Warning: Don’t Sue Your Doctor Without Reading This First
It’s a scary proposition: You put your faith in the hands of a physician only to be injured or harmed in the process. The fact that it happens often is not calming in any way. For instance, a reported 98,000 patients die annually as a result of medical malpractice (http://www.medmalfacts.com/facts-and-myths/). Another study shows 134,000 Medicare patients each month have an “adverse event” where they are injured in some way by doctors or medical staff (http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/11/16/us-medicare-errors). Unfortunately, if you are harmed in some way by your physician, then you have certain steps that you absolutely must take if you want to get some form of justice or compensation. Here’s an idea of what you have to do if you are injured by your physician (http://www.propublica.org/article/what-to-do-if-youve-suffered-harm).
- If you have been injured by a doctor, then the first step you MUST take is to request a copy of you medical records. This may be a little difficult, because some offices may try to stall or stonewall you. They will also charge you a copying fee for doing this, so be prepared. However, federal law states they must provide you with a copy of your records if you request it. These files may contain information about what went wrong with your treatment to cause the injury in question. That is why it is necessary to get a copy as soon as possible. (It should also be requested quickly after the incident because some records can be altered.) Simply contact the doctor’s office and ask for a copy of everything. This should include all notes from the doctor and other staff as well as lab work and medical imaging such as x-rays or CAT-Scans. If the incident occurred at a hospital, check with their medical records department for this information.
- If the medical incident that injured you occurred at a hospital, such as with a botched surgery or a post-operative infection, then you must inform the hospital as well. This will launch an internal investigation into the incident. When you contact the hospital, you should also inform them that you want to be included in the investigation. They should contact you about providing your side of the story on the record. This can also help with later litigation as the hospital may uncover evidence during this investigation.
- Unfortunately, patients can die as a result of these “adverse events.” If your loved one is one of the 98,000 patients who die annually as a result of medical malpractice, then you still have to take steps. First, you should contact the local medical examiner to set up a forensic autopsy. Sometimes, they will do this on their own as there are specific local laws that may require such an autopsy. If they do not, however, you may have to pay for the autopsy yourself with an independent pathologist. Regardless, it is a good idea to have such a procedure performed along with accompanying toxicology tests to determine the cause of death and uncover any evidence of possible wrongdoing or malpractice.
- If you or someone you love has been injured by a doctor, you should also contact an attorney. However, you must realize that they may not take your case. The standard of proof for medical malpractice is much higher than most people realize. It is not possible to file a lawsuit over just anything and expect a multi-million dollar payout. But you should talk to an experienced malpractice attorney to see what they can do with your case and also to see if they can help you with dealing with the doctors or hospitals after the incident.
- After you have done everything else, you should also meet with your doctor or the hospital officials. Even if you are not going to bring a medical malpractice case, you should try to negotiate with them one-on-one to see if they will waive some of your medical bills or compensate you in some way. You should bring an attorney with you if possible, but always remember that you should never sign any kind of legal document or waiver without an attorney looking it over first.
- Finally, you should also report the incident to a state regulatory agency for further investigation and possible punitive action. Although many of these punishments will be less than what you may want, it still creates a paper trail that can be presented as evidence in a civil case. Doctors and nurses should be reported to their regulatory boards. State health departments are in charge of hospitals and nursing homes, so they should be contacted if the incident occurred at one of these sites.
If you or someone you love has been injured by a doctor or medical professional, then you must take some initial steps to ensure you can get results. No one wants this to happen to them, but if it does, it is also important something happens to ensure that it will not happen to someone else later on. It is also important you or your loved one receives compensation for your injury. If you feel you have been injured by a doctor, then contact Wolf & Pravato to schedule a consultation and learn more about your rights.