Medical malpractice cases range from innocent mistakes to deliberate shortcuts that put someone’s life in danger. Actually, medical mistakes are thought to be the third most common cause of death in the United States.
We don’t know the true number, but it is estimated to be between 250,000 and 450,000 killed by avoidable infections, missed cancers and medication overdoses. This doesn’t take various injuries and untold millions suffering into account. And it happened because someone taking care of you was negligent in some way. Here are a few tips on how to protect yourself during medical malpractice cases.
Act As Soon As Possible
Have you heard the saying “justice delayed is justice denied?” We tend to think of this in terms of someone waiting for justice. However, delayed cases are unfair to the accused. As time passes, memories fade, records are lost and other justifications for injuries and illnesses become possible. That’s why they don’t allow medical malpractice suits after a certain number of years.
Don’t wait five years with the painful aftermath of a surgery or injury – take action.
Don’t Threaten to Talk to an Attorney
One thing you need to know in order to safely handle medical malpractice claims is to never threaten to talk to an attorney. This is true even if you are consulting with a medical malpractice attorney. Informing them that you’re taking legal action or simply threatening it to try to get a different treatment will shut down most doctors.
Seek a Second, Independent Opinion as Soon as Possible
There are horror stories where someone lived with various symptoms or ongoing pain for years. They did so because they kept seeing the same doctor who gave the same answer or variations of the same treatment plan.
The solution is to seek a second, independent opinion as soon as you think something isn’t right or simply isn’t working. Note that this means going outside of the same medical practice or hospital, since they may cover for each other or tend to default to agreeing with their colleague.
If the new healthcare provider finds evidence of negligence, don’t return to the old doctor. If the second physician confirms the initial diagnosis but recommends a different treatment plan, try the new treatment plan. It may be as simple as your prior doctor not knowing about better treatment options. This may be ignorance, not negligence.
Understand Your Options
About eighty percent of medical malpractice claims have no payment to the injured patient. Instead, these claims tend to focus on paying for the additional medical costs someone incurred due to the doctor’s mistakes. This is why patients need to document every expense and save every receipt. If you can’t prove you spent that much money on over-the-counter remedies or accrued various out-of-pocket expenses, you can’t claim it in court.
Note that pain and suffering is rarely awarded in medical malpractice cases. That is generally reserved for unnecessary deaths or severe, disabling trauma like surgeons removing the wrong limb.