When you are ill or injured, you have no choice but to seek professional medical help. Unfortunately, as is the case with everything else in life, this is a kind of gamble. Instead of helping you, the medical staff could worsen your condition or even negligently kill you.
The annual cost in paid medical malpractice claims ranges between an astonishing 3.5-5 billion dollars. That is per year, or 1 paid claim every 43 minutes. Additionally, it’s conservatively estimated that medical errors kill approximately 200,000 patients in the USA annually.
This alone should tell you about the risk you are engaging in every time you visit a hospital or a doctor’s office.
There are 7 most common reasons for malpractice claims:
1. Failure to diagnose – 31% 2. Abnormal injury – 31% 3. Failure to treat – 12% 4. Poor documentation – 4% 5. Medication administration errors – 4% 6. Failure to follow safety procedures – 3% 7. Improperly obtaining or lack of informed consent – 3%
There’s not much you can do about the prevention of medical malpractice, except to carefully choose your family doctor, but when you find yourself in dire straits and need to go to a hospital all such choice is gone. You are then left at the mercy of the medical staff, and you can only hope that someone doesn’t screw up.
What are your options and how can you tell that you were a victim of medical malpractice?
A medical malpractice is determined comparatively, meaning if there’s a deviation from the established standard of care, or if a different medical provider would have acted differently under the same circumstances, thus avoiding the worsening of the medical condition. Other medical experts need to be called in to determine if negligence indeed occurred.
Given the sheer quantity of medical malpractice claims filed every year, hospitals and insurance companies have established a well-oiled machine of legal coverage, and liability diminishment.
Hospitals count on the difficulty of proving medical negligence, as not all negative outcomes signal medical malpractice, and insurance companies usually tend to reach quick settlements before patients “lawyer-up”, or before the full extent of injuries of the patient are determined.
On the other hand, if you do decide to lawyer-up, prepare for a heavy fight, because hospitals don’t only have their money on the line but also something of equal importance – their reputation. More than 80% of lawsuits for medical malpractice result with no payments at all, to either the aggrieved patient or their relatives. Additionally, due to the concern that large punitive damages awarded by juries increase the cost of healthcare, many states have started to limit the noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering.
Therefore, most medical malpractice claims tend to be settled outside of courtrooms, with the insurance companies. In both cases, a seasoned lawyer is critical. In the case of dealing with insurance companies, an experienced medical malpractice lawyer knows all the tricks they will try on you. And in the case of hospital’s army of lawyers, all documentation needs to be thoroughly examined under the supervision of medical experts, if you are to engage in a costly and time-consuming lawsuit.