Do I Have a Medical Malpractice Case?
People go to the doctor or hospital to get well. But often they end up in greater pain than before, and some might wonder, “Do I 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.
What is Medical Malpractice?
New Jersey law requires that people act with reasonable care. If they don’t, then they usually are responsible for the injuries that they cause.
This rule also applies to medical professionals, who have committed medical malpractice when their care falls below generally accepted standards. In particular, doctors must use the care and skill that other providers would provide under similar circumstances. When they don’t, they can be legally liable for the damages suffered by 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. There is no guarantee that you will get well or have the best outcome possible. Some people get sick and there is really nothing a doctor or anyone else can do to make them better.
You might also develop complications which no one could foresee. This also doesn’t 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 sort of injury. Imagine if 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, so you don’t have a medical malpractice case.
What are Some 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 in a timely manner.
- Inaccurate diagnosis. The doctor might incorrectly diagnose a patient and end up harming her even further.
- Leaving implements inside a patient after surgery. Surgeons have left sponges, clamps, and other equipment inside a patient.
- 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 seen medical malpractice cases arise involving pregnancy, labor and delivery, cancer treatment, broken bones, infections, and other medical emergencies.
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. This isn’t a surefire guarantee you have a medical malpractice case, but it’s a sign you might have received the wrong treatment.
- You are quickly diagnosed with a serious medical condition by a second doctor. For example, your first doctor might have told you that you were fine. If a second doctor finds cancer, then the first doctor could have committed malpractice.
- An otherwise healthy person dies in the hospital. This is always suspicious and warrants closer investigation.
- You received treatment the doctor didn’t tell you about beforehand. A doctor should obtain informed consent before ordering treatment.
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?
This 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 probably will 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 current doctors in the same field or specialty as the one you are suing and need to explain what a reasonable physician, in the same specialty, would do under the same set of 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. This can be complicated. 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 Malpractice?
You should begin collecting evidence to show to an attorney, such as:
- Write down your memories of what your doctor told you.
- Identify witnesses. These would be people in the room with you when the doctor explained your condition or offered a diagnosis.
- Keep track of money spent to treat your injury. If a doctor set a bone poorly, you probably needed to pay to have it set properly. You also might have needed to buy painkillers and other medicine. Keep all medical bills and receipts.
- Obtain copies of your medical records. This will show what treatment the doctor ordered and the injuries you have suffered.
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 that represents the rights of medical malpractice victims. To schedule a free consultation, please call 908-928-9200.