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Can I Sue My Doctor for Not Helping Me?
When patients visit physicians for illnesses or injuries, they have the right to expect a certain degree of care. Patients assume the physician has proper knowledge and training, and that he or she will abide by the accepted standards of care in the medical industry. Failure to do so may constitute malpractice – and can lead to the worsening of a condition, injury, or death in unsuspecting patients. If you’ve recently suffered because a doctor failed to help you, learn your rights under Missouri law and consider speaking with a Kansas City medical malpractice attorney.
Elements in a Medical Malpractice Case
There are a few elements a patient must prove to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit for a doctor failing to provide help. First, the patient must show the delay in diagnosis and/or treatment amounted to negligence. Medical malpractice lawsuits center on the legal theory of negligence. The court might find a doctor guilty of negligence if it determines a reasonably competent and skilled physician would have acted differently under similar circumstances. Plaintiffs often use medical witnesses in the same profession to testify to this fact.
For example, if a reasonably competent dermatologist testifies that he/she would have detected the probability of skin cancer on the patient in similar circumstances, taken steps to remove the skin spot, and conducted a biopsy, the courts may find another dermatologist guilty of negligence if he or she failed to do the same.
Delay in treatment in these cases can result in the spread of cancer and a worse prognosis for survival. If, however, any reasonably skilled dermatologist would have failed to diagnose the condition or take action in the same circumstances, the courts may not find the defendant guilty of medical malpractice.
On top of negligence, the patient must prove the delay or failure to treat caused harm. In the above example, a delay in diagnosis and treatment might cause harm if the patient had an early stage of skin cancer that likely would have reacted positively to treatment. If the patient had terminal skin cancer with no chance of recovery at the time of the original dermatologist visit, however, the courts might rule that a delayed diagnosis did not change the patient’s prognosis, and therefore did not cause harm. The negligence must have led to additional injury, avoidable suffering, or death to be medical malpractice.
How to Bring a Medical Malpractice Claim in Missouri
If you believe you have the elements of a medical malpractice case for a doctor’s failure to help you, seek help from a local personal injury lawyer in Kansas City. An attorney can investigate your claim and give you advice as to whether or not you have grounds for a malpractice claim. From there, a lawyer can help you with the often-complex claims process. For example, an attorney can draw up any necessary affidavits of merit the courts might require to hear your case.
Missouri institutes a damage cap on how much plaintiffs can receive for medical malpractice claims. No matter how much harm a doctor caused you by failing to help, you may receive a maximum award amount of $400,000 in noneconomic damages (i.e. pain and suffering or emotional distress). The damages cap increased to $700,000 for catastrophic cases, such as those involving brain injury or paralysis. The cap is also $700,000 for wrongful death cases.
In Missouri, you have two years from the date of the medical error to file a lawsuit with the civil court system. If you did not discover the error until later, you have two years from the date of discovery to file. If more than 10 years have passed since the mistake, Missouri does not allow the filing of a med mal case. There are exceptions to statutes of limitations, however, so speak to an attorney for more details.