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Common Client Questions: Do I Have a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Clients sometimes hesitate when thinking about starting a medical malpractice claim against their doctor or caregiver. Doubts about suing the medical professional who tried to help, uncertainty about whether the harm rises to the level of malpractice and fears about being labeled another one of those frivolous lawsuits can delay an otherwise valid claim. The insurance industry’s insistence that medical malpractice claims drive up the costs of insurance premiums and doctors to quit medical practice does not help.

Delays in seeking just compensation for real injuries, however, can be dangerous and damaging to patients who deserve a better quality of life. A basic understanding of medical malpractice and what is necessary to file a valid claim helps most clients to make the right decisions about their own cases.

What is medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor provides or withholds care in a manner that falls short of medical industry standards and results in harm to the patient. In each of these cases, the doctor should have been able to avoid the harm through ordinary care. Common examples of medical malpractice include:

  • Medical errors — Negative side effects and results that should have been prevented
  • Misdiagnosis — Identifying and treating the wrong disease 
  • Wrong site surgery — Operating on the wrong part of the body
  • Unnecessary surgery — Initiating a harmful and risky surgery the patient did not need
  • Prescription errors — Giving the wrong medication or dosage
  • Premature discharge — Sending a patient home from the hospital unnecessarily early

In each of these examples, the doctor fell short of their obligation to the patient. If this can be proven in a successful medical malpractice case, the patient and their family are entitled to recover money from the parties to blame, often the doctor, hospital and insurance company.

When should I bring a medical malpractice claim?

Medical malpractice claims must be filed within a certain timeframe or the patient loses their right to sue. The statute of limitations says the claim must be filed within two years and six months from when a person discovered, or reasonably should have known, that action taken by a healthcare professional caused an injury.

For minors, these periods do not begin to run until the patient reaches a certain age. Speaking to an attorney as soon as possible prevents the loss of the right to sue and can often help you determine whether your case should be pursued.

Medical malpractice cases require specialized legal and medical knowledge. To ensure your claim receives the care and attention it deserves, speak to personal injury attorneys with years of experience helping clients at every stage of their medical malpractice claim.

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