When a doctor or other health care professional enters into a relationship with a patient, they are expected to adhere to a standard known as “duty of care” throughout the entirety of this relationship. Developed by the medical community, the duty of care encompasses specific guidelines and ethical codes meant to provide “reasonably skillful and careful” care to encourage the best possible outcome in diagnosis and treatment. When a doctor breaches the duty of care and this breach directly resulted in injury, illness, or death of a patient, they can be held liable for medical malpractice.
If you are planning to file a claim for medical malpractice, the most important step you can take is to retain the services of an experienced San Diego HMO Malpractice Attorney. At Sigelman & Associates, our team of expert malpractice lawyers has the medical knowledge to prepare a comprehensive case and the legal expertise to provide you with the best possible representation. By hiring Sigelman & Associates, you benefit from the decades of experience our attorneys hold assisting San Diego clients in pursuing justice and fair compensation in their medical malpractice claims.
What Type of Case Is Medical Malpractice?
Insurance companies initially try to handle malpractice claims by negotiating with the patient’s attorney on an appropriate settlement. The severity of the suspected malpractice informs the type of case this will form. When medical malpractice cases cannot be negotiated out of court, they are handled by civil court, meaning they are considered civil cases. Civil cases are initiated by individual patients, estates, and medical malpractice attorneys against the medical professional or health care provider who has been recognized as responsible for the victim’s illness or injury.
In extreme circumstances, usually involving a patient’s death, a doctor can be considered criminally negligent. In this situation, the medical malpractice case can become a criminal case. Criminal negligence comprises exceptionally negligent, reckless, or incompetent actions that intentionally injure or attempt to injure a patient. A few examples of such could be ignoring vital information that would endanger a patient’s life, attempting to perform duties while intoxicated or otherwise incapable of maintaining the expected duty of care, or engaging in illegal activities during their shift. Criminal cases are initiated by government prosecutors. These prosecutors litigate on behalf of both the victim and the state to prove a crime was committed.
The primary goal in a civil case is to pursue compensation for the victim to cover losses, expenses, or suffering that occurs as a result of this malpractice, such as physical discomfort, mental anguish, medical bills, and loss of current income or future earning capacity. In a civil case, the emphasis is on seeking restitution for the plaintiff, not on punishing the defendant. In criminal cases, the goal is to convict the defendant and determine appropriate punishment, such as incarceration.
How Long Does a Malpractice Lawsuit Take?
If you are planning to file a medical malpractice claim, you likely wonder how long it will take to settle this type of case. Several organizations have conducted studies to determine an expected timeframe for a medical malpractice claim and determined different results. However, a study from the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the average length of time between sustaining an injury or illness due to negligence, recklessness, or incompetence and resolving a medical malpractice case is approximately five years.
While this average is a useful benchmark, it is extremely challenging to accurately estimate how long such a case will take to settle. Negotiations between the medical malpractice attorney and the doctor’s insurance company can occur at any point during the process. These conversations often occur several times throughout the progression of the case. As a claim becomes more complex, it will take longer to resolve.
Some factors that complicate medical malpractice claims and lengthen the process include:
- The presence of complicated or unusual medical or legal issues.
- A substantial number of witnesses tasked with reporting their observations and/or testifying to the court.
- The involvement of multiple health care providers, any of which can be considered liable for the claimed medical negligence.
In addition to specific medical professionals, it is also possible to hold an HMO responsible for medical malpractice. When a patient chooses an HMO, or health maintenance organization, as their health insurance provider, their coverage is limited to a specific network of health care providers contracted with the HMO. Because an HMO stipulates that only a primary care physician is able to diagnose medical conditions and offer recommendations for a specialist, the HMO can be considered liable for malpractice. This could happen if the primary care physician fails to direct the patient to an appropriate specialist or does not possess the knowledge, skill, or resources to properly diagnose or treat the patient, resulting in injury or illness. In these cases, you can file a claim for compensation, but this process is incredibly difficult and requires legal assistance from a qualified San Diego HMO malpractice attorney.
How Hard Is It to Win a Malpractice Lawsuit?
Medical malpractice cases are complex, lengthy, expensive, and challenging to resolve. To provide proper support for a medical malpractice claim, you must successfully prove the following:
- There is an existing relationship between the patient and the medical professional in which the patient hires the doctor for health care and the doctor agrees to provide it.
- The medical professional or health care facility breached the expected “duty of care” standard in the medical community via negligence, recklessness, or incompetence. This includes failure to diagnose a patient adequately and within a reasonable amount of time, providing inappropriate treatment, incorrectly managing the correct treatment, and failure to notify patients of all known risks associated with a particular procedure or treatment.
- Direct harm to the patient resulted from this negligence, recklessness, or incompetence.
- Because of this harm, the patient experienced specific losses, expenses, and suffering.
The only way to guarantee a favorable result in such a case is by hiring the services of an expert malpractice attorney with the ability to skillfully organize the case from the very beginning under the assumption that it could result in a trial. This includes a commitment to providing the best legal representation, a willingness to pursue the claim to trial, and the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to win if the case does end up going to trial.
An experienced medical malpractice attorney provides expert guidance during each step of the claim process, including:
- Reviewing important medical issues and other details of the case
- Inspecting and interpreting relevant medical records concerning the claim
- Establishing expert witnesses that can provide the best testimony based on their specific medical specialties and securing their services
- Providing an aggressive counter to the often-dishonest interpretations provided by the defendant or the expert witnesses employed by the defendant’s insurance company
- Explaining the case in clear, accessible terms to the trial jury so they can understand and most effectively settle the case
What Happens to Doctors Guilty of Malpractice?
Even in the case of severe or life-threatening harm, patients may be disinclined to seek legal action when experiencing the effects of suspected medical malpractice. This reluctance can be the result of the implicit trust we have been accustomed to place in our health care providers and hesitation to blame them for mistakes, as well as fear of permanently impacting the employment or reputation of the doctor in question. Despite this natural resistance, it is essential to keep in mind that doctors hold medical malpractice insurance coverage for these precise circumstances. Almost every doctor will be named in such a claim at some time during their career.
One of the most commonly feared effects of filing a medical malpractice suit is the possibility of the doctor having their medical license revoked. In reality, this extreme consequence is incredibly rare. Most doctors continue to practice throughout the handling of the claim and after it is resolved, even if your San Diego HMO malpractice attorney proves that they are responsible for causing harm to their patients. Your doctor’s insurance company is ordered to provide appropriate compensation.
Although it is uncommon, it is possible in rare circumstances for a doctor’s medical license to be revoked. In order to do so, your lawyer must prove that their behavior constitutes negligence, recklessness, or incompetence grievous that it cannot be handled through the standard process of determining negligence allegations. Additionally, a doctor that deliberately caused harm or attempted to cause harm can be deemed a threat to the overall community and be prevented from causing future harm by revoking their license.
Set Your Claim Up for Success with Sigelman & Associates
To ensure the best outcome in your medical malpractice case, you must immediately hire the services of an experienced San Diego HMO malpractice attorney. The expert team of top-quality malpractice lawyers at Sigelman & Associates has the medical knowledge and legal expertise to properly prepare your case, navigate challenges from the defendant’s insurance company, negotiate a reasonable settlement, and take the case to trial if necessary. Call (866) 249-8176 or send an email to [email protected] to learn how we can help you achieve justice and fair compensation.