There are a few people in your life that you must be able to trust without reservations. Your spouse. Your clergyman. Your children’s babysitter.
Of course, it’s easy to explain the vital importance of trust in these relationships. They have more to do with the heart and emotions than with anything else. We offer intuitive trust in relationships like these — spending enough time with someone, learning their background, observing how they interact with others.
Can you imagine putting this kind of effort and investment into a relationship with, say, your car mechanic? Your plumber or electrician? Probably not.
But how about your doctor?
On the face of it, doctors seem to be just another of the “service provider” relationship. However, once you find yourself facing a possible medical malpractice case, the relationship takes on a very different aspect. You realize how much you trusted this person to take care of you, to provide you with the answers you couldn’t discover for yourself.
When a medical situation does not turn out the way you hoped, even when a doctor has done everything he or she could, it can feel as if your trust was betrayed.
Do You Have a Case?
Sometimes that feeling is justified. So how do you know if you have a case for medical malpractice?
The definition of medical malpractice is a deviation from the recognized standard of care in a patient’s treatment — in other words, a health care provider failed to do what a prudent, well-informed physician would normally do under similar circumstances. This failure is known as negligence, and if the negligence causes injury or damage to a patient, that patient has a malpractice claim.
Medical errors due to negligence cause about 200,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Nevertheless, only 15% of the personal injury lawsuits filed annually have to do with medical malpractice. The reason for this is simple: litigating a medical malpractice case takes a long time. Which also means it gets expensive, not to mention stressful for everyone involved.
As a result, most experienced attorneys in this field will heavily examine the documentation behind a case before taking it on. This is a good thing, because an attorney who jumps into a medical malpractice case is likely not in it for the good of the claimant. A seasoned attorney knows that a thorough review of the case, including not just medical records but interviews with the patient and their family, is necessary to determine whether the case has a chance for a favorable outcome.
However, the fear of not obtaining a favorable outcome often prevents patients from addressing a possible situation of medical malpractice. Add to that the fears of retribution from the medical community (i.e., being refused treatment by other doctors as a result of their complaint against one), and the unwillingness to incur legal costs on top of health care costs and you have the main reason why so many legitimate cases of malpractice go unaddressed. Moreover, you have the reason why situations occur like the one at Rhode Island Hospital in 2007, where a team of surgeons performed surgery on the wrong side of a patient’s head… for the third time that year.
Legitimate medical malpractice cases are principally about the patient involved. But they set a precedent that keeps health care providers and hospitals accountable to their work. It’s a vital way of making sure the healthcare system upholds the trust placed in it by patients.
What You Should Do if You Think You Have a Case
- Gather your records. You’re going to need all the documentation you can.
- Talk to a lawyer. Talk to someone licensed in the state where your case took place. Statutes of limitation and other legal minutiae differ from one state to the next.
- Get a second opinion — from both doctors and lawyers! Don’t be afraid to seek answers to your questions.
If You’re in New York or New Jersey, Call Us
The law firm of Oshman & Mirisola has vast experience in handling medical malpractice cases in the states of New York and New Jersey. If you suspect you have a case for medical malpractice or negligence, call us at 800.400.8182 for a no-cost consultation, or fill out the contact form on the right side of this page.