Medical Malpractice Attorney Scottsdale, AZ
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has detailed some alarming facts pertaining to medical malpractice. In the United States, medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death, behind only heart disease (first) and cancer (second). Back in 2012, researchers found that over $3 billion was spent on malpractice payouts, which also translated to an average of one malpractice payout every 43 minutes.
The leading cause of malpractice is misdiagnosis (around 50% of malpractice claims nationwide), and nearly one in 20 patients are misdiagnosed. Studies also showed that severe harm potentially comes out of half of these misdiagnoses.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice cases are generally sought by patients who have been harmed or injured because of negligent care, poor treatment, or a misdiagnosis under the care of a doctor, nurse, technician, or other medical worker. Typically, this occurs when a medical care provider has deviated from recognized standards in patient treatment. These “standards of care” are the general methods of treatment given to patients under similar circumstances, and the medical professional’s action or failure to act (with injury or harm as a result) is known as medical negligence.
When malpractice occurs and causes injury to a patient, he or she is entitled to awards that cover medical expenses, emotional distress, physical pain and suffering, lost wages, and decreased earning potential. Compensation also covers complete impairment, disfigurement, and death.
The Grounds for a Medical Malpractice Case
It is important to note that having a bad outcome is not always proof of medical malpractice. Thus, patients should be aware of whether malpractice actually occurred. As an extreme example, if a doctor amputates the wrong leg, both the negligence and the patient’s proof of disfigurement are fairly clear. In many malpractice claims, however, patients need an expert witness to show the standard of care in a specific case and how the medical professional deviated from it.
Malpractice claims often come out of suspicion, whereas a patient experiencing injury after medical care suspects negligence on behalf of the professional. The first step is to immediately contact the medical professional(s) in charge of a patient’s care. Many professionals want to avoid further litigation, and will remedy the problem with a proper correction or other solution.
If the problem is grave and the doctor won’t remedy it, patients should prioritize their own health and seek medical help immediately. Next, contact an attorney who can begin building a case in your favor, and helping to retain all medical records, bills, and other pieces of information relevant to a claim. Keep in mind that the statue of limitations in Arizona is two years, and courts will throw out a claim if filed two years after the suspected malpractice.
Requirements for a Medical Malpractice Claim
As mentioned before, patients unhappy with an outcome or treatment cannot claim that medical professionals were liable. Furthermore, malpractice does not encompass normal human errors. For a claim to be justified and brought to court, patients and their attorneys have to prove several basic requirements:
1.) Proof that a doctor-patient relationship existed. This may seem obvious, but if a person overheard a physician giving advice at a cocktail party and the person was injured due to this advice, there are no grounds for a malpractice lawsuit.
2.) Proof of the doctor’s negligence. Patients must prove the doctor deviated from reasonably skillful and careful care, and under the care of a more competent doctor in a similar situation, the patient would not have suffered harm. Arizona law states that patients must file a “certificate of merit” to determine whether the injuries were caused by negligence. Filing this certificate often requires a third-party expert (or physician) to review medical records and confirm that the healthcare provider deviated from standards of care.
3.) Proof of the doctor’s negligence causing injury. Patients must show that the injury was “more likely than not” caused by doctor negligence. Proving this can be muddy, as if a patient dies of cancer, it can sometimes be difficult to prove whether the cancer or the doctor’s negligence killed the patient. An expert usually determines and certifies this with the certificate of merit.
4.) Proof that the injury led to specific damages. Even if the doctor was negligent, a patient cannot sue if he or she didn’t suffer any harm. Examples of harm can include physical harm, mental anguish, additional medical bills, and lost earning capacity.
It is crucial to consult with legal counsel as soon as possible. Medical professional often come armed with seasoned attorneys of their own, and having skilled legal counsel, organized documents, and expert testimony can result in honest compensation for injuries or damages suffered.
If you suspect malpractice and want to file a claim, we invite you to give us a call at (480) 502-0708 or contact us for a free initial consultation.