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What You Should (and Should Not) Do If You Suspect Medical Malpractice
Unless and until you or a loved one has been harmed by medical malpractice, you probably have not given much thought to this subject. No one seeking healthcare expects to be the next victim of medical malpractice. We want to believe that those in whom we’ve entrusted our healthcare will do as they are supposed to do and follow accepted patient safety rules and standards that have been established for rendering medical and nursing care.
Many diligent, caring individuals work in the healthcare industry. At the same time, however, in too many instances patient safety rules and standards are overlooked or ignored, causing patient injury and even death. Consider that the U.S. Institute of Medicine estimated that 98,000 people die from medical malpractice in the U.S. each year. That is nearly the equivalent of a jet airliner crashing with no survivors – EACH AND EVERY DAY in the United States. More recent research has in fact shown the number of deaths may actually be nearly twice that figure. Preventable medical errors would rank as the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. — ahead of stroke, Alzheimer’s and diabetes — if the Center for Disease Control were to include preventable medical errors in their listed causes of death. And keep in mind, these figures do not include acts of medical malpractice that result in injury to the patient, without death.
In order to ensure that your rights are preserved, one who suspects that they or a loved one may have been harmed by medical malpractice should do the following:
1. Do NOT simply assume that medical malpractice did not occur.
For a variety of reasons, many people who have concerns about the care they received, simply go on to assume that there was probably no malpractice involved. One reason for this phenomenon is that people want to believe that the healthcare provider they chose was not negligent. In other cases, the patient may have been told something by the health care provider at issue that may discourage them from concluding there was malpractice involved. A patient may have been told, for example, that: “sometimes these things happen,” that the complication is “just a risk of the procedure”, or that they should “give it some time and the problem will resolve”, etc. Regardless of the reason, one should never just assume that there was no medical malpractice involved if they have a concern about the care they received or the outcome from which they are left suffering.
2. Do NOT communicate with the administrator or risk management personnel for the healthcare provider at issue without first consulting an attorney.
While it may seem proper to raise your concerns with the healthcare provider’s administrator or risk management personnel, doing so could undermine your case. Upon learning of your concerns, the risk managers and/or administrators may attempt to interview you, take your recorded statement, or otherwise document your concerns. These individuals are not there to represent your best interests, and in fact their role is to protect the health care provider. These statements may be used against you later. Unless you have an attorney present to ensure that the process utilized for recording your concerns is appropriate, accurate and fair, you can harm your ability to prosecute the case later on. Therefore, it is wise to consult an attorney before speaking with any administrator or risk manager about your concerns. If you have already raised your concerns with an administrator or risk manager prior to consulting an attorney, make sure you tell the attorney about these communications so that they can seek copies of any statements or documents related to those communications.
3. Do NOT delay in seeking a legal consultation.
Victims of medical malpractice have a limited period of time to file a claim. If the claim is not filed within this period of time (called a “statute of limitations”), then the claim is forever barred and there will be no remedy or recourse — regardless of how egregious the medical malpractice may have been. Determining the applicable deadline can be very complex, but it is important to note that the clock may begin ticking even before the true extent of the harm is known, or in some instances before the harm has even occurred entirely. In some states, including Indiana, the clock begins ticking at the time the healthcare provider committed the negligent act — not when the patient first learns he or she has been harmed. The same is true for a case of medical malpractice that causes death: the clock begins ticking at the time of the act of malpractice — not when the patient dies from the negligence. These statutes of limitations were created for the benefit of health care providers, and unfortunately the effect is that they can preclude innocent, deserving victims from obtaining accountability if they do not act quickly enough.
4. Do consult an attorney that concentrates on medical negligence claims.
For the same reason that one would not have a primary care physician perform their open heart surgery, one should not presume that just any attorney (even one who advertises that they handle “personal injury” or “wrongful death” claims) is the best attorney to investigate and prosecute their medical malpractice case. While many attorneys advertise that they handle medical malpractice cases, if you look closely, you will notice that most of those firms also spend their time handling a variety of other legal matters unrelated to malpractice cases (eg., car accidents, divorces, social security, workers compensation, etc.) Medical malpractice is, however, a very specialized area of the law that involves very complex medical and legal issues. It is crucial that the medical malpractice attorney stays abreast of the very latest developments that impact this field. Therefore, you should select and consult a qualified medical malpractice law firm that concentrates its practice upon, and devotes its time and resources exclusively to, medical malpractice claims.
5. Do save any evidence relating to the care at issue and the harm that resulted.
You should keep and provide your attorney with any documentation or other evidence you have that is related to the care you received from the healthcare provider at issue, or evidence related to the harm that resulted from the care at issue. The types of documentation and evidence that may be relevant depends upon the particular circumstances. Below, are some examples of the types of documentation and evidence which should be considered:
- • appointment cards
- • healthcare provider brochures or marketing materials
- • healthcare provider contracts, authorizations, waivers, etc.
- • prescription orders
- • medical records
- • billing records
- • business cards of the health care providers
- • prescription bottles
- • photos of wounds, scars, or other areas depicting injuries
- • death certificate
- • autopsy reports
- • funeral and burial billing records
Some of these items may not apply to your circumstances. Don’t worry if you no longer have, or never received, certain items on the list. Your attorney can likely obtain these for you later if needed; however, if you have them from the outset it may help expedite the review and evaluation of your case.
6. Do write down the names of the involved health care providers and any other witnesses before you forget them.
To assist your attorney in identifying potential witnesses, you should write down the names of any persons whom you recall being involved in your care along with a note as to what their role was. Make sure to include any healthcare provider with whom you may have had significant conversations relating to the care. Also include on the list any person who may have admitted that there was a problem with the care, or who may have suggested that you contact an attorney because of what occurred. Also include the names of any other patients or family members of patients who may have been in the same room, or in the same area, who may be able to confirm the occurrence of any events or who may have witnessed any of the suffering that resulted from the act of malpractice. You should advise your attorney that you have this list of names so that he or she may follow-up as may be appropriate.
There are important steps that you can take to help determine whether you or a loved one have been harmed by medical malpractice. Rather than assuming that malpractice was not the cause of the harm, you should preserve the evidence you have and promptly consult a qualified law firm that concentrates its practice on medical negligence cases. Ideally, this should be done before you communicate your concerns to the healthcare provider’s administrator or risk manager. By taking this approach, you can help ensure that your case is properly evaluated in a timely fashion in order to pursue the accountability and compensation you deserve.
How to obtain a free case evaluation today.
If you believe you may have a potential medical malpractice claim, The Powless Law Firm, P.C. would like to help. You can request a free case consultation today by calling us at 877-769-5377 or by submitting the free case consultation request form on our contact page.
Here is important information you should know about us:
- • We concentrate upon medical malpractice and nursing home neglect claims only, and have years of experience and success in doing so.
- • We never represent the negligent hospitals, nursing homes, healthcare providers or their insurers.
- • We offer free consultations.
- • We never require any retainer fee.
- • We accept cases on a contingency basis, meaning we only get paid if we obtain a recovery for you.
- • We work with a variety of highly qualified medical experts to thoroughly evaluate and present our cases.
- • We are committed to providing the attention and resources required in these complex cases to help make a difference for those harmed by medical malpractice, and to help force changes that will help protect others.
- • We accept cases anywhere in Indiana.
Click here now to request a free consultation.
Or call us toll-free at 877-769-5377.
Click here for a free copy of our eBook: “How to Find the Right Medical Malpractice Lawyer for Your Case.”