Medical Negligence/Medical Malpractice
If you or a loved one has suffered harm after receiving medical treatment, deciding what to do next can be very confusing. Not only are victims of medical malpractice often struggling to overcome physical injuries, but financial burdens associated with medical bills and time off work can also begin to pile up, adding tremendous strain on families. If you’ve been injured as a result of medical negligence and want to better understand what your options are moving forward, read the following to find out more about medical malpractice cases in Greenwood, South Carolina.
What is medical negligence/medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a form of professional negligence, meaning that a trained professional (in this case, a medical professional) committed a negligent act or omission and caused injury to a patient in the process. Though many people believe medical malpractice cases are limited to doctors, the reality is that claims can be filed against doctors, nurses, other medical staff and the hospitals themselves. The negligent act or omissions can take many different forms, some common examples include failures to diagnose properly, failures to treat and failure to follow up in the way that a similarly situated medical professional would.
Examples of medical malpractice
There are a multitude of ways that a doctor or other healthcare professional can commit medical malpractice. Leaving a sponge inside someone during surgery or forgetting to warn of complications associated with certain medications are just two specific examples.
More broadly, medical malpractice claims fall into several large categories. First are those claims related to a person’s failure to properly diagnose a patient. If a reasonably well trained doctor would have discovered the cause of a patient’s illness or made a different diagnosis than the one made by your doctor, then the patient may have a valid claim for medical malpractice. This is especially true if the improper diagnosis led to unnecessary tests and treatments, subjecting a patient to needless pain and distress.
Another category of medical malpractice concerns improper treatment. This happens if a doctor chooses a course of treatment that a reasonable and well trained doctor would not and this leads to harm. A patient would also have a claim for medical malpractice if it could be shown that a different course of treatment, one that a similarly situated competent doctor would know to follow, would have resulted in a better outcome than the one that was actually achieved.
A final category of medical malpractice happens when a doctor or healthcare professional fails to properly warn a patient or his or her family of known risks. These risks could be related to the use of certain drugs, of various surgical procedures or of possible courses of treatment. If a patient has not been properly informed of risks, he or she cannot make an intelligent decision about how to move forward. Had a person known of all possible risks, he or she might have decided not to go through with certain courses of treatment and avoided possible harm. It’s for this reason that doctors must advise of any and all known risks before beginning treatment.
How do you prove medical malpractice?
Though you may know that you’ve been the victim of medical malpractice, you’ll need to rely on a skilled Greenwood, South Carolina medical malpractice attorney to help you make that case in a court of law. To successfully bring such a claim in court, you’ll need to prove several things. First, you’ll need to show that a relationship of trust existed between you and the healthcare professional, meaning that there was a doctor-patient arrangement. The reason for this is that plaintiffs are not allowed to sue a doctor who may have been overheard giving medical advice, you can only sue a doctor who intend to provide care to you.
The next thing that must be shown is that the doctor was negligent in some way. It isn’t enough to say you aren’t fully satisfied with the results of the treatment. To be liable, the doctor must have been negligent, meaning that he or she did something that a competent doctor, under similar circumstances, would not or should not have done.
You’ll then need to show that the negligence of the doctor resulted in specific harm to a patient and, even more than this, that the negligence is what caused the harm suffered by the patient. Medical malpractice cases can be tricky in this way, given that many patients were already sick and doctors may claim that any harm suffered had already occurred or would have occurred regardless of their negligence. You’ll need to demonstrate, through the use of a medical expert, that this isn’t true. Finally, to prove medical malpractice you’ll need to identify specific damages that the negligence and injury produced, meaning you’ll need to come up with a figure to represent the harm you’ve suffered.
Damages in a medical malpractice case
In a South Carolina medical malpractice case there are two broad categories of damages a plaintiff can be awarded: economic damages (also known as special damages) and non-economic damages. Economic/special damages are those that can be calculated with some precision, meaning figures can be added and subtracted to reach a reasonably accurate total. Examples of economic damages include things such as medical bills, rehabilitation costs and time off work. In some cases, economic damages are forward-looking, meaning you will need to estimate the value of lost earning capacity or future medical expenses.
Non-economic damages are a very different category of harm and, as the name implies, cannot be easily calculated by adding up numbers. Instead, non-economic damages include those intangible harms that a person or family suffers following an incident of medical malpractice. Pain and suffering is a good example as is loss of consortium. In both cases, there is no easy way to quantify the value of someone’s pain or loss, instead, testimony will need to be taken and the judge or jury will be forced to weigh the facts of the case to determine how to value this loss. Non-economic damages can be much more difficult to assess given their subjective nature.
Finally, in some cases of medical malpractice, a plaintiff may be awarded punitive damages. Punitive damages are those that are designed specifically to punish the defendant, sending a strong message that the behavior that occurred was reprehensible and ought to be subjected to exceptional punishment. These damages are only awarded in special cases where serious harm has occurred or where the negligence is truly egregious.
Timing in medical malpractice cases, like any other personal injury lawsuit, is crucial. South Carolina, like all other states, has specific statutes of limitation that explain how long an injured party has to file a claim for compensation. In South Carolina, depending on who the defendant is, the law says that medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within either two or three years from the date when either the harm occurred (meaning the treatment or medical mistake) or from the date the harm was or reasonably ought to have been discovered. If you wait longer than two or three years, whichever time limit is applicable to your case, to file suit, no matter how seriously you were harmed or how negligent the doctor, you may forever lose the right to bring a claim, meaning time really is of the essence. Furthermore, in most all cases dealing with medical negligence, there are other procedural requirements that must be followed prior to filing a lawsuit.
Why Should I Hire An Attorney?
It doesn’t take an expert to understand how complicated medical malpractice cases can be. To successfully prosecute a med mal case in Greenwood, SC you’ll need to not only understand the law and how to navigate your way through the lengthy discovery process, how to handle depositions and how to behave in court, but you’ll also need to have a solid understanding of the practice of medicine and some idea what all the confusing medical terminology means. The whole process of arranging your case, ensuring that experts have been lined up, that papers are timely filed and that evidence is gathered to bolster your claim is incredibly difficult and requires the skill of an experienced professional. Trusting a Greenwood, South Carolina medical malpractice attorney to handle these matters on your behalf is not only important for the ultimate success of your claim, but can also be a tremendous relief personally.
Call us 855-213-4405 for a consultation.