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Frequently Asked Questions about Medical Malpractice

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These medical malpractice FAQs, brought to you by the medical malpractice lawyers of LawMD, may help you as you consider your legal options. If you have questions related to a medical malpractice claim, contact LawMD online or by phone at (888) 695-2963. Your initial consultation is entirely free and there are never any up-front fees for those who choose LawMD.

Read Answers to Common Questions Below

  • Q: Why should I hire an attorney who is also a medical professional?


    You should hire a medical malpractice attorney who is also an experienced medical professional (like most of the attorneys at LawMD) for a number of reasons.

    Firstly, an attorney-doctor will have a better understanding of human anatomy and how injuries affect various aspect of a person’s functioning and overall life. This includes likely future effects of an injury/condition.

    Secondly, an attorney with a medical background will have firsthand knowledge of the medical field, including how medical insurance providers operate and the lengths they will often go to in order to devalue or deny claims. A skilled attorney-doctor will be able to fight back against these tactics.

    Thirdly, by working with a legal team that also comprises medical professionals, you can save yourself a considerable amount of time and money, as your legal team will not need to consult with outside medical experts or seek out expert medical witnesses for testimony.

    An attorney who is also a medical professional is uniquely equipped to handle all of the legal and medical aspects of your claim. This can prove invaluable to the overall success of your case. Learn more about the advantages of hiring an attorney who is also a doctor by visiting our Why Hire page.

  • Q: What is medical malpractice?


    Generally speaking, medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, hospital, or another health care professional or facility injures a patient by failing to treat the patient within the appropriate standard of care. Doctors are not the only health care professionals that make mistakes. You can have a medical malpractice claim if you were harmed by a nurse, physical therapist, or another health care worker. You may even have a claim if you suffered an injury due to a mistake on the part of a pharmacist or pharmacy technician.

    Medical mistakes can also happen in a variety of settings. Although most people associate medical malpractice with hospitals, these injuries occur in doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, urgent care centers, nursing homes, and retail stores that have in-store pharmacies. If a health care professional failed to provide you or a loved one with reasonable care, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.

    It’s not enough to claim you were injured by a doctor. To bring a medical malpractice claim, you must prove several things, known as the “elements” of a medical malpractice claim.

    These elements include:

    • Duty of care: First, you must establish that the doctor or hospital owed you a duty of care. You establish this by showing you had a doctor-patient relationship, or similar relationship in the case of a non-physician, with the doctor who caused your injury.
    • Breach of the duty of care: You must also show that the doctor or hospital violated the duty of care. This is typically the most difficult to prove element in a medical malpractice case. You must show that the doctor failed to provide care similar to that of other professionals in the same area of practice in the same geographic region. For example, you would not compare the level of care given by an orthopedic surgeon to that given by an obstetrician, nor would you compare the standard of care in rural Kansas to that in uptown Manhattan.
    • An injury occurred: You must have suffered an injury caused by the breach of the duty of care. If you did not suffer an injury, or your injury was not caused by your doctor’s breach of the duty of care, you don’t have a medical malpractice claim—even if you can show the doctor breached the duty of care.
    • Damages: You must be able to prove that your injury caused you to suffer damages. In many cases, damages are quite obvious. When you are in pain or you have been forced to undergo additional procedures, it’s easy to point out damages. However, other cases aren’t as obvious. Certain medical injuries take months or even years to develop. In these cases, proving damages can be a bit more complicated.

    Without all four elements, you don’t have the fundamental pieces required to bring a medical malpractice case.

    At LawMD, many of our lawyers are doctors themselves. We use our clinical training to quickly analyze cases to determine if a client’s claim meets all the elements required for a medical malpractice case. If you believe you have been the victim of medical negligence, we can help.

    If you have been injured by a doctor’s negligence, we want to hear from you. Our lawyers come from a variety of medical and legal backgrounds. We are confident we can assist you. Call (888) 695-2963 to receive your free consultation.

  • Q: What kind of mistakes result in medical malpractice?


    Many medical mistakes can result in medical malpractice. Many people associate medical errors with serious surgical mistakes, such as amputating the wrong limb or leaving an instrument inside a patient. These stories make the news because they are shocking and devastating.

    However, medical mistakes aren’t always immediately apparent, nor do they always occur in an operating room. Patients may not realize they have been injured until months or even years down the road. If you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice, don’t wait to speak to an experienced attorney. Your medical malpractice lawyer can evaluate your case to determine if you have a claim.

    Some common examples of mistakes that may constitute medical malpractice include:

    • Insufficient patient permission before operating: If you have ever had an operation or another kind of medical procedure, you probably remember signing consent forms. In many doctors’ offices, physicians also require you to sign a consent form before receiving a vaccine or even a flu shot. Informed consent means a patient has been given comprehensive information about a surgery or procedure, and that he or she understands why it’s being done and what risks it entails. Most patients are not doctors. As a result, they rely on medical professionals to give them critical information about their health. When doctors fail to counsel patients or educate them about possible side effects and risks, patients can suffer serious injuries.
    • Incorrect diagnosis: When doctors give the wrong diagnosis or fail to diagnose a disease or serious illness, patients can miss a narrow window of opportunity to treat a medical condition. Incorrect diagnosis can be especially damaging in cancer cases, as well as cases involving meningitis, diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. According to the National Academy of Medicine, postmortem exams reveal that about 10 percent of patient deaths are due to incorrect diagnoses.
    • Improperly performed operation: Few people want to go under the knife. When surgeons make mistakes, patients may be forced to undergo additional procedures to correct the damage caused by the error. Surgical mistakes can also leave a person with lifelong health problems and an enduring mistrust of the medical profession.
    • Prescribing the wrong medication or dose: Medication mistakes harm a growing number of Americans every year. The FDA says it has seen over 95,000 reports of medication mistakes since the year 2000. Medication errors can happen when a doctor fails to check for allergies and drug interactions, or when a pharmacist dispenses the wrong drug or the wrong dose.
    • Not anticipating a problem they should have foreseen: No one has a crystal ball, and doctors can’t predict the future. It is impossible to foresee every complication and adverse outcome, but patients should be able to count on doctors to be familiar with known risks. For example, certain procedures are known to have poor outcomes in patients with certain preexisting health conditions. Doctors who proceed with a procedure despite known contraindications or the availability of alternatives may be liable for causing injury or death.
    • Nursing home negligence: The decision to move an elderly parent or other loved one to a nursing home is rarely easy. Unfortunately, the number of seniors subjected to nursing home abuse and neglect has continued to climb in recent years. Abuse can take many forms, from medication errors and mental abuse to unexplained falls and the improper use of restraints.
    • Post-operative negligence: The hours, days, and weeks after a surgery are a critical time for patients. Complications can develop quickly, and many can be deadly. Doctors must monitor their patients for signs of infection, blood clots, and other indications of a problem.

    To discuss your case with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer in Washington, D.C. or the nearby areas, contact LawMD right away. Our lawyers offer free case evaluations, and an attorney-physician is available to review your case today.

  • Q: How is a medical malpractice case decided?


    The court considers what reasonable, prudent medical practitioners would have done in the same situation. If the medical practitioners did not meet that standard, they are judged as negligent.

  • Q: When should I file my medical malpractice claim?


    You should file a medical malpractice claim as soon as possible after realizing you have been injured or suffered complications due to medical negligence. Delays can cause you to lose your right to sue.

    A time limit, called the statute of limitations, is imposed on every type of claim, including personal injury, birth injury, and medical malpractice cases. You should consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney the moment you suspect negligence or malpractice on the part of a healthcare professional.

    In Washington, D.C., you must file your medical malpractice claim within three years of the date of the injury. If the injury is inflicted on a minor, as is the case with a birth injury, the three-year period begins on the minor’s 18th birthday.

    Maryland allows injury victims five years from the date of the injury or three years from the date the injury was discovered, whichever is earlier. If a minor suffers the injury, the same time limit begins once the child turns 18.

    This time runs out quickly and evidence can dry up and disappear even faster. Contact a malpractice lawyer today to get started on your case.

  • Q: How does a jury determine if a doctor’s actions were within the standards of good medical practice?


    The jury considers testimony by experts—usually other doctors—who testify whether they believe your physician’s actions followed standard medical practice or fell below the accepted standard of care.

    By hiring an attorney-doctor at our firm, you save time and money in your case, as we do not have to seek outside experts to provide this testimony. Instead, our team is uniquely qualified to give expert testimony in your case.

  • Q: I signed the consent form before my doctor performed surgery. Do I still have a case?


    In some cases, yes, you may still have a case.

    Hospitals often have patients sign approval for their doctor to perform surgery. In the form, the patient usually consents to the specific surgery and to any other procedures that might become necessary.

    Before you sign this consent form, your doctor should give you a full description of the surgery, the risks, and the ramifications of not getting the treatment. The court deems your signed consent invalid if we prove that your physician misrepresented or failed to adequately inform you of the risks and benefits before surgery.

  • Q: What are the most frequent results of substandard care in childbirth?


    The most frequent results of substandard care in childbirth include:

    Visit our Birth Injury page to learn about the most common types of medical malpractice during pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

  • Q: What should I do if I think I have a medical malpractice claim?


    Contact an experienced Washington, D.C. medical malpractice lawyer at LawMD. Tell the attorney exactly what happened to you, from the first time you visited your doctor through your last contact.

    To determine if your doctor may have committed malpractice, we ask questions such as:

    • What were the circumstances surrounding your illness or injury?
    • How did your doctor treat you?
    • What did your doctor tell you about your treatment?
    • Did you follow your doctor’s instructions?
    • What happened to you?
  • Q: My doctor made a mistake and admitted it. Do I have a malpractice case?


    Not necessarily, but it is possible you have a case. You should speak to an attorney as soon as possible.

    Our experienced Washington, D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help you to determine if your case has merit. Not all mistakes are malpractice, but if it was the result of negligence or failure to meet the expected standard of care, then damages may be recoverable for you under medical malpractice laws.

  • Q: How do I deal with a cerebral palsy case if the health care provider does not accept responsibility for a mistake that harmed my loved one?


    If a health care provider refuses to accept responsibility for your child's cerebral palsy, this does not mean your case is lost. It may still be possible to hold a negligent medical provider accountable and recover compensation.

    Even though, most of the time, cerebral palsy is the result of human error and medical malpractice, it is complicated to prove it. Additionally, hospitals tend to hire lawyers who specialize in these cases to avoid having to pay a settlement for the victim’s family.

    In order to determine if you have a valid case, you should contact a cerebral palsy lawyer that provides competent legal representation regarding cerebral palsy cases.

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