While medical miracles happen every day, so do medical mistakes. There are instances where an error is accidental or not avoidable, but the majority of errors related to medicine fall in the realm of malpractice. When negligence plays a role in someone’s injury, a Morgantown medical malpractice lawyer from DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC can help.
If you’ve been injured by a physician, you know just how overwhelming and confusing recovery can be. Not only are you potentially still dealing with the injury or condition that brought you to the doctor, but you’re now faced with a recovery you hadn’t planned for. You have the legal right to file a claim against the party you believe caused your injury in order to seek compensation for your losses. Our attorneys can guide you through the process.
Medical Malpractice: Frequently Asked Questions
Clients with potential medical malpractice claims often have similar questions at the beginning of the legal process. To prepare you for what’s to come, let’s take a look at some of the frequently asked questions we hear.
What is considered medical malpractice in West Virginia?
According to West Virginia Code §55-7B-1, citizens of the state are entitled to the best medical care providers can offer. The statute recognizes the possibility of injury or death as a result of a physician’s or hospital’s negligence. Because of that, the legal system allows victims of medical malpractice to seek compensation for their losses.
Medical malpractice occurs when a physician, medical professional, or hospital neglects to follow the standard of care and injures a patient. This can happen in the operating room, as a result of improper medication, or in the form of a misdiagnosis. There are other situations that constitute medical malpractice. Your attorney will understand the law and know whether or not your situation applies.
What is the standard of care?
In general, medical malpractice claims are based on the concept of the standard of care. In personal injury law, this concept refers to the failure to exercise the proper amount of care a reasonable person would provide. For a case involving medical negligence, the standard of care is connected to the degree of care and skill the average health care provider would treat a patient within any given specialty.
For example, if a patient goes to the emergency room with chest pains and other signs of a heart attack, but is told they have indigestion and should go home, the attending doctor failed to act within the standard of care if the patient later sustains injuries. Had they fulfilled their obligation, the patient would have been admitted and monitored for heart problems and given medications to prevent or lessen the damage of a heart attack.
What types of mistakes lead to medical malpractice?
Medical mistakes typically fall into categories like surgical errors, diagnostic errors, and medication mistakes. For example, anesthesiologists need to be aware of what they’re doing in the operating room. Too much anesthesia can result in brain damage and too little can result in significant pain. Medication errors can happen if a nurse isn’t paying attention to a person’s chart and doses them with something they’re allergic to. No matter what the mistake, common causes include miscommunication, inexperience, and failure to comply with hospital policy.
What should you do if you think you’re a victim of medical negligence?
Whether you had to leave the hospital without a diagnosis, or your surgery didn’t go as planned, if you think you’ve been the victim of a medical error, it’s imperative to seek legal guidance from an attorney as soon as possible. This is because there are time limits associated with taking legal action, which we’ll discuss in detail below. The sooner you speak with a lawyer, the faster they’ll be able to build a case on your behalf the proves you were wronged and are owed compensation.
Who can be held accountable for hospital errors?
On the individual level, any medical employee or staff member at a facility can be held accountable in the event of malpractice. While doctors are often the first people looked at when trying to determine fault, nurses, physical therapists, surgeons, anesthesiologists, pharmacists, and mental health professionals can also be held accountable if they played a role in your injuries.
On a larger scale, medical facilities like hospitals and out-patient centers can also be held accountable for mistakes. This can happen if the facility was employing people without the proper qualifications or if overarching policies contributed to the negligence that occurred.
What are the types of damages in a medical malpractice case?
The compensation an injured patient is eligible for is broken down into two categories: economic and noneconomic. Economic damages are calculable because they’re based on real amounts. They cover losses related to medical bills, lost wages, the future cost of care, and lost earning capacity. Noneconomic damages are harder to calculate because they’re based on subjective types of harm like pain and suffering and loss of consortium.
It’s important to note that there are damage caps in West Virginia for these types of cases. In most situations, there’s a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages. That cap is bumped up to $500,000 in the event the malpractice resulted in wrongful death, permanent disfigurement, or a disability that prevents a person from performing life-sustaining tasks.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim in Morgantown
Medical malpractice claims are notoriously complex. This is because of the procedures that need to be followed and the burden of proof required on behalf of the injured party. Your medical malpractice lawyer will guide you through the process and make it as painless as possible.
When proving your case, there are four main elements that must be present. First, you’ll need to prove the physician that injured you owed you a duty of care. This means establishing a doctor-patient relationship, which is often done with medical records. Then, there must have been a breach of duty. A medical expert can explain how the physician failed to provide the standard of care. After that, your attorney will need to connect your injuries to the breach. If, for example, you underwent surgery on the wrong side of the body, it will be evident that the surgeon injured you on a side of your body that didn’t require medical attention. Finally, there needs to be proof of damages like medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
After the evidence has been presented, both sides will consider their options and it’s possible you could be offered a settlement. If that’s the case, your Morgantown lawyer will make sure what you’re being offered is fair. If it’s not or if a settlement cannot be reached, you have the option to proceed with a medical malpractice lawsuit. It’s important to note, however, that there are time limits in place for filing lawsuits. In West Virginia, you have two years from the day of injury or the date you discovered the injury to file a claim. If you fail to do so, you’ll render yourself illegible for compensation.
If you do plan on filing a lawsuit, there are additional procedures you must abide by. At least 30 days prior to filing, your lawyer will send a notice of claim to the health care provider being sued. This notice must contain a state of the grounds for the lawsuit, a list of the providers receiving the notice, and a screening certificate of merit. A screening certificate of merit is a written state by a medical expert that provides their qualifications, familiarity with the standard of care, and opinion on how the defendant injured the plaintiff.
Secure Your Future with DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC
Our Morgantown medical malpractice lawyers understand how challenging it can be to recover from a medical mistake. Not only are you left to deal with the initial condition you wanted to have treated, but now you have to recover from an event that never should have happened. While filing a claim may seem like a daunting process, we’ll be with you every step of the way. Contact us today for more information.