THE SERIOUSNESS OF MEDICAL MALPRACTICE
Seeking the care of a health care professional is something many people take for granted. If we get sick or injured, we see a doctor to set us right again. The guidance and services that hospitals, doctors, and nurses provide is accepted by patients and in most cases, the patient will get better. However, the Kansas City medical malpractice attorneys at Dickerson Oxton, LLC know there are times when health care providers engage in negligent actions which can seriously injure, or even kill the patients they’re treating. This negligent behavior is known as medical malpractice and as many as 98,000 people are killed each year in the United States alone as a result of it.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
When a doctor provides inadequate care, the patient or their surviving family can file a medical malpractice claim against the doctor to recoup damages. For the claim to have merit, a few things need to be true:
- A doctor-patient relationship exists – You have to be able to prove that you hired the doctor or that the doctor actually treated you. This can sometimes be muddy if a consulting physician is involved.
- The doctor was negligent – Being dissatisfied with the doctor’s services is not a reason for a medical malpractice claim. To prove negligence, you must be able to show that another doctor would have acted more appropriately. A doctor’s care isn’t required to be perfect, but reasonable and careful. If they make the best decision possible with the information they have, then you won’t have much of a case, especially if you agreed to the treatment.
- The negligence caused the injury – Most of the time, the doctor is treating someone who is already injured, so it might be difficult to prove that the doctor’s actions actually caused the patient’s injury or death.
- The injury led to specific damages – Even if the doctor’s performance is substandard, his actions would have to directly cause further complications, such as: physical pain, increased medical bills or lost wages from missed work.
All of these would need to have happened for a medical malpractice claim to be successful.
Medical malpractice is also known as professional negligence. The terms are often interchanged and are used to refer to the same act. By definition, medical malpractice is an act or omission of a health care provider in which the care given falls short of the accepted, professional standards set in place by the medical community. This negligence can cause catastrophic injury or even the wrongful death of the patient. A claim of medical malpractice can be brought against any responsible party in the medical community. Such people can include:
- Physician assistants
- Cosmetic surgeons
- Radiologists or X-Ray technicians
- The hospital as a whole
When an instance of medical malpractice takes place in Missouri, the injuries that the patient can incur can greatly vary. In some cases, the patient dies as a result of malpractice and a case for wrongful death is then pursued by a Kansas City medical malpractice attorney and the surviving family members or estate of the decedent who hired him or her. Some injuries that medical malpractice can cause in Kansas City are:
- Brain damage
- Amputation of a limb
- Serious infections
- Permanent organ damage
- Advancement of disease or cancer
A recent study found that on average, 12 million people are misdiagnosed every year in the United States. A misdiagnosis can also be grounds for medical malpractice if it is found that the undiagnosed disease or cancer should have been found given the patient’s circumstance. Medication errors are also a big issue, physicians who prescribe drugs with severe or fatal interactions can also be held liable. Surgical errors on the part of either the attending physician or assistants are also grounds for a medical malpractice case. Anesthesiologists who administer an incorrect dose of medication can cause extremely severe complications, even the death of a patient. Medical malpractice is a serious injury that can cause life long complications. If you suspect you have been the victim of medical malpractice, seek the service of a Kansas City medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice
There are many problems that can arise throughout the course of treatment by a doctor, but medical malpractice stems from a doctor’s mistake. So here are some of the most common causes of a claim being filed:
- Misdiagnosis – According to a recent study, approximately 12 million people who seek outpatient care are misdiagnosed every year. While this only amounts to five percent of the total patients seen, a 95 percent success rate is considered low in the medical community.
- Improper treatment – If a doctor prescribes a method of treatment whose drawbacks can be clearly predicted, and is something no other competent doctor would prescribe, then a malpractice claim could be made.
- Failure to warn a patient of known risks – Most surgeries, medicines and other treatments come with side effects in some form or another. However, the patient is usually not a medical professional. You, as the patient, need to be informed of all the potential risks of any procedure. If you would have elected a different form of treatment had you been properly informed of all the risks, that is a lack of informed consent.
- Childbirth injuries – Negligence can happen before and during childbirth which are grounds for malpractice. In prenatal care, a doctor could fail to diagnose an illness in the mother (such as preeclampsia or hypoglycemia), birth defects, or a disease which could be contagious to the fetus. During the actual childbirth, a doctor could fail to recognize signs of complications or fetal distress, order a C-section when it was appropriate or improper use of birthing tools.
- Anesthesia errors – A mistake by an anesthesiologist is potentially much more harmful than one made by a surgeon. If they don’t do proper research of your medical history, fail to inform you of risks or make an avoidable mistake during the procedure, these are grounds for a malpractice claim.
Medical Malpractice Statistics
On average, roughly 75,000 medical malpractice claims are made each year in the United States, 34 percent of which are due to surgery errors. If a doctor stays in their profession for 20 years or more, it’s all but a guarantee that a doctor will face a malpractice claim of some sort during their career. Obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN) are the professionals most commonly involved as a defendant in medical malpractice claims at 19 percent, followed by general surgeons (17 percent) and primary care physicians (16 percent). While only three percent of all malpractice claims were filed pediatricians, they faced the largest average payout of any specialty, at approximately $520,000 per claim.
Despite the high number of claims made, medical malpractice is not an easy thing to prove. A recent study shows that only 22 percent of medical malpractice claims actually resulted in payments to the claimant. As a result, the total number of payments has decreased substantially over the last ten years. In 2004, there were 17,889 medical malpractice claim payments; in 2014, that number had fallen to 11,922. Of these nearly 12,000, 26 percent paid $49,000 or less.
Only 4.5 percent – on average depending on the doctor’s practice area – of medical malpractice cases go to trial, the rest are settled out of court. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as litigated claims tend to take much longer to complete. For those successful in trial, it took an average of 25 months to receive payment; for those settled out of court, it only took 11 months.
Can I Sue the Hospital for Medical Malpractice?
The short answer here is yes, but only under certain circumstances. One of the more complicated of these issues is determining whether or not the doctor is technically an employee of the hospital, or an independent contractor. If the doctor was an independent contractor who simply saw patients at that hospital, they would not be liable. If the doctor is an employee, the hospital is liable, particularly if they were negligent in any way when hiring that doctor.
Even if a hospital can be held liable, is it worthwhile to include them in the claim? This depends on whether the doctor has enough malpractice insurance to cover the damages. Suing the hospital means having an additional lawyer attempt to dispute your claims, which means more time spent in litigation and, if your claim is successful, much more time until you can be compensated.
Medical Malpractice Laws
These vary slightly between Kansas and Missouri in terms of notification requirements, statutes of limitation and damage caps. In Kansas:
- A claim must be filed within two years of the date which the injury should have been reasonably discovered.
- Kansas does not require a pre-notice of intent to sue, nor do they require a certificate of merit from an expert witness.
- All medical malpractice cases have a $250,000 damage cap on non-pecuniary losses.
- For someone to qualify as an “expert witness,” that person must have spent at least 50 percent of their time in the previous two years in the exact same field as the defendant.
- The same discovery rule in Kansas applies here for the statute of limitations. One exception is that children have ten years after the injury or two years after their 18th birthday, whichever comes later, to file a claim.
- Missouri requires that an affidavit of merit be submitted within 90 days of filing the original claim. There must be separate affidavits for each defendant, if there is more than one, and must explicitly state the qualifications of the expert.
- Most malpractice cases have a damage cap of $400,000, but can be as high as $700,000 in some cases.
- The “joint damages” rule means that if one medical professional was found to be more than 50 percent at fault for your injuries, that doctor has to pay the entire settlement, even if another doctor or nurse was involved.
LIMITATIONS AND JUSTICE IN MISSOURI MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CLAIMS
Medical malpractice has the potential to cause life-threatening, lifelong injuries. If you suspect that you, or someone close to you, has been the victim of medical malpractice don’t hesitate to contact an experienced Kansas City personal injury lawyer at Dickerson Oxton, LLC today. The statute of limitations effects how long you have to pursue a claim. Our personable attorneys offer client specific strategies to help make your case a success.
Claims for medical malpractice can be complicated, often involving several medical professionals to be called in to evaluate the case. Due to this, you need knowledgeable attorneys on your side, ones that know the specific laws and regulations governing these types of cases. At our Kansas City law firm, we have experienced, passionate, and personable attorneys ready to seek justice for you.
The legal team at Dickerson Oxton, LLC is dedicated to a personal approach to compassionate representation.Your initial consultation is always free of charge at our law firm in Kansas City, MO. When we do accept cases, we operate on a contingent fee basis; if we don’t win your case, you won’t pay anything. You can reach one of our dedicated Kansas City medical malpractice attorneys at (913) 428-8220. Alternatively, you may fill out our free case evaluation form online and we will get back to you promptly. Please call or contact us today.