There could be one, two, or several people who share fault for a medical malpractice injury. Unfortunately, these incidents are rarely caused by a single person, and one injury can uncover multiple failures in a healthcare system.
Potential Defendants in a Medical Negligence Case
The parties you will sue for damages (called defendants) will depend on the specifics of your case. It will take a thorough investigation of your medical records, procedure, past treatment, and the provider's previous behavior to determine whose actions are to blame for the harm done to you.
Any number of people or entities may share fault for your injury, including:
- Doctors and surgeons. Doctors have a lot of responsibility when it comes to patient treatment, including accurately diagnosing a problem, listening to patient concerns, and ordering the right course of treatment. An injury from a surgical procedure (such as intubation mistakes or internal bleeding) could cause severe complications or the need for revision surgery.
- Nurses. Nurses are often overtired and understaffed, leading to charting errors, mistaking one patient for another, transposing numbers or making "sound-alike" errors, or failing to notice new orders from doctors.
- Anesthesiologists. The amount of anesthesia needed to perform a procedure varies greatly from patient to patient. If an anesthesiologist miscalculates or fails to administer the right amount of anesthetic, a patient could wake up in the middle of surgery or slip into a coma. Devastating consequences can result from epidural catheters being inserted in the wrong place.
- Radiologists. Misreading an x-ray or scan can start a patient down the wrong treatment path or deprive a patient of treatment they sorely need.
- Pharmacists. Errors in mixing or dispensing medications are some of the most common types of medical malpractice and place patients at risk of a potentially fatal overdose.
- Hospitals and clinics. Medical facilities may be held liable for errors their employees make, especially if the provider had a history of making mistakes. They can also be liable for the conditions of the medical facility, such as unsanitary equipment causing infection or failing to hire enough staff to provide adequate patient care.
- Pediatricians. Doctors who attend to children must be vigilant when prescribing or recommending drugs, performing procedures, and administering anesthesia.
- Prenatal care providers. Hospitals and staff could be liable for failing to notice fetal distress, misdiagnosing pregnancy complications, or long-term effects of delivery injuries.
How the Law Determines Fault for Medical Malpractice
Like all injury cases, there are specific legal elements involved in proving medical malpractice claims. If your injury doesn't meet these requirements, a court of law may refuse to hear your case. You will need to prove that:
- A duty of care existed. The doctor-patient relationship creates a duty for the medical professional to provide a certain level of care. However, the law accepts that physicians aren't perfect, and they are not expected to guarantee results. They are only liable for negligence if their behavior falls below the standard of care that would be given by other physicians in a similar situation.
- The duty of care was breached. There must be evidence that the negligent party failed to meet the level of care expected of other doctors. Common factors that could constitute a breach include failing to obtain informed consent before performing a procedure, operating under medical bias without further testing, failing to listen to or address a patient's symptoms, treating a patient differently because of preconceived notions or prejudice, and operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- The negligent act caused your injuries. Even if another party was clearly negligent, that negligence must still be the cause of injury. Expert testimony is required to prove the link between a doctor's actions and your suffering. Just because a doctor made a mistake does not necessarily mean they can be legally responsible for your injury.
- Your injuries caused a financial loss. You cannot sue for damages unless you were physically and financially injured by medical negligence. For instance, if you received a single dose of the wrong medication that didn't cause ill effects and is unlikely to cause future harm, you probably won't be owed compensation.
Contact Me to Learn More About Your Claim
There are strict time limits for filing medical malpractice cases in Washington DC, Virginia, and Maryland, so you and I should meet as soon as possible if you suspect that your injuries were caused by a medical mistake.
If you or someone you love has been hurt by medical negligence, Kitchel Law, PLLC can help get you what you need to put the incident behind you. Call 202-949-7109 today or fill out my short contact form to get the help you need.