagnosed.
  • Improper treatment.
  • Prescribing the wrong medication, dosage, or administration of medication.
  • Anesthesia errors.
  • Birth injuries, including cerebral palsy, resulting from medical errors.
  • Failure to protect patients from hospital-acquired infections.
  • Failure to warn of known risks or obtain informed consent.

If you suffered medical malpractice, you may be considering taking legal action against your healthcare provider. This can be essential to ensuring the justice and accountability you deserve after being harmed by a negligent medical provider. 

Check for Signs of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is not present just because you are not satisfied with the outcome of a medical procedure. This can happen even if the healthcare provider did everything right and aligned their care with the best in the profession. 

However, medical malpractice may have occurred if your condition worsens after you receive medical treatment. Look for signs that there may be an underlying problem and that you may have a viable medical malpractice claim, such as:

  • You develop new pain or symptoms that do not quickly go away.
  • Your healthcare records show missing information.
  • Your doctor does not follow up on your treatment. 
  • Your healthcare provider does not listen to you, minimizes what you are feeling, or blames your symptoms on mental health issues. 
  • Your treatment does not align with your medical condition.
  • The medication you were prescribed does not have any effect.
  • You were not informed of treatment options or risks associated with the procedure.
  • You did not consent to treatment. 
  • You acquired an infection after leaving the hospital.

If you have endured any of these symptoms, speak to a lawyer with legal experience handling medical malpractice cases to learn about your legal rights and options. 

Obtain Your Medical Records

Your medical records are an integral part of your medical malpractice case. They may help prove that you were misdiagnosed or received improper treatment. You have a right to your medical records and can request them from your medical providers. 

Keep all of your medical records in a safe place, including your:

  • Doctor’s notes
  • Hospital records
  • Lab reports
  • X-rays and other diagnostic test results 
  • Medication history

Give your medical malpractice attorney these records to assist with your claim.

Document Your Journey 

While helpful, your doctor’s notes and records may not fully describe your situation. You can augment your medical records with your own. Some ways to document your journey include:

  • Writing a detailed summary of what you experienced by providing as many details as possible.
  • Keeping contemporaneous notes about your medical condition, symptoms you are experiencing, the treatment you received, and your response to treatment.
  • Creating journal entries about your daily pain and symptoms caused by your doctor’s medical mistakes.
  • Keeping all communications with the medical provider, such as emails, letters, and medical records.
  • Preserving evidence, such as faulty medical devices, and storing them in a safe place
  • Keeping documentation related to your lost income and other expenses you incurred because of the medical malpractice.

Your legal team can advise you of other steps you can take to document your journey. 

Know the Statutes of Limitations

The statute of limitations is an important law to be aware of that can impact your medical malpractice case. This is the time limit within which you have to file a lawsuit. In New York, medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within two years and six months from the date the medical malpractice occurred or the last date when treatment was provided in the case of ongoing medical care. 

There are exceptions to the time limit within which an injured patient can file a case. For example, if the malpractice is related to discovering a foreign object, the patient has one year from the date of discovering it. If the medical malpractice involved the negligent failure to diagnose cancer or a malignant tumor, the suit must be filed within two years and six months from the date when the patient reasonably should have known about the doctor’s negligence and within seven years of the negligent act or omission. 

It is essential to take timely legal action to protect your rights. Experienced legal representation can ensure your case is filed within the applicable statute of limitations. 

FAQs

How Can I Prove Medical Malpractice?

Complex laws govern medical malpractice cases. It can be difficult to obtain the evidence necessary to establish your burden of proof without legal assistance. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can work to identify, gather, and preserve crucial evidence in your case, which might include:

  • Medical records
  • Surgery videos
  • Photos
  • Diagnostic tests
  • Medical equipment
  • Statements from nurses, other patients, and other individuals who know about the facts related to your case.

Attorneys can issue subpoenas, hire medical experts, and conduct extensive discovery to obtain the evidence necessary in your case. 

What Basic Steps Are Involved in Filing Medical Malpractice Claims

Every medical malpractice case is different, but most follow this legal process:

  • Meeting with you to discuss the facts of your case during an initial consultation.
  • Investigating your claim.
  • Gathering medical records and other evidence to support your case.
  • Having your case evaluated by a medical expert.
  • Filing a claim with the negligent healthcare provider’s medical malpractice insurance 
  • Issuing a notice of intent to sue.
  • Filing a legal complaint.
  • Conducting discovery, including depositions, interrogatories, and requests to produce documents.
  • Going to trial.

Contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney to begin the process of seeking the accountability and justice you deserve.

What Damages Can I Recover in a New York Medical Malpractice Case?

Medical malpractice can have devastating effects on an injured patient and their family. You may be able to demand compensation for the damages you experienced because of a medical provider’s negligence, such as:

  • Additional medical expenses to correct the negligent healthcare provider’s mistake.
  • Loss of wages and employment benefits.
  • Reductions in long-term earning capacity.
  • Disabilities and impairments.
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Emotional distress.
  • Disfigurement or scarring.

An experienced lawyer can review your case and explain the damages for which you may be able to seek compensation. 

What Is My Medical Malpractice Case Worth?

Some states have implemented tort reform laws limiting the amount of compensation injured parties can receive in a personal injury case, especially medical malpractice cases. New York does not impose caps on medical malpractice cases like these states. However, the value of medical malpractice cases can vary significantly based on factors specific to the case, such as:

  • The type and severity of your injuries.
  • The damages you suffered.
  • The duration of your medical treatment.
  • The identity and number of defendants.
  • Available insurance.
  • The strength of your evidence.
  • Whether you contributed to your injuries.

Legal professionals with experience handling medical malpractice claims can give you a better idea about what your claim might be worth after carefully evaluating your case. 

Can I Still File a Medical Malpractice Case if I Am Partially Responsible for My Injuries

In many personal injury cases, including medical malpractice cases, the injured party may have acted negligently and contributed to their injuries. Because New York has a pure comparative negligence rule, injured accident victims can still pursue a claim against other negligent parties if someone else is partially responsible for the accident. However, your compensation is reduced by the degree of fault attributed to you. 

Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer for Legal Guidance and Representation

Following the legal steps discussed above can help strengthen your legal claim. If you suspect medical malpractice, reach out to an experienced lawyer immediately. Powers & Santola, LLP can handle the most complex cases and has a proven track record of success. Contact us today to protect your claim so we can seek financial compensation for the harm you suffered. 

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