Medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Medical Association. This ranks deaths from medical malpractice just behind heart disease and cancer. More than $3 billion was spent in medical malpractice payouts in 2012, so it’s important to learn what steps to take if you suspect malpractice in Washington, D.C.
Define medical malpractice
When a health-care provider deviates from the recognized standard of care in treating a patient, he or she may face a medical malpractice lawsuit. The recognized standard of care is measured as what a reasonably prudent medical provider would or would not have done if faced with similar conditions. A medical malpractice attorney can define the standard of care in a particular medical setting by obtaining testimony of other medical professionals within the field.
Assess malpractice claim
To succeed in a malpractice claim, the injured patient must prove that the medical provider’s negligence caused the injury or damages. However, it’s important for patients to remember that having a bad experience with medical treatment does not necessarily mean there was medical negligence. Sometimes, one health-care provider will inform the patient that he or she received negligent medical care during prior treatment. Other times, a doctor will admit to the patient that he or she has made a mistake. Insurance companies prefer to settle with the injured patient as soon as possible, so a quick apology allows settlement before the full extent of injuries are known. For this reason, it’s advisable for an injured patient to consult with a medical malpractice attorney early in the case to assess the likelihood of success.
Know the statute of limitations
Statutes of limitations are deadlines by which an injured patient must file a medical malpractice claim. These time limits vary by state, so it’s a good idea to speak with a local malpractice attorney. Additionally, an attorney can thoroughly review the case details by securing pertinent medical records and interviewing family members. With this information, the malpractice attorney can help the injured patient understand whether his or her case is actionable.