If medical professionals are not diligent, cautious, or conscious of their duty to meet an acceptable standard of care, the patient could suffer severe harm, an illness could worsen, or they could die.
Medical malpractice laws exist to hold doctors, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, anesthesiologists, and other medical professionals and facilities accountable when they fail to provide responsible and ethical care to patients.
If you suspect that you or a loved one have been the victim of medical malpractice in Huntsville contact the experienced attorneys of Morris, King & Hodge, P.C. We have been representing people who’ve been hurt in our community since 1966. We have the skills and extensive resources needed to fight for the full compensation you need and deserve.
We care about our clients and the citizens of Alabama, as evidenced by our track record of successes and our work in the community. Contact our office in Huntsville to schedule a free consultation with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer now.
Table of Contents
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is defined as a patient suffering substantial harm due to the negligent actions or inaction of a healthcare provider.
Medical malpractice cases have the following characteristics:
- The healthcare provider is seeing the patient in an official capacity, thus establishing that the healthcare provider has a duty of care to the patient.
- The healthcare provider did not provide the established standard of care. If a healthcare provider does not follow the standard of care that a reasonable healthcare provider with similar training and experience would provide under similar circumstances, the provider may have committed malpractice.
- The patient suffered an injury as a direct result of the actions or inaction of the healthcare provider. This injury would not have occurred if malpractice had not taken place.
- The patient suffered from serious damage as a result of the injury. Damages may include the economic, physical, and emotional consequences of the injury.
Who Can Commit Medical Malpractice?
Any healthcare provider who is caring for a patient in an official capacity can commit malpractice. Some examples of the categories of individuals who can commit malpractice are listed below:
- Physician’s assistants
- Physical therapists
Types of Medical Malpractice
There are endless numbers of possibilities when it comes to medical malpractice. One of the most common types of malpractice involves a misdiagnosis or a missed diagnosis. These types of errors can lead to a devastating series of unnecessary, harmful treatments or missing the opportunity to successfully treat a patient.
Doctors are not infallible, no diagnostic test is perfect, and some conditions can be extremely difficult to diagnose accurately. In order for a diagnostic error to count as malpractice, it has to be a mistake that would not be made by a reasonable doctor with the same training and experience as the doctor who made the error.
Diagnostic malpractice errors can include:
- Failing to order the standard diagnostic tests based on the patient’s symptoms and history
- Misinterpreting the results of the diagnostic tests
- Negligently ignoring the results of the diagnostic tests
Take breast cancer as an example. A woman gets a routine mammogram. A doctor can then commit medical malpractice by observing an abnormality on the mammogram and then negligently not ordering standard follow-up testing such as an ultrasound, a follow-up mammogram, or a biopsy.
The woman returns for her routine mammogram two years later. Now, what was a tiny, localized cancer easily treated with a lumpectomy two years prior is something else entirely. It has turned into a large, life-threatening metastatic tumor requiring a full mastectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy. The same failure to diagnose could happen if the doctor somehow overlooked an obvious abnormality on the mammogram.
Alternatively, a doctor could misinterpret the results of diagnostic testing and diagnose someone who doesn’t have cancer with cancer. Such a patient could undergo a lot of harmful and expensive treatments before the mistake is discovered.
Medical malpractice claims related to pregnancies and births are quite common. Prospective parents fully expect the pregnancy to proceed smoothly and end with a healthy mother and a healthy child. Of course, some pregnancies are risky and serious complications like pre-eclampsia are unfortunately not all that uncommon.
However, quite a few infants are permanently injured during the birth process. Some women are badly injured or even killed during pregnancy and birth by negligence and medical errors.
Errors and negligence that can occur during pregnancy and birth include:
- A healthcare provider failing to observe obvious signs of something going wrong, like a 27-week pregnant woman reporting the sudden onset of severe headaches or abdominal pain.
- Failing to adequately monitor the infant and mother throughout the birth, leading to injury due to not being able to intervene swiftly enough.
- Using the wrong birthing tools or using birthing tools incorrectly, leading to an injury.
- Not switching from a planned vaginal delivery to a C-section during circumstances in which the standard of care dictates performing an emergency C-section.
- Failing to adequately monitor the new mother after the birth – the healthcare provider will not be able to intervene swiftly enough if signs of injury or trauma surface.
Medication errors can be made by numerous different types of healthcare workers, and medication errors can lead to severe organ damage or even death. Some examples of medication errors include:
- The doctor prescribing the wrong medication or the wrong dose.
- The doctor and pharmacist failing to notice the co-administration of two or more medications that would be expected to interact badly.
- The pharmacist dispensing the wrong medication or at the wrong dose.
- A nurse administering a medication to the wrong patient or negligently failing to administer a prescribed and dispensed medication.
- A nurse administering medication in the wrong way, such as by IV infusion instead of by intramuscular (IM) injection.
Although surgical malpractice is not as common as some of the other types described above when it does occur, it can be especially devastating to patients and their families. Some types of surgical malpractice errors that have been noted to occur include:
- Recommending and performing unnecessary surgery, a surgery that is not the standard of care, and that would not be suggested by a reasonable surgeon in that circumstance.
- Performing the wrong type of surgery.
- Performing surgery on the wrong body part or on the wrong patient.
- Mishandling a standard, routine surgery that any well-trained surgeon could perform correctly.
- Leaving an item such as a sponge or scalpel inside the patient.
- Cutting a nerve, muscle, tendon, or ligament.
Some surgical malpractice claims are related to the anesthesiologist administering the wrong type of anesthesia or failing to properly monitor the patient during the procedure.
Compensation from a Medical Malpractice Claim
Compensation awards for medical malpractice claims can be significant because of the devastating consequences for the patient involved and the patient’s family.
Compensation awards may include compensation for:
- Medical bills incurred during treatment for the injuries the patient suffered as a consequence of the malpractice. This may include the bills incurred during the treatment process in which the malpractice occurred, such as paying for unnecessary treatments triggered by a misdiagnosis.
- Loss of wages during the recovery process.
- Loss of future wages if the injury causes permanent disability.
- Loss of future financial support if the malpractice resulted in the death of an adult with dependents.
- Medical and care bills incurred during lifelong treatment of the patient if the injury causes permanent disability.
- Costs of a funeral and burial if the malpractice resulted in a death.
- Pain and suffering.
- Reduced quality of life.
The money is usually obtained from an insurance company. Most healthcare workers and hospitals carry medical malpractice insurance to protect them financially in the event of a malpractice claim.
Our Huntsville Medical Malpractice Lawyers Want to Help You
A medical malpractice claim is not something you should pursue on your own. To establish that malpractice has occurred, your attorney will need to obtain specific evidence about the treatment you received, including medical records, evidence of injuries, and the impact the harm you suffered had and will have on your life.
In addition, your attorney will need to hire medical experts who can testify that the care provided did not meet the standard of care for the circumstances. The at-fault party’s insurance company may try to limit the amount it has to pay out, so it will be vital to hire an attorney with specific experience handling medical malpractice cases.
If you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice, contact us today at our Huntsville office for a free consultation about your case with an experienced member of our team right away.