Did you know medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the United States? It’s right there behind heart disease and cancer. Another sobering fact about medical negligence comes from the researchers at Johns Hopkins University Hospital who estimated there are 4,082 malpractice claims each year for ‘never events’ – the type of shocking mistakes that should never occur, like operating on the wrong body part.
In nearly 10,000 cases studied from 1990 to 2010, never events led to death in 6.6 percent of patients, permanent injury in 32.9 percent and temporary injury in 59.2 percent.
Medical negligence happens. It’s not ok. But there is something you can do about it.
In 2012, over $3 billion was spent on medical malpractice payouts, averaging one payout every 43 minutes. While prosecuting a negligent health care provider cannot undo pain and suffering – it is important because hospitals also face federal penalties for negligent care when proven guilty. These financial burdens help incentivize processes to reduce instances of negligent care. If you think you are the victim of medical negligence, do something. Tell us at Libbos Law and we can help you understand your rights, evaluate your specific circumstance and even let you know if we think your case is substantial enough to win – all within our no-cost medical negligence consultation process.
The scope of medical negligence goes beyond never events. Specifically, medical negligence is an act or omission by a medical practitioner that does not fully complete his or her duty to the standard of care required, resulting in an unexpected outcome. Here are some of the most common questions we hear about medical negligence and the answers we hope will help if you are the victim of an unexpected result:
Q: What are the most common causes of medical negligence?
A: There are many causes of medical negligence. According to an analysis conducted in 2014 (published in the journal Patient Safety in Surgery), 46-65 percent of adverse events in hospitals are related to surgery, especially complex procedures. For example, sponges or medical instruments left in the body after surgery is an act of surgical medical negligence.
Q: What are my legal options if I suspect medical negligence?
A: First, make sure that you are treated for any remaining medical needs. While you can stay in contact with the practice and medical provider that you believe provided negligent care – we do not recommend that you continue to receive care from that provider. When you are healthy, it is time to contact a lawyer to discuss your legal options. At Libbos Law, we offer no-cost consultations that help you understand options that are unique to your case. If we are inclined to handle your case, we will first review the medical records. We will review those records to determine whether we will proceed to the next step. This next step involves finding and retaining a medical expert, generally a medical provider who practices in the same specialty as the provider who you feel wronged you. The expert will determine whether your provider complied with what is referred to as the standard of care. For example, did your physician perform the surgery in a manner consistent with professional standards? The standard is not what the best surgeon would do in a given circumstance, but what the average qualified surgeon would do or not do in a given circumstance.
In order to have a claim, you also have to have been harmed. A bad outcome does not necessarily imply that anyone did anything wrong. There are no guarantees in medicine and sometimes people die or have an otherwise poor outcome even though doctors and nurses did everything in their power to cure the patient. It is only where the bad outcome is the probable result of negligence that makes it a case.
Q: What other factors will determine whether or not Libbos Law will handle my case?
A: Not all injuries caused by negligence warrant a medical malpractice lawsuit because even the smallest case involves a lot of time, effort, and money. You have to have a significant physical injury in order to warrant the time and expense of a medical malpractice lawsuit.
A significant physical injury is one that results in death or disability. Disability includes an injury that affects a person’s ability to carry out the usual activities of work or daily living, such as paralysis, amputation, brain injury, nerve damage, etc. However, what constitutes a significant enough physical injury to warrant a medical negligence lawsuit is a difficult question to answer. Under our law, it is extremely expensive to litigate medical malpractice cases and has limited the ability of only those most seriously injured to obtain an adequate recovery. Because the damages are often limited and the cost of litigation is so high, there are many valid medical negligence cases involving injury that are not economically feasible.
Q: What happens after the ‘expert review’ process?
A: If the initial expert review suggests there is cause to move forward, Libbos Law will help you navigate the legal system and explore your options. Under recent changes in the law, we are required to send a detailed letter to your medical provider setting out the theory of the case. We then must wait 180 days for a response before filing suit. In most cases, we file a lawsuit in Court after that period.
Q: How long does it usually take to obtain a settlement or court verdict?
A: Each case is different, but medical negligence cases typically take a few years to reach a settlement or a court verdict.
Q: Is there a time limit on how long I have to pursue my case?
A: Yes; there are specific time requirements in Massachusetts for proceeding with a medical malpractice claim; this is referred to as the Statute of Limitations. The Statute of Limitations bars a lawsuit filed after the third year anniversary of the negligent act or in some cases discovery of the negligent act. Therefore, if you intend to pursue this matter, you must file a lawsuit in court before the third year anniversary of the negligent act. This is a general guide, and there are exceptions, especially in the matter of Federal claims such as those involving the Veteran’s Administration and children’s cases so please consult a lawyer on this issue.
If you have more questions – please reach out to Libbos Law. We focus our practice on all types of injury claims, especially those stemming from medical negligence and we are here to help you.