Believe You’re a Victim of Medical Malpractice? Take These 4 Steps
When you visit a doctor, surgeon, or health care professional, you expect to be treated safely and effectively. There’s no guarantee that they can heal your condition or make you feel better, but they certainly shouldn’t put you in a worse position. When they do so, there must be recourse.
What is Medical Malpractice?
According to the ABPLA, “Medical malpractice occurs when a hospital, doctor or other healthcare professionals, through a negligent act or omission, causes an injury to a patient. The negligence might be the result of errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare or health management.”
For an incident to be considered medical malpractice under the law, the claim must satisfy the following three criteria:
- Violation of standard of care: Under the law, certain standards of medical care are recognized in the profession as being acceptable. A patient has the right to these standards. If they aren’t met, then negligence may be established.
- An injury caused by negligence: While a violation of the standard of care is a start, it must also be proved that the injury would not have occurred in the absence of negligence. In other words, the negligence has to be the cause of the injury.
- The injury resulted in significant damages: For a medical malpractice case to be viable, there need to be significant damages involved. Typically, this means the victim must prove that the injury resulted in disability, pain, suffering, hardship, and/or loss of income.
4 Steps You Should Take
If you suspect that you’ve been a victim of medical malpractice, it’s imperative that you take calculated steps toward handling the case. Here are a few specific actions you should take:
1. Document the Incident
The very first step is to document the incident. This means gathering all of your medical records, writing down a firsthand report of what happened, taking picture or video (if necessary), and developing a concrete timeline of everything that led up to the malpractice, as well as what happened during and after. Not only will this help you get your mind around the incident, but it’ll also prove valuable if you decide to file a claim.
2. Speak With an Attorney
There’s only so much you can do on your own. If you suspect even a hint of malpractice, it’s important that you speak with an attorney. You might think you know what you’re doing, but a lawyer will help you seek compensation for all aspects of the situation. As Davis, Saperstein & Salomon point out, this may include past and future medical expenses, other out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages and diminishment of future earning ability, emotional trauma, pain and suffering, and punitive damages.
3. Get a Referral to a New Doctor
In all likelihood, you’re still dealing with medical issues. Whether it’s an underlying problem or a complication that stemmed from the malpractice, it’s imperative that you seek out proper healthcare. No matter how much your current doctor promises to fix the problem, it’s unwise to continue with this relationship.
Your attorney should be able to direct you to a good doctor. Otherwise, you’ll want to get a referral from a doctor who has not been involved in your situation. (Your current doctor is biased and won’t be a good resource.)
4. Keep a Detailed Journal
If you don’t already have a medical journal, now’s a great time to start keeping one. With so many different things happening, it’s helpful to document incidents, progress, and new developments. In addition to helping you with your medical malpractice case, this will also ensure you receive better and more comprehensive care in the future.
Some of the things you’ll want to put in your journal include personal health record, information about allergies and chronic conditions, list of medications you’re on, detailed reports of appointments with doctors, dates and times of visits, prescriptions, screening results, and symptoms.
Take Action – Don’t Delay!
A medical malpractice incident isn’t something to sit on. If you suspect that you’ve been victimized by negligent medical care, take action as soon as possible. Not only does your health depend on it, but you also face a statute of limitations. The sooner you act, the greater your chances are of winning your case.