Seven Things You Should Know About Medical Malpractice
As medical malpractice attorneys, we've come to appreciate that there is a lot about our practice area that is second nature to us, but very unfamiliar to our clients. We thought it would be good to take some time to clear up confusion about this important issue. Here are seven things we think you should know about medical malpractice.
It's Not Just Doctors.
When you think of a medical malpractice case, you probably imagine a doctor as the defendant. While many medical malpractice cases do involve doctors, cases may also be brought against nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, therapists, dentists, hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical care providers and facilities. All of these people and organizations have a duty of care to their patients. If they breach that duty, and the patient is harmed, they have committed medical malpractice.
A Small Percentage of Doctors Account for a Large Percentage of Claims.
Researchers at Stanford University discovered that one percent of doctors account for about a third of paid medical malpractice claims. (The researchers focused on paid claims because those tend to indicate substandard care.) While there were some specialties, including general surgery and obstetrics and gynecology, that had more claims than others, the researchers observed that the most significant predictor of whether a doctor would be sued for malpractice was the existence of a previous claim against him or her.
While this is somewhat shocking, the good news is that with a little research, you may be able to avoid a doctor who is at high risk for malpractice.
The Clock is Ticking.
If you think you might have a medical malpractice claim, you have a limited time in which to make it. There is a statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims, as there is with most types of legal actions. The statute of limitations varies from state to state. In Oregon, you have two years from the date you discovered your injury to sue for medical malpractice, but in no case may you file suit later than five years after the act of malpractice.
This is a head-scratcher for some people: if you're injured, wouldn't you know that pretty quickly? Not necessarily. If you were injured during surgery, for example, you may assume the pain you are experiencing is a result of the condition that led to the surgery, and not the treatment itself.
Medical Malpractice Attorneys Turn Down Many Cases.
It's not that medical malpractice attorneys don't want to help people that have been injured. But experienced medical malpractice attorneys know what is involved in a medical malpractice case, and do a cost-benefit analysis with prospective clients. If the case seems unlikely to yield a positive outcome for the client, the attorney will candidly explain why litigation might not be the best option. On the flip side, that means that when an attorney accepts a case, he or she generally believes that there is a good chance of success.
Many Medical Malpractice Cases With Merit Never Get Filed.
Just as many people approach medical malpractice attorneys with possible claims that, for whatever reason, are unlikely to succeed, the opposite is true. Many people with solid claims for medical malpractice never even approach an attorney about filing a case.
Why is this? Having been injured, or having suffered the loss of a loved one, the malpractice victim may simply have too much on their plate to consider legal action. Another reason that people with valid claims may not pursue them is that they dread what they anticipate to be highly stressful litigation. Or they may put consulting with a lawyer off until it is too late. There are also people who resist filing a medical malpractice claim because they fear they will appear greedy, or out to make a quick buck.
If you think you might have a claim, or you're unsure, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with a medical malpractice attorney to at least discuss it. You can always decide not to pursue a claim, but an attorney can help you understand what your likely future needs are and what you may be entitled to, before it's too late. Medical malpractice can be a one-two punch, causing the need for additional and costly treatment while reducing a victim's earning potential. Missing the window to file a claim can mean a lifetime of financial struggles.
Medical Malpractice is More Common Than You Might Think.
Believe it or not, medical malpractice, or accidents associated with medical treatment or care, rank as the third leading cause of death in the United States. Most of these cases involve medical negligence. And those are only the fatal cases. There are many thousands of claims regarding non-fatal injuries in the United States which translates into billions of dollars per year in settlements and verdicts for medical malpractice cases.
You Can Help Prevent Medical Malpractice.
While patients are not to blame when they are victims of medical malpractice, there are things patients can do to avoid becoming victims. Don't be a passive participant in your care. Yes, your doctor has a medical degree and is an expert in medicine, but YOU are the expert on your health and body. You should trust your doctor, but you should also trust your own gut and experience. Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself and your care. If something seems wrong, speak up. Even the best doctors and nurses aren't mind readers. And if you need answers but feel that your questions are not being addressed, press until you get the information you need. It might be a good idea to have a loved one with you, especially if you are feeling too unwell or anxious to speak up for yourself.
Even if you have already been a victim of medical malpractice, you can help prevent it from happening to someone else. If, in consultation with an experienced Oregon medical malpractice attorney, you determine you have a viable claim, pursuing compensation for yourself may also hold the doctor accountable and help prevent an injury from happening to your care provider's future patients.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.