Doctors are as fallible as anyone else, which is why there always will be mistakes made in the field of medicine. Some of these mistakes may have little or no consequences while others may forever alter the lives of the individuals who suffer harm. For some patients, the question about whether or not it is possible to hold the doctor accountable is obvious because of the severity of the injury and the obvious nature of the mistake. This would be the situation when a doctor operates on the wrong organ, such as removing a healthy kidney and leaving the damaged one. However, there are many times when the answer is not as clear. This is one of the reasons why it is important to act quickly to get legal advice before it becomes too late to do anything if there was an actionable mistake.
In a medical malpractice case, it is necessary to prove the following elements through documentary evidence and expert testimony:
- There was a legally-recognized relationship between the doctor and the patient that obligated the doctor to satisfy the medical standard of care applicable to the nature of the services being provided;
- The doctor breached his duty by deviating from the standard of what a prudent and competent doctor with comparable education, training, and experience would have done under similar circumstances;
- The patient suffered actual harm as the result of the negligence; and
- The doctor’s actions were the direct and proximate cause of the injury that was inflicted.
Once it has been established that the legal relationship existed between the doctor and patient, there are a number of factors to be considered before determining whether or not to pursue legal action against the doctor. The first is whether or not the mistake led to actual harm. It is possible that the doctor did make a mistake that should not have happened, such as prescribing the wrong medication or failing to order a certain type of diagnostic exam that is routine in the event of certain symptoms, but no significant injury occurred as a result of the mistake. There might be no side-effects from the wrong medication and the mistake was caught and corrected quickly enough that there was no harm from the delay in getting the right drugs. Although it is normal to be angry about the mistake, a medical malpractice case does not provide an outlet for that anger.
In certain circumstances, there may be a mistake that was made and the patient may have suffered an injury, but if there is no causal link between the error and the harm, then it will not be possible to sustain a malpractice case. A doctor may prescribe the wrong medication for a patient that might have led to harm if the patient had taken it. However, the pharmacist filled the prescription with an entirely different drug that caused severe and long-term harm to the patient. Although the doctor did make a mistake, the error was not the direct and proximate cause of the injury because the action of the pharmacist was an intervening event. The person could bring a negligence action against the pharmacist in this case.
In order to hold a doctor liable for his or her negligence, it is necessary to be able to establish that there was a deviation from the medical standard of care that caused actual harm. The mere fact that there was an error made is not going to be sufficient to support a malpractice claim. In addition, the fact that a person did not achieve the intended or desired outcome from the care also will not rise to the level of malpractice without more facts that demonstrate negligence was the reason for the unfavorable results. There is no promise of a perfect outcome when pursuing certain courses of treatment or receiving medical care. If there is a suspicion that negligence caused or contributed to an injury sustained by a patient, then it is advisable to seek legal help immediately. An analysis of the relevant medical documents and evaluation of the patient may reveal an actionable mistake.
Stern Law, PLLC Fights to Get Justice for Malpractice Victims
Although not every mistake will lead to harm and not all injuries are the result of negligence, there are many people who suffer devastating consequences because a doctor breached his duty of care. At Stern Law, PLLC, our attorney has advocated on behalf of those injured due to medical malpractice for more than 30 years. We address each matter with compassion and dedication, with the goal of obtaining the compensation that our clients need to deal with the harm that was done. In addition to working hard for our clients, we also have dedicated staff available to answer questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for anyone who has a question or concern, regardless of whether or not you are our client. Call us at 1-844-808-7529 or fill out an online contact form in order to learn how we can help you get through this difficult time.