What is Medical Malpractice?
Common Questions Answered by Our Atlantic City Medical Malpractice Attorney
Before beginning their practice, doctors, nurses, and health care professionals must take an oath to ethically and diligently care for all patients who may come under their watch. When they neglect this duty, serious personal injuries can occur due to acts of medical malpractice. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety found that more than 400,000 people die every year in the U.S. due to preventable, in-hospital medical errors. This means that medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the country.
After a medical injury, most people have questions about what went wrong and what they can do next. Doctors rarely explain medical mistakes, so victims may not even be aware that they have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Below, a medical malpractice attorney from Targan Pender & Strickland, P.C. answers common questions about medical negligence cases.
Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Malpractice Law in New Jersey
- What is Medical Malpractice?
- What are common examples of medical malpractice?
- How do I know if I have grounds for a medical malpractice suit?
- What is a ‘prescription error’?
- What are “Never Events” in Healthcare?
- How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
- What Kind of Medical Malpractice Compensation Could I Recover?
- Do Most Medical Malpractice Cases Go to Trial?
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is also known as medical negligence. All doctors, nurses, physicians and healthcare workers are held to a certain standard of care that must be given to all patients. This standard of care, or minimum standard, is determined by what other medical professionals with similar expertise and qualifications would do in similar circumstances. If the care provided by a medical professional fails to meet this standard, and damages result from their actions or inactions, then there may be a viable medical negligence claim.
What are common examples of medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice may result from:
- Failure to diagnose a disease. Even if a correct diagnosis is made later, the disease or condition may progress. This could require additional procedures or even allow a condition, such as cancer, to worsen beyond hope of cure.
- Misdiagnosis of a disease or condition. If a doctor diagnoses a patient incorrectly, then he or she may receive unnecessary or potentially harmful treatment. Additionally, the patient’s true condition will likely go untreated.
- Surgical or anesthesia-related mistakes during an operation.
- Failure to gain the informed consent of the patient for an operation or surgical procedure. This includes failure to inform a patient about the possible risks of a treatment or operation.
- Failure to properly treat a disease, even if the correct diagnosis has been made.
- Misuse of prescription drugs. In these cases, a doctor may order or administer incorrect medication, causing poisoning or other personal injuries.
If you believe your doctor or any medical profession made one of these mistakes, then consult with an Atlantic City medical malpractice attorney who can assess your situation and advise you of your legal options.
How do I know if I have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit?
To establish medical negligence in a lawsuit, you and your attorney must prove:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed between you and the medical professional. This is often straightforward and easily proven by medical bills and records. However, if the physician who committed the error was a consultant, your case may be more difficult.
- The health care professional’s treatment deviated from the accepted standard of care. Your medical malpractice attorney will hire experts to establish what a care your physician should have provided.
- The medical professional’s deviation from the standard of care was a direct cause of your injury.
- You sustained actual injuries as a result of the doctor’s medical negligence. In some cases, even though a physician may make a mistake, the patient is not significantly harmed, if at all. In these cases, although the doctor may have been negligent, you likely cannot recover compensation in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
What is a “prescription error”?
Prescription error is a form of medical malpractice in which there is an mistake or miscalculation by a health care professional or pharmacist regarding medication. Common examples of prescription errors that may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit include:
- Administration of the wrong drug. A doctor may prescribe the wrong drug to treat an injury or condition. Alternatively, a nurse, pharmacist or other healthcare worker may inadvertently administer a different drug than the one prescribed, possibly due to distraction or other negligence. In some cases, negligent or overworked healthcare professionals may mix up the medications of two or more patients, causing multiple personal injuries.
- Incorrect dosage. Even if the doctor prescribes an effective drug, he or she must order the correct dosage. Additionally, nurses and pharmacists must prepare the dose correctly to prevent an inadvertent overdose or underdose.
Dangerous prescription interactions. Doctors and other healthcare providers must take care to investigate a patient’s allergies and other regular prescriptions. If they fail to do so, then a new prescription may react poorly with your current medication or cause a dangerous allergic reaction.
What are “Never Events” in Healthcare? Common Never Events in Hospitals
“Never events” are mistakes and acts of medical negligence that should never occur in a healthcare facility like a hospital or nursing home. They include bed sores, medication errors, death or disability due to a fall, surgery performed on the wrong body part or patient and the wrongful death of an otherwise healthy patient. These never events are often a strong indication of negligence, and therefore are usually grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
If you suspect that you have suffered an injury due to the negligence of a doctor, nurse or physician, then you should immediately contact an experienced Atlantic City medical malpractice attorney. While New Jersey law allows for a claim to be made up to two years after the act of medical malpractice, you endanger your ability to gain fair compensation the longer you wait. Our qualified lawyer can help you assess the situation and explore your legal rights along with your best options to recover malpractice damages.
What Kind of Medical Malpractice Compensation Can I Recover?
There are different kinds of damages you could pursue from a healthcare provider, depending on the severity and extent of your injuries. They include:
- Compensatory damages that help pay for the actual costs of treating your personal injuries from medical malpractice. These often include compensation for your lost wages, medical bills, treatments, additional surgeries and other economic damages.
- Non-economic damages to help ease the pain and suffering you have experienced.
- Punitive damages, which are meant to punish the wrongdoer.
In New Jersey, punitive damages in many cases, including medical malpractice, are limited to $350,000, or five times the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is greater. There is no limit on other kinds of damages.
If medical malpractice results in a wrongful death, then spouses, children and some close relatives of victims may recover compensation through a lawsuit. These family members can claim damages for medical bills, funeral expenses, loss of consortium and their loved one’s economic contribution.
Do Most Medical Malpractice Cases Go to Trial?
A medical malpractice lawsuit can often be settled out of court without needing a trial. However, if your case does end up going to court, your Atlantic City medical malpractice attorney will help you prepare for the case and will work diligently to show the jury the full extent of your pain and suffering.
More Questions? Contact an Atlantic City Medical Malpractice Attorney Today
The experienced attorneys at our New Jersey law firm can help you understand your legal rights and options according to medical malpractice laws. We can investigate your case, and, if necessary, start helping you to prepare your fight for rightful compensation. If we agree to take your case, then we will cover all up-front costs associated with investigating, filing and representing your case. The fees will later be subtracted from the successful verdict or settlement. If we do not successfully recover compensation for you, then you do not have to pay back any of these expenses.
Our offices are in Atlantic City as well as Cape May, and we are proud to represent clients from the surrounding areas, including Ocean City, Dennisville and other locations in and around Middle or Lower Township. If you or a loved one has suffered due to a hospital’s or physician’s mistake, then contact our firm today for a free consultation.