Having to trust a medical professional with your health and well-being is something we all experience at least once in our lives.
There are, however, times when a health care professional provides inadequate, incompetent, and inept service causing physical, mental, or financial harm. This is the basis of medical malpractice.
Although several instances can lead to malpractice claims – and sometimes lawsuits – against health care providers, we will cover a few of the most common ones here.
Common Errors Leading to Malpractice
Birth injuries caused by the improper use of birthing tools or placing too much pressure on the child during labor. This can lead to cerebral palsy, mental disability, or excessive blood loss for the mother post-birth. Parties can file a claim to help pay for the child’s medical and developmental needs or cover medical bills for the mother.
Improper medication/prescription occurs when a doctor or pharmacist prescribes incorrect medication, improper dosage, incorrect duration to take the prescription, or fails to warn of medication side effects, etc. This can lead to internal organ damage, overdose, heart attack, and even death.
Surgical errors are mistakes made during surgery. One such mistake is operating on the wrong body part. Additional examples include leaving a surgical tool left inside a patient’s body and using surgical tools that have not been sterilized. There have also been occasions where the wrong patient has received an operation. Surgical errors can cause severe pain, mental distress, infection, and death.
Anesthesia errors occur when an anesthesiologist does not properly monitor the anesthesia during a surgery or gives an improper dose of anesthesia. As a result, a patient can wake mid-surgery, develop brain damage, or die. This can be a frightening and painful experience for both the patient and family members.
Delayed diagnosis occurs when a health care professional fails to promptly diagnose a medical issue. Often, the condition worsens and leads to damaging effects on a patient’s health and, in some cases, loss of life.
Medical Malpractice Statistics
Below are a few numbers that help to put malpractice in the United States into better perspective.
- In a 2016 study, John Hopkins University determined that 10% of all U.S. deaths are due to medical error, accounting for over 250,000 deaths yearly.
- A New England Journal of Medicine study showed 99% of physicians face at least one lawsuit by the age of 65.
- Neurosurgeons and cardiovascular surgeons are the top two (2) most sued medical professionals.
- Ninety-three percent (93%) of medical malpractice cases are resolved outside of a courtroom.
- The National Practitioner Data Bank, a government database of medical malpractice reports, shows the average payout for a medical malpractice claim from 2009-2018 was approximately $310,000. During that period, healthcare providers in the state of Alabama paid $274 million in malpractice claims.
Time Frame to File a Claim
The state of Alabama has a two-year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit after malpractice has occurred.
There is another part of the statute called the discovery rule. The discovery rule offers a solution to parties that could not have reasonably discovered the malpractice within the two-year limitation. The rule states that in that case, the lawsuit can be within six months from the discovery of the malpractice, or discovery of facts, which could reasonably lead to that discovery.
Alabama also has a statute of repose that requires a medical malpractice lawsuit to be filed no more than four years after the date on which the medical error was committed, regardless of when the claim was discovered.
Important Tips for Malpractice Prevention
Remember to always protect yourself. Learn as much as you can regarding any procedure, medication, and information received from your healthcare provider. Following these guidelines can save a loved one’s or your life.
- Bring along a friend or family member. You may receive a lot of information; it is helpful to have someone who can assist you in processing the information and offering suggestions.
- Seek a second opinion. If you have questions or are uncertain about a diagnosis, it is okay to seek a second opinion from another healthcare provider.
- Ask questions. It is important to gain as much information as possible regarding medical procedures, medications, diagnosis, and other options regarding your health.
Medical malpractice can alter the lives of families and cause years of anguish. If you have been the victim of medical malpractice, please contact the experienced attorneys at Siniard, Timberlake & League. We can help.