Medical malpractice claims continue to be a leading cause of death and civil litigation in the United States. Medicine is an inherently uncertain field, and honest mistakes can and do happen when symptoms suggest one diagnosis but are actually indicative of another. There is a big difference, however, between an honest mistake and medical malpractice.
The legal definition of medical malpractice is a medical professional’s failure to exercise reasonable care in the treatment of a patient. This is a broad term that can apply in many different situations, from delayed diagnosis to surgical errors or even gross negligence that results in a patient’s death.
Understanding the FTCA
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the United States upholds the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) when it comes to allegations of medical malpractice against HRSA-controlled medical centers, such as VA hospitals and other federal treatment centers. The FTCA essentially provides liability protection for such facilities from medical malpractice claims with the federal government as the insurance carrier.
The FTCA can make it very difficult for a patient injured by medical malpractice to recover compensation for their losses. When a treatment center qualifies for HRSA deeming, all the employees of that facility are immune to medical malpractice lawsuits. If a patient alleges medical malpractice against an employee of the facility, they must sue the United States government instead. The federal government will assume responsibility for any damages related to the claimed incident.
Find Reliable Legal Counsel for Your FTCA Claim
If you or a loved one suffered an injury due to medical malpractice at a federally controlled medical center, you may feel uncertain about your options for taking legal action for recovery. It’s vital to have an experienced attorney on your side if you intend to take any legal action under the FTCA. Attorney Kenneth M. Sigelman and his legal team offer clients an experienced legal resource with years of professional medical training.
As both an attorney and a fully licensed physician and surgeon, Attorney Sigelman can provide legal counsel that is second to none in medical malpractice claims, offering clients the experienced perspectives of both an attorney and a doctor at once. Our firm has handled many medical malpractice claims for clients in the San Diego area, be they military or HMO medical malpractice cases, with stellar results. We want our potential clients to know what to expect if they need to file a claim under the FTCA.
Grounds for Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
One of the most important legal concepts that will come into play for any medical malpractice lawsuit is the standard of care. The medical community establishes rules and guidelines for the treatment of known conditions, forming the standard of care for these conditions. Medical professionals are expected to adhere to the standard of care for a given condition unless unique variables prevent the standard of care from being the preferred method of treatment, such as a patient’s allergy to the typical medication for a diagnosed condition.
To file a lawsuit for medical malpractice, an injured claimant must prove that the medical professional in question violated or failed to meet the standard of care for the patient’s condition, and another similarly skilled professional in the same situation would have acted differently. The injured claimant must also prove that the medical malpractice in question caused actual harm to the patient, such as increased pain and suffering, undue financial hardship, or multiple types of damages.
Medical malpractice claims typically follow a similar framework to a personal injury claim. The plaintiff’s attorney must identify the party or parties responsible for the plaintiff’s claimed damages, provide proof of the extent of those damages, and provide supporting evidence and expert witness testimony that supports the plaintiff’s claim. This process seems straightforward enough, but the reality is that medical malpractice lawsuits are incredibly complex, and things get even more complicated when the defendant is an employee of a federally controlled medical center.
When Does the FTCA Come into Play?
The FTCA applies to medical malpractice claims alleged against direct employees of HRSA-deemed medical centers. However, not all doctors of these facilities are employees. Many of them are independent contractors. If a doctor working as an independent contractor in a federally controlled hospital injures a patient through medical malpractice, then the resulting legal issue will be a standard medical malpractice lawsuit subject to state laws for such cases.
In the event a medical professional covered by the FTCA injures a patient, then the injured party must file a Notice of Claim to the treatment center or appropriate agency before suing the federal government in court.
“Date of Discovery” in FTCA Cases
An important legal concept that often comes into play with FTCA medical malpractice claims is the date of discovery, or the date that an injured person recognized or should have reasonably recognized the harm caused by medical malpractice. Some forms of medical malpractice result in symptoms that do not immediately manifest while others are more immediately recognizable. The statute of limitations or time limit for filing a Notice of Claim is two years starting on the date of discovery of harm from medical malpractice.
What to Expect With Your FTCA Claim
In many cases, medical malpractice claims filed under the FTCA will follow the same rules and regulations for medical malpractice claims in the state in which the incident took place. However, this is not a hard and fast rule due to the federal government’s sovereign immunity. Caps on different types of damages may apply to an FTCA claim as they would for a standard medical malpractice claim, but the federal government is wholly immune from liability for punitive damages even if the state in which the claim takes place allows the collection of punitive damages for medical malpractice.
Pursuing a medical malpractice claim under the FTCA requires meeting strict deadlines and providing key documentation with complete accuracy. It can be challenging to navigate such a claim without proper legal representation. If you need legal assistance with an FTCA claim for medical malpractice in the San Diego, CA area, Kenneth M. Sigelman & Associates can help. Contact our team today to schedule a free case evaluation for your medical malpractice claim and we will be happy to let you know how we can help.