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What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is the professional negligence of a doctor, nurse, hospital, or other health care provider, resulting in patient injury or death. “Negligence” can refer to any action or failure to act that falls outside of the provider’s duties of care. Malpractice can manifest in many forms. These can be physician incompetence, surgical or anesthesia error, medical mistakes, birth injury, misdiagnosis, or another medical care mistake. This would be a mistake a “reasonable and prudent” professional would not have made in similar situation.
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries caused by medical malpractice, get in touch with the Law Firm of Jordan, Herington & Rowley. Our Denver medical malpractice lawyer will help you get justice. Call for a free consultation at (303) 465-8733
How Our Denver Medical Malpractice Attorneys Can Help
- Jordan, Herington & Rowley: Our Denver medical malpractice attorneys have secured six- and seven-figure awards for our clients throughout Colorado.
- We can take your claim where it needs to go for financial recovery for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
- Our award-winning attorneys focus 100% of their attention on their clients with each and every claim. Don’t take our word for it – read our testimonials.
How To Establish a Medical Negligence Claim
Medical injuries are one of the leading causes of accidental death in the United States. It’s important to understand how to prove medical negligence. First, Medical malpractice claims hinge on the concept of medical negligence.
Medical negligence refers to a medical professional’s failure to provide an acceptable standard of care in a given situation. To note, medical malpractice claims follow similar framework to a personal injury claim with a few differences.
Proving Negligence in Medical Malpractice Claims
- The first step in proving medical negligence is proving that an official doctor-patient relationship existed between the plaintiff and the defendant. This means the healthcare provider agreed to treat the patient and the patient agreed to receive the doctor’s treatment. A person cannot sue a doctor or other medical professional for off-the-cuff remarks or advice provided in a non-professional setting. For example, if a person hears a doctor make a joke at a dinner party and assumes it is medical advice, that person cannot file a medical malpractice claim against the doctor.
- Most medical malpractice lawsuits never reach the trial phase. Plaintiffs and defendants both benefit from settling outside of court. There are also some ways potential plaintiffs can resolve the situation without a lawsuit. For example, if an error is fixable, the doctor may offer to correct the mistake. Or they may come to another compensation arrangement. However, if a medical mistake leads to serious or life-threatening complications, the victim should explore his or her legal options. Contacting the medical review board can sometimes yield positive results. This may include warnings or punishments for negligent medical professionals. Then a review board will also assess whether or not a claim has merit before it can proceed to trial.
“Standard of Care” in Medical Malpractice Claims
- The first is proving the doctor-patient relationship existed. The next step for the plaintiff is proving the doctor was negligent or failed to provide an acceptable standard of care. “Standard of care” refers to the accepted level and method of treatment for a given condition. The medical community reaches a consensus on treatments based on research and results from previous procedures. Doctors must use accepted methods for treating patients. A doctor who resorts to an unverified, experimental, or otherwise unapproved method of treatment commits malpractice if they do not have evidence to suggest the decision was sound. For example, a doctor may suggest an experimental procedure for a terminally ill patient because no other treatments exist.
- The plaintiff can prove medical negligence by providing evidence that the doctor or other medical professional did not meet an acceptable standard of care. Expert witnesses are crucial and required for medical malpractice claims. The plaintiff’s attorney will secure expert witnesses who can explain to the court and the jury how a defendant’s behavior was outside the scope of acceptable care in the given situation.
The last element of medical negligence a plaintiff will have to prove to win his or her case is “actual harm,”. This is evidence of the damage the defendant’s negligence caused. If the defendant was negligent but the plaintiff suffered no harm, there is no claim. Plaintiffs should provide evidence of any necessary corrective procedures or extended recovery time after an incident of medical negligence. Proving medical negligence is a complex process, and the right attorney can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice Cases
Medical malpractice claims arise from many possible situations. The determining factor in a medical malpractice claim is whether or not the defendant met an acceptable standard of care in a given situation. “Standard of care” refers to the medically acceptable treatments for a particular medical condition. As research progresses in medicine, the medical community reaches a consensus concerning acceptable treatments for known ailments. Doctors and other medical professionals must adhere to these standards.
A few of the most common types of medical malpractice claims include:
- Doctors use a process of elimination to determine a patient’s condition and acceptable treatments. Although some conditions share symptoms with other conditions and honest mistakes can happen. A misdiagnosis can be grounds for a medical malpractice claim if the defendant did not use an acceptable diagnostic method to treat the victim.
- Doctors must provide diagnoses in an accurate and timely manner. Medicine is inherently uncertain, and the hospital environment can be chaotic. However, doctors must use good judgment to deliver a diagnosis in a timely manner. If a doctor cannot do so, he or she should ask another doctor to assess the patient or refer the patient to a specialist. A delayed diagnosis can cause a patient’s condition to deteriorate beyond the hope of recovery in some cases.
- Surgeons must use great caution when operating on their patients. This means using sterile, functional, and medically acceptable equipment. It is also performing the correct procedures on the correct patients, and closing the surgical wound safely. If a doctor leaves a surgical instrument such as forceps or a medical sponge inside of a patient’s body the object can cause serious problems for the patient later.
Prescription medication errors
- Doctors must prescribe the correct medication for a patient’s condition. This requires taking the patient’s existing prescriptions and medical history into account. A doctor who prescribes the wrong medication without checking the patient’s documented drug allergies risks a malpractice lawsuit.
- Anesthesia is crucial for countless medical procedures and doctors and anesthesiologists must carefully monitor patients under anesthesia. The wrong dose can lead to respiratory depression, seizures, coma, or even death. Additionally, some patients have allergic reactions to certain types of anesthesia. Therefore attending medical professionals must account for these variables.
- Doctors must use approved treatment methods to address a patient’s condition. “Improper treatment” can apply to a doctor who performs an unacceptable treatment. It can also apply to a doctor who performs an acceptable treatment incompetently. Doctors must complete the required classes and training before performing any procedure. They should only administer treatment if they feel confident doing so.
Informed consent violations
- Doctors and other medical professionals have a legal and moral obligation to inform a patient of all known risks of any proposed treatment plan. Patients have the right to make informed decisions about their healthcare. If a doctor fails to warn a patient about known side effects or complications a particular treatment may cause, he or she commits malpractice. Doctors must also carefully advise their patients concerning proper medication dosages, dietary concerns, and other instructions to preserve the patient’s health when appropriate.
- “Gross negligence” applies to an error so egregious that even an individual with no medical training could have avoided it. An extreme example of this would be a doctor who misreads a patient’s x-ray and operates on the wrong body part, amputates the wrong limb, or performs a procedure on the wrong patient. Gross negligence can sometimes apply to defendants who put their patients at risk of suffering serious harm. This could be a surgeon attempting to perform a complex surgery while under the influence of alcohol. Negligent medical care could happen in the emergency room or within a regular doctor’s visit.
- Some medical malpractice claims concern the hospital or medical organization where a patient received unacceptable treatment. Some things that may lead to medical malpractice claims for hospital negligence include poor sanitation, facilities left in disrepair, poor staff training, understaffing, or insufficient supplies for treating patients.
Colorado Medical Malpractice Laws
Medical malpractice claims are typically more complex than standard personal injury claims in Colorado. Going up against a doctor or hospital comes with specific laws and requirements. These are often to protect the health care provider from too much liability. This can make it difficult for injured patients to secure fair compensation. With a great attorney by your side, you improve your chances of recovering damages and get the legal advice you need. The medical malpractice lawyers at Jordan, Herington & Rowley, who are your dedicated Denver medical malpractice attorneys can help you navigate all of the state’s medical malpractice laws, including:
- Medical malpractice statutes of limitations can be difficult to understand in Colorado. The statute is generally two years. This can begin at the date of the injury or the date of discovery of the injury. Additionally, minors may have a separate set of circumstances regarding a deadline. Some are based on age, healthcare coverage, and who pays their medical bills. Ask one of our attorneys about the deadline for your claim, as state laws can be cloudy.
- Before proceeding with a lawsuit, a plaintiff or his/her attorney must submit proof of the defendant’s negligence to the courts. An attorney must file a certificate of review within 60 days of bringing the lawsuit upon the defendant. This certificate must state that the attorney has consulted a professional on the subject. Additionally that the expert has reviewed the facts of the case, and that the expert believes that the claim has justification.
- Some states limit, or cap, the amount of damages a plaintiff can receive in certain types of claims or for certain damages. In Colorado, there is a $300,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims. Non-economic damages include physical pain, emotional suffering, disfigurement, lost enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium. There is an additional $1,000,000 cap on total damages for medical malpractice claims.
How Can Our Denver Medical Malpractice Lawyers Help You?
Don’t let the red tape involved in medical malpractice claims dissuade you from filing. Working with an attorney experienced in medical malpractice law can significantly lighten the burden of filing. Jordan, Herington & Rowley can take over the claims process from beginning to end. We can file your claim within the deadline, communicate with insurance companies, and give you your best shot at just compensation.
Our law firm will take care of the legwork on your case while you focus on healing from your malpractice-related injuries, or grieving the wrongful death of a loved one. For more information about your claim in Denver, request your free case evaluation with one of our Denver personal injury lawyers.