Have you been injured because a doctor or medical professional made a mistake? You may be entitled to compensation. Contact the Atlanta personal injury attorneys at Hasner Law for immediate legal assistance. We can help you fight to maximize your financial recovery. Our Atlanta law firm offers a free consultation, so call to schedule yours today.
About Medical Malpractice Claims
There is tremendous trust placed in the hands of health care professionals tasked with providing our medical care. Mistakes do happen and the law doesn’t require absolute perfection. However, patients may be entitled to financial compensation for injuries or death that are the result of medical negligence.
Now, medical malpractice claims may be brought against:
- Nurses, and
- Other support staff.
They may also be filed against a business entity, such as a hospital or medical facility. Note that in order to bring a successful medical malpractice claim, it’s not enough that your condition worsened or was not treated.
Standard of Care for Medical Professionals
You must show that a medical provider deviated from the standard of care owed to you, and this deviation resulted in your injury. This means that you must first establish the medical standard of care for the specific situation. In essence, we are trying to figure out what the doctor should have or should not have done.
This step requires looking into generally accepted medical practices in the community. Often this is done through a thorough investigation and the use of expert witnesses. An attorney must then show that failing to follow this standard of care is what caused your injury.
For example, let’s say that it was generally accepted practice for a doctor to give you an x-ray. However, the doctor failed to do so. Then, let’s assume that you developed an unrelated allergic reaction to a prescription.
Now, if no one could have reasonably foreseen this result, the doctor’s actions would not rise to the level of medical malpractice. In other words, in this case, there is no connection between the harm you suffered and the medical staff’s actions.
Common Medical Malpractice Claims
Note that there are many different types of medical malpractice claims. In fact, there are as many potential cases as there are types of medical procedures. However, some of the most common ones include:
Birth injuries involve failing to monitor the baby or mother after birth, resulting in complications. These injuries can be hugely detrimental to the child’s development and can have long-lasting effects such as cerebral palsy or other brain defects.
Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis
This occurs when a doctor’s negligence leads to something not being caught in time to treat it, such as cancer.
Involves leaving equipment inside a patient, failing to monitor, operating on the wrong limb, or other mistakes.
Involves complications related to administering anesthesia, including failure to monitor and take into account risk factors (like drug allergies, seizures, and weight of the patient). This can result in unintended awareness during the operation, heart or lung problems, or in serious cases, death.
Medical equipment failure
Can involve defective equipment or improper administration by personnel and/or insufficient training.
Hospitals must keep a sterile environment to protect patients who are more at risk for infection. Infection can result from contaminated instruments or the staff’s failure to follow protocols for disinfecting areas, using gloves, and/or washing hands.
Involves administering the wrong medication or the incorrect dose. May apply to doctors, nurses, or pharmacists and can be the result of the professional failing to ask about allergies.
Failure to obtain informed consent
Except in cases of emergency, doctors have to let you know the risks of any procedure you undergo and give you a choice.
Causes of Medical Malpractice
Our Atlanta personal injury attorneys have experience handling all types of medical malpractice claims. We know the common causes and what to look for during our investigations. The most frequent causes of medical malpractice include:
- Fatigue from working conditions and long hours
- Failure to review a patient’s medical chart and history
- Performing a procedure without proper training or experience
- Not seeking advice from other professionals
- Missing warning signs, and
- Not listening and responding to patient complaints.
Sometimes medical errors are the result of working conditions at the hospital or other facility. Specifically, the staff may be overloaded with cases or doctors may be assigned patients they are not trained to handle.
Likewise, a facility may not have enough staff or provide inadequate supervision. Finally, there may be a lack of necessary procedures in place to reduce the likelihood of infection or contamination.
What Can I Recover in a Medical Malpractice Case?
Being successful in a medical malpractice case typically entitles you to compensation for your injuries. However, it’s important to note that you may not be able to recover the full cost of your injury. Instead, the calculation is based on the degree to which the malpractice made your condition worse.
So, for example, let’s say that you visited the hospital for treatment on a broken leg. If due to the fault of medical staff, you received a serious infection, you may be compensated for this condition. But, you would not receive payment for the cost of your broken leg as this was not the fault of hospital personnel.
Now, the compensation that is typically available to those hurt in a medical malpractice case is meant to cover the following:
- Medical bills
- Lost income: if you missed work because of the injury
- Lost earning capacity: if you can no longer work the job you had before, or can only work fewer hours (you are entitled to the difference)
- Pain and suffering: this is not an exact dollar figure, but includes things like mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of companionship, and other difficult to quantify injuries
Note that there used to be a $350,000 cap on non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. However, this limit was ruled unconstitutional. Today, there is no limit in Georgia.
Expert Required for All Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Keep in mind that there is an additional step when filing a medical malpractice case in Georgia. Beyond the standard paperwork required to start a lawsuit, you are required to include an affidavit from a medical expert.
The medical expert must certify that there is a factual basis for your lawsuit. This is important, as failure to include the affidavit can result in your claim being dismissed. For that reason, it’s best to have an attorney involved in your case to ensure that your documents are in order and filed correctly.
Deadline for Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim in Atlanta
It’s important to note that Georgia has a two-year statute of limitations for filing medical malpractice lawsuits. This means that these types of cases must be initiated within this timeframe or else you may be barred from bringing your claim. This is true even if you have a strong case.
Now, typically this period is two years from the date of the injury. However, medical malpractice claims are more complex due to the fact that an injury may not manifest itself immediately. For this reason, the statute of limitations clock starts to run on the date you discover the injury.
For example, assume you received an infection that was the fault of the medical staff. Now, if you had no symptoms for six months, your statute of limitations period would be delayed or “tolled” until the date when you started to experience symptoms or received a diagnosis.
But, bear in mind that there is an absolute deadline of five years from the date of the injury to bring a medical malpractice suit. This means that cases involving illnesses that are not discovered for years after the harm occurred may be barred if they are not brought within the five-year deadline.
However, note that the rules are different for foreign objects left in the body. In this case, you would have one year from when you discover the object to file, regardless of how long ago the harmful act occurred. Note that this rule does not apply to prosthetic aids or chemical compounds.
While the statute of limitations rules are fairly strict, there may be exceptions or other options that apply to your case. For that reason, it’s still a good idea to speak with an attorney even if you feel you have missed the filing deadline.
Contact Our Atlanta Medical Malpractice Lawyers for a Free Initial Consultation
As you can see, medical malpractice cases can be very complex. They require a thorough understanding of both legal and medical matters. For that reason, you will want an experienced medical malpractice attorney with a reputable personal injury law firm on your side.
These cases usually involve negotiating with insurance companies. If you cannot reach a settlement agreement, the matter then proceeds to trial. Having an attorney that can effectively navigate all of these different steps in a lawsuit is critical to getting the compensation you deserve.
Fortunately, medical malpractice is one of the practice areas we specialize in at Hasner Law. We will investigate your case and take the appropriate legal action. This may involve filing a claim against the responsible party, whether that be a doctor, pharmacist, surgeon, nurse, other medical professional, or a hospital. Contact our Atlanta law offices today for a free initial evaluation.