Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider deviates from the recognized standards of care and causes harm to the patient. Unfortunately, medical errors are not uncommon, and patients can suffer severe injuries or even death as a result.
While patients cannot always prevent medical malpractice from occurring, there are some steps they can take to protect themselves and their families.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a type of negligence that occurs when a healthcare professional fails to provide the standard of care that is expected in their field. This negligence can take many forms, from medication errors to failure to obtain informed consent.
Medical malpractice claims refer to legal actions taken by patients or their families against healthcare professionals, hospitals, or other medical institutions for actions, or lack of actions, that result in harm or injury. These claims are based on the principle that healthcare providers have a duty of care to their patients, and if they breach that duty, they should be held accountable for the consequences.
Types of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice claims can arise in any medical or healthcare setting. Even things that may seem “small” constitute medical malpractice and could result in serious consequences for a patient.
There are various types of medical malpractice:
- Delayed diagnosis
- Surgical errors
- Medication errors
- Anesthesia errors
- Birth injuries
- Childbirth injuries
- Failure to provide informed consent
- Medical product liability
- Hospital negligence
- Nursing home negligence
Proving Medical Malpractice
To prove medical malpractice, a patient must show that the healthcare provider or facility breached their duty of care by acting negligently or recklessly and that this breach caused the patient harm. This can be challenging, as medical professionals are held to a high standard of care, and proving that they deviated from this standard can be difficult.
“Medical malpractice claims combine legal complexities and emotionally charged issues,” note medical malpractice lawyers at Manchin Injury Law Firm, “A bond of trust is broken.”
How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Claim in the United States?
The statute of limitations is the legal time limit within which a plaintiff must file a lawsuit in order to recover compensation. Each state has its own statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims, which can range from one to six years. In general, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is two to three years from the date of the injury or from the date when the patient discovered or should have discovered the injury.
It is essential to understand the statute of limitations and the time limit to file a claim so you can recover compensation.
How Can Patients Protect Themselves?
While not all medical injuries or outcomes are the result of malpractice, patients can take steps to protect themselves and reduce their risk of suffering a medical mistake or malpractice.
Do Your Research
Before choosing a healthcare provider, conduct research. Read reviews, look up their credentials and confirm their experience prior to making an appointment. Check if they have been subject to any disciplinary actions or malpractice lawsuits in the past or any ongoing lawsuits.
It may also be helpful to leverage your network of friends and family to ask if they have a provider they recommend!
Documenting everything can help you take charge of your healthcare as well as provide evidence in case a medical mistake or medical error is made. Take note of times, dates, events, medications, doctor’s names, and be specific in your notes.
Honesty is the best policy, especially when it comes to your medical history. Be honest about your drug and alcohol history as well as family history of addiction and diseases. Disclose all vitamin supplements and medications you are actively taking.
Be an active participant in your healthcare. Ask questions if you do not understand or are unsure if something is right for you. Speaking up and being a part of your care can help a doctor or medical professional provide the best course of treatment for you.
No one expects to suffer a medical emergency, but being prepared can help medical professionals and your loved one know what to do during a difficult time. Keep a list of emergency contacts, medical conditions, and medications on hand at all times. If you have a chronic medical condition, consider wearing a medical alert bracelet or necklace.
It may be a difficult conversation, but consider appointing a trusted family member or friend as your healthcare proxy in the event you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself.
Preventing Medical Malpractice is Critical
Medical malpractice is a serious issue and can have life-changing consequences for patients and their families. While patients cannot always prevent medical errors from occurring, there are steps they can take to protect themselves. By doing their research, being informed and communicative, being active participants in their healthcare, and being prepared for emergencies, patients can reduce their risk of being harmed by medical malpractice.