Medical errors are a leading cause of death in this country, claiming roughly 250,000 lives each year, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Hundreds of thousands of people survive their doctor’s negligence but struggle with pain and high medical bills as they try to recover.
But how do you know if you have a medical malpractice case? Before you can answer that question, you need a solid understanding of what medical malpractice is and what you should look for.
If you think you have a medical malpractice case, you should contact a New Jersey Medical Malpractice attorney today.
What is Medical Malpractice?
New Jersey law requires that people act with reasonable care. If they don’t, they will usually be found responsible for the injuries they cause.
This rule also applies to medical professionals who have committed medical malpractice when their care falls below generally accepted standards (called substandard care). In particular, doctors must use the care and skill that other providers would provide under similar circumstances. When they don’t, they may be liable for the damages suffered by their victims.
Do I Have a Medical Malpractice Case If I Don’t Get Well?
Not necessarily. As described above, you have a case if the doctor or other health care provider did not use sufficient care or skill when treating you. The fact that you did not recover from your ailment does not necessarily mean you have a medical malpractice case since some people never improve even with top-notch treatment.
You might also develop complications that no one could foresee. Developing complications does not mean the doctor committed malpractice. A competent doctor should be aware of known complications, but every patient is different, and there is no guarantee as to how you will react to a drug or a procedure.
Also, you must suffer some kind of injury. Imagine a doctor gives you a prescription for the wrong medication, but you never take it. Although the doctor made a mistake, you didn’t suffer an injury, meaning you don’t have a medical malpractice case.
How Do I Know If I Have a Case? Examples of Medical Malpractice
As experienced New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys, we see some common situations where malpractice occurs:
- Missed diagnosis. The doctor didn’t order the correct tests or adequately assess the patient, so the doctor missed a diagnosis. As a result, the patient does not get proper treatment on time.
- Inaccurate diagnosis. The doctor might incorrectly diagnose a patient and end up harming them even further.
- Leaving instruments inside a patient after surgery. Surgeons have left sponges, clamps, and other equipment inside patients.
- Operating on the wrong body part or patient. These errors should be avoidable and usually result from inadequate communication between medical staff or faulty records.
- Failure to follow up with a patient. A doctor will never be able to address complications if he or she doesn’t follow up with a patient.
We have often seen medical malpractice cases arise from pregnancy, labor and delivery, cancer treatment, broken bones, infections, and other medical emergencies.Let's talk about your case
What Red Flags Should I Look Out for?
It is unlikely that you will know for sure that you have been the victim of medical malpractice. Doctors and hospitals do not generally admit to making mistakes. You also probably don’t know what treatment a doctor should have ordered.
However, there are a few things you should look out for.
You Feel Much Worse After Receiving Treatment
Feeling worse after receiving treatment isn’t a surefire guarantee you have a medical malpractice case, but it’s a sign you might have received the wrong treatment.
You Receive a Differing Opinion from a Second Doctor
If your first doctor tells you you’re healthy, but then a second doctor informs you you have cancer, the first doctor might have been negligent. Receiving a differing second opinion sometimes means that the first doctor missed or made a wrong diagnosis.
An Otherwise Healthy Person Dies in the Hospital
It is always suspicious when an otherwise healthy person dies in the hospital. This warrants closer investigation.
Your Doctor Did Not Get Informed Consent
New Jersey law requires that doctors explain medical procedures or treatments before you agree to let them treat you. You also need to understand the risks. If your doctor provided very little information or no information at all, you might have a medical malpractice case.
These are some of the red flags to look for. Remember to trust your gut and get a second opinion from a doctor if you suspect that something is wrong.
How Do I Prove Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is one of the more complicated areas of law, which means that you should not try to handle your case on your own. If you do, you are likely to make critical mistakes that will cause you to lose your case. Instead, reach out to a New Jersey medical malpractice attorney for a case review.
These cases require a medical expert who can testify about what the proper standard of care should have been. These experts are usually doctors in the same specialty as the ones you are suing. They provide insight as to what a reasonable physician in the same specialty would do under the circumstances. Under New Jersey statute 2A:53A-27, this expert must submit an affidavit early in the case.
If your child was injured during delivery, then an expert could testify about what the doctor should have done when your baby first showed signs of fetal distress. The expert can then offer an opinion about whether your doctor’s actions fell below the acceptable standard of care.
You also need to show that the doctor’s mistake ultimately caused your injuries. For example, you might have received a prescription drug and then developed leukemia. Is there a connection? You’ll need an expert who knows that area of medicine to testify.
What Should I Do If I Suspect I Have a Malpractice Case?
You should begin collecting evidence to show to an attorney as soon as possible, including:
- What instructions and information your doctor gave;
- Witnesses, like the individuals in the room with you when the doctor explained your condition or offered a diagnosis;
- Money spent to treat your injury, including hospital bills and supplies; and
- Copies of your medical records showing what treatment the doctor ordered and the injuries you have suffered.
Your medical malpractice attorney will take all evidence into consideration and advise you on your case.
Contact a New Jersey Medical Malpractice Attorney
Medical malpractice is a growing concern in the United States, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries that were entirely avoidable. If you or a loved one has been injured, you will need a legal advocate in your corner.
Contact O’Connor, Parson, Lane & Noble today. We are a leading New Jersey law firm dedicated to seeking justice for medical malpractice victims. To schedule a free consultation, please call 908-928-9200 or contact us online.