It sometimes seems that friends and family are constantly in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals. We once went six months straight with a different friend in the hospital each month. Hospitals are amazing places staffed by people whose job is to help you get better. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes people are beyond help. Worse yet, sometimes the actions or inactions of the doctors or nurses can unnecessarily injure or kill a patient. This happened to a friend of mine almost five years ago. She is still paying off the medical bills from her hospitalization despite the fact that her doctor committed medical malpractice and she came within a few hours of dying.
So, what’s the problem, why is she paying off the bills, including the fees of the doctor that nearly killed her? None of the attorneys she spoke to would take her case. Why? Because she lived.
Medical Malpractice Cases
That’s right. If she had died they would have been happy to help her husband go after the people responsible, but because she lived they felt the damage wasn’t catastrophic enough. Apparently weeks in the hospital, hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical bills that her insurance didn’t cover, and inability to work for about a year wasn’t catastrophic. It was incomprehensible to me that medical professionals nearly killed her and then legal professionals did nothing to right the wrong.
I’ve done some research and discovered that my friend isn’t the only one who has been left out in the cold. It turns out one of the reasons attorneys are so picky about the cases they accept is that it is very hard to win a medical malpractice case. The things an attorney will consider in taking your case are: liability, damages, and who would pay the damages. If you think you have a potential medical malpractice claim, here are some things you should consider in deciding what to do next.
Do you live in a state that requires you to first try to work things out through mediation or arbitration?
The process can vary from state to state so you may want to ask a legal professional in your state what to expect.
How long ago did this happen?
While there can be variants in different states’ statutes of limitations, if what happened was over two years ago you may find it hard to bring your claim now. Seek the advice of a lawyer on this for your state’s particular rules and any factors that may extend the time you have to bring suit.
Was your doctor negligent?
Negligence can come in many forms. Common ones include: misdiagnosing a problem, failure to treat a problem correctly, giving the wrong medication, and failing to warn you of the risks of surgery or other procedures. Of course, even if your doctor did misdiagnose you, that doesn’t automatically mean you can take him to court and win. The question then becomes: was that a common enough misdiagnosis that other doctors would have made the same mistake? That leads to the next question.
How would your doctor’s actions compare to those of other doctors?
If the average practitioner would have done the exact same thing, you’re probably not going to be able to win a lawsuit. Your doctor’s actions have to be judged in light of a standard of care observed by doctors. This guarantees that you can’t go after a doctor just because he isn’t on the cutting edge of research or number one in his field. If your doctor’s actions were in line with accepted medical practice, then he’s probably covered. However, if other doctors are surprised or perplexed by the actions of the one who caused your injury, you might be able to bring a case against him.
What damages did you suffer?
This is another one of those fuzzy areas. Of course, some damages such as medical bills are obvious. However, you also need to think in terms of loss of ability, pain and suffering and what the short and long term effects will be. What makes this difficult is that this varies greatly from person to person. For example, loss of a toe for a professional dancer could be much more catastrophic than for a banker. The physical marring and the loss of balance could negatively impact a dancer’s work and income whereas a banker should be able to do his work just fine without the toe.
There are a lot of factors that affect a medical malpractice case. If you think you have one, seek out an attorney as soon as possible. Keep in mind the above list so you know what to ask and what to expect from the meeting. Don’t be too shocked if the attorney refuses to take your case. Do seek out a second opinion, just like you would from a doctor!
However, if multiple attorneys tell you the same thing then the best thing you can do for yourself is let it go. Work on recovering physically and financially as fast as you can. A lawyer can help you work out the details of your medical financial obligations and how to best handle them. The important thing is to do what you can to minimize the impact and get on with the rest of your life and do your best to thrive, not just survive!
If you have any questions relating to a personal injury claim or would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact Joseph Maya and the other experienced attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. at (203) 221-3100 or JMaya@Mayalaw.com.