When a doctor or medical professional neglects to adhere to the medical community’s standard for duty of care and causes a patient’s illness, injury, or death in the state of California, the affected party (or a loved one, in the case of death) can file a claim of medical malpractice. To be successful in your claim and receive proper compensation, you must provide appropriate evidence that validates this malpractice. For the best possible outcome in your claim, it is vital to seek help from an experienced San Diego medical malpractice lawyer.
By hiring the expert team at Sigelman & Associates, you can rest assured that we will work diligently to provide you with the highest quality legal representation. Our attorneys possess detailed knowledge of medical malpractice law and share a deep commitment to providing clients with the maximum amount of restitution. With a foundation of both medical and legal expertise, Sigelman & Associates boasts decades of experience helping San Diego clients just like you seek justice in handling their medical malpractice claims.
What Qualifies for a Malpractice Suit?
Numerous examples of medical malpractice exist, and every case is different, but they all include the same basic elements. What are the four elements of medical malpractice?
- The patient had an existing relationship with the doctor or medical professional.
A doctor or medical professional can only be held liable for malpractice if the patient personally hired this professional and they agreed to provide treatment. If this person is not directly responsible for the patient’s treatment when injury or illness takes place, no doctor-patient relationship is considered to exist. Because of the extensive documentation required in the medical field, gathering evidence of this relationship is typically easy and straightforward. However, in cases where a consulting doctor does not provide direct treatment, this can become more complicated.
- The medical professional or hospital breached the duty of care through negligence, recklessness, or incompetence.
Doctors and other medical professions who have entered into an existing working relationship with a patient are legally obligated to maintain a “duty of care” throughout this relationship. This means they must abide by a certain set of guidelines and ensure this code of ethics informs treatment to provide patients with “reasonably skillful and careful” care. Whether the doctor breached the duty of care is usually the essential question in a medical malpractice claim.
In order to file such a claim, you cannot simply be unsatisfied with your treatment or the subsequent results – you must prove that the doctor demonstrated negligence, recklessness, or incompetence in diagnosis or during the course of your treatment. It is essential to provide evidence that this medical professional’s actions or inactions resulted in harm that would have been prevented under the care of a different competent doctor providing treatment in similar circumstances. Most states require the patient to identify a medical expert that can evaluate the acceptance duty of care held by the medical community and explain how the doctor deviated from this standard.
- This negligence, recklessness, or incompetence directly resulted in harm to the patient.
Proving that a doctor breached the duty of care does not provide grounds for a medical malpractice claim unless the patient suffers illness, injury, or death. As part of the malpractice claim, the patient must provide evidence that the doctor’s negligence or incompetence “more likely than not” caused the harm. This requires a medical expert to give testimony supporting the claim that the harm was the direct result of the doctor’s negligence or incompetence.
Some malpractice claims are filed by patients who were already ill or injured before commencing treatment with the defendant. This makes it difficult to determine that the doctor, whether due to negligence or not, directly caused the harm suffered by the patient. For example, suppose a patient dies after receiving treatment for cancer, and the doctor did demonstrate negligence. In that case, it can be challenging to prove that this death resulted from the negligence rather than the cancer’s effects.
- The patient experienced losses, expenses, and/or suffering due to this harm.
Even when evidence is offered that shows the doctor breached the duty of care and that the patient suffered harm, it must be proven that this harm led to specific losses and expenses. The last element required for a medical malpractice claim is for the San Diego medical malpractice lawyer to explain the harm suffered by the patient, beginning with the specific injury and extending to other types of damage. In a medical malpractice claim, patients can seek restitution for the following types of harm: physical pain, mental distress, medical bills for continuing treatment, reduced quality of life, loss of current employment, and loss of future earning potential.
How Do You Know If You Have a Medical Malpractice Suit?
Medical malpractice occurs in a wide variety of ways throughout the full spectrum of healthcare facilities. To support a claim of medical malpractice in California, you are required to fulfill a certain number of requirements to prove that, due to the action or inaction of your doctor, you were provided with substandard medical care that comprises a breach of the duty of care. Standard care can be understood as the appropriate type and level of care that would be expected from a competent health professional with similar education and skill practicing in that particular area.
What qualifies for a malpractice suit? The majority of medical malpractice claims can be considered as belonging to one of the following categories:
- Failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, or delay of a diagnosis – If a different, fully competent doctor would have properly identified the patient’s illness or injury or offered a different diagnosis, that subsequently would have resulted in a better outcome than what was actually achieved, this can constitute reasonable grounds for a medical malpractice claim.
- Improper treatment – If a doctor provides care for the patient in a manner that would not be provided by a competent doctor, or if a doctor chooses the proper treatment but incorrectly administers it, this can be considered medical malpractice.
- Failure to seek informed consent – In addition to duty of care, doctors and other medical professions are also held to the standard of providing duty of informed consent, meaning-making patients aware of any known risks associated with a procedure or treatment. If a properly informed patient would have chosen to refuse this procedure or treatment, and the patient experienced the kind of illness or injury that they should have been warned about, this may designate medical malpractice.
What Are the Chances of Winning a Malpractice Lawsuit?
Most medical malpractice cases are settled out of court but not always. If your San Diego medical malpractice lawyer has attempted to negotiate with the defendant’s insurance company and these negotiations fail, call our firm. The claim will proceed to trial in civil court. In the medical journal titled Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research, researchers combined data from two decades of medical malpractice claim outcomes to evaluate the chances of winning a malpractice claim. Their findings indicate that the vast majority of these claims are won by the doctor/defendant, not the patient/plaintiff, even when negligence may be proven.
Of all the cases won by the defendants, 80% to 90% feature weak evidence of negligence, 50% feature strong evidence, and 70% are considered borderline. Of all the cases won by the plaintiffs, 5% received compensation for errors in diagnosis or treatment, 13% received compensation for errors in surgery or other medical procedures, and 27% received compensation for errors related to medication. This analysis clearly demonstrates how strong the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff and how crucial proper legal representation is for proving medical malpractice and achieving the desired outcome of a claim.
What Happens to Doctors Guilty of Malpractice?
Even when faced with severe damages, patients can be reluctant to pursue legal action in the event of suspected medical malpractice. This can be due to implicit trust in health care professionals and an unwillingness to accept their potential for harmful mistakes, or due to fear of consequences affecting the career and reputation of the doctor. However, it is important to remember that doctors carry medical malpractice insurance for this exact reason. Nearly every doctor will face this type of claim at some point. Filing a claim of medical malpractice does not mean the doctor will be stripped of their medical license. Usually, they continue practicing during the process of the claim and after it is settled, even if they are proven to be at fault for causing harm and forced to provide compensation.
While it is unusual, revoking a medical license can occur in rare circumstances. A doctor’s license can be revoked if their behavior demonstrates negligence, recklessness, or incompetence so severe that it forms a more serious concern than regular allegations of negligence. If the doctor purposely injured or attempted to injure a patient, they can be considered a threat to the community and experience license revocation.
Seek Expert Legal Representation Today
If you or a loved one experienced illness, injury, or death as the result of suspected medical malpractice, contact Sigelman & Associates immediately. These cases are complex, time-consuming, expensive, and require careful, skillful litigation. Our experienced team of San Diego medical malpractice lawyers work closely with you throughout every step of the claim process to bring you the justice and compensation you deserve. To learn how we can help you, call today at (866) 249-8176 or contact us via email at [email protected].