If your doctor or another medical professional’s negligent actions cause you injury at any point during the treatment process for a condition, then you may have a medical malpractice case. Malpractice cases are often difficult to prove and require the assistance of skilled negligence attorneys. If you believe you have a malpractice claim, it is to your benefit to have a general understanding of malpractice law.
How Do I Know If I Have a Malpractice Case?
To have a malpractice case, you need to show that a medical professional’s negligence caused your injuries. Negligence, in this sense, can include a number of things including misdiagnosis, wrongly prescribed treatment, and poorly administered treatment.
However, because medicine is not an exact science, doctors are not legally obligated to diagnose or treat an illness or disorder correctly 100 percent of the time. Instead, you and your medical malpractice attorney will have to show that the medical professional breached his or her standard of care.
What Is a Standard of Care?
A standard of care is the standard which a medical professional should use when diagnosing and treating a patient who suffers from a particular condition. This standard is not constant and may vary depending on a number of factors, including the patient’s age, the specifics of the condition, and the geographic location where treatment is sought.
Can I Sue the Hospital?
In certain circumstances, you may sue the hospital where you sought treatment for malpractice. These types of malpractice cases depend on proving either hospital negligence or negligence on behalf of one of the hospital’s employees, staff members, or contractors.
Examples of hospital negligence include:
- Losing patient records
- Lack of adequate staff
- Not ensuring independent contractors have the proper credentials
- Failure to ensure that staff members have the proper training and education
How Do I Access My Medical Records?
Oftentimes, you will need access to your medical records to use as evidence in malpractice cases. Certain privacy laws, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), are in place to protect your medical records from outside intrusion. However, these same laws allow you to have full access to your medical records upon request.
When attempting to access your medical records, you may have to contact more than one health care facility. You should start by contacting the health care provider who treated you for the condition in question. From there, you can inquire about other health care providers and testing facilities that may have medical records that are important to your case.
You can request copies of your medical records either in person or by sending a letter. You will need to provide some personal information including your full name, your date of birth, your Social Security number, and your patient identification number if you have it.
What Information Should I Provide My Negligence Attorney?
When working with negligence attorneys, you should make available certain information to help inform them of your case. The following is a list of some of the documentation you should provide to your malpractice lawyer:
- Photographs of your injuries
- Copies of medical bills
- Letters from your health care provider
- Letters from your insurance carrier
- Copies of medical records
- Personal notes regarding the status of your condition
How Long Do Malpractice Cases Take to Resolve?
Malpractice cases require both an intricate understanding of malpractice law and medicine. Because of the large amounts of money that are often at stake in such cases, defendants may be less willing to settle, especially if they are represented by their insurance carrier’s attorneys. In addition, to build a strong case parties must conduct lengthy amounts of discovery and witness interviews.
All these factors contribute to why the malpractice litigation process can take a long time to resolve, lasting anywhere from months to even years.
Is Negligence Criminal?
Within the last couple of decades, medical professionals have faced criminal charges in some instances of medical malpractice. These criminal cases differ greatly from civil malpractice cases. Whereas civil malpractice cases can result in the plaintiff receiving compensation for damages as a result of the health care provider’s negligence, criminal negligence cases can result in a prison sentence for the defendant.