Do I Need to Notify My Doctor When Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?September 8, 2020
As patients, people put their trust in the hands of health care providers who are responsible for their care. When a patient is injured, or their health has been compromised in some way, this can be a devastating experience. In addition to the physical pain that the injury may have caused, the patient may also feel hurt and betrayed. Although not all medical mistakes are considered negligent, if the health care provider breached the standard of care, the patient may wish to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit. Oftentimes, patients who decide to take legal action are unsure about the process of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit and whether they are required to notify their doctor of their impending lawsuit. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer will address patients’ questions and concerns and walk them through every step of the claims process.
What is Medical Malpractice?
A medical malpractice claim is filed by a patient who believes that his or her medical professional failed to meet the standard of care that another health care provider with similar training and experience would provide under similar circumstances, and that the breach of care resulted in injuries. According to a study from researchers at Johns Hopkins, medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the United States, following heart disease and cancer. The study found that medical errors cause up to 440,000 deaths, although the number is likely much higher because physicians, coroners, and medical examiners rarely make mention of human error or system failures on the death certificate, even though this is the information the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) use when posting statistics for deaths in the United States.
Where Can I Report a Doctor or Hospital?
Once a patient has made the decision to hold the doctor or hospital accountable for the medical mistake, and the impact it had on the patient’s physical and emotional well-being, he or she will need to take the next step, which involves reporting the doctor or hospital. It is extremely important that the issue be reported properly so that the regulatory board can prevent future errors from happening by creating effective solutions to common treatment errors and ensuring that repeat offenders are held accountable for their actions. Patients can report their complaint to the following places:
- State medical complaint boards: All medical mistakes should be reported to the state’s medical complaint board. The patient will need to fill out a form and include detailed information about all relevant parties that may have been involved in the medical error, and the injuries or other health issues that it may have caused. Patients can refer to the Consumers’ Checkbook for contact information for the medical complaint board in their state.
In some cases, the board may not contact the patient or sanction the doctor if they find that the doctor has a strong professional record and views the mistake as an isolated incident. Either way, it is important to file the report in case a patient files a complaint against the same doctor in the future. This can help establish a pattern of errors, which means the board will be more likely to sanction the doctor.
Even if the medical complaint board agrees with the patient, it does not initiate a medical malpractice lawsuit or establish negligence. The purpose of filing a report with the state medical complaint board is to impact the ability of the doctor or health care facility to continue practicing medicine. For the patient to collect compensation for their injuries, they must file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
- Consumer websites: Whereas patients file reports with the state medical complaint board to notify the professional medical community about a doctor or hospital that failed to meet the standard of care, consumer websites allow patients to alert the general public about a medical mistake so that patients can avoid seeking medical attention from that doctor or hospital. These websites offer patients an effective way to inform other potential patients about positive and negative experiences they had with doctors and hospitals.
After the patient files a report with the state medical complaint board, the doctor or hospital will be notified, as will their insurance company. Oftentimes, the insurance company may make the patient a settlement offer. However, initial settlement offers rarely provide the compensation a patient deserves. If the patient accepts the settlement offer, they will not be able to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit because they will have signed a release of rights as part of the settlement deal. It is highly recommended that patients consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer, who can recommend the best legal course of action.
Are Patients Required to Notify Their Doctor Before Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
A patient who was injured while under the care of a health care provider should not contact their doctor directly about his or her intention to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. If the patient has not already done so, it is highly recommended that they hire an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. The lawyer will notify the health care provider, as well as the court where the case will be tried. A skilled malpractice lawyer will protect the patient’s legal rights, help them navigate the complex claims process, and secure the maximum financial compensation they deserve.
The paperwork that is sent to the defendant and the court includes a summons and the complaint. The complaint notifies the doctor of the medical errors that occurred during treatment. In addition, it includes all other important details pertaining to the complaint, including names of the health care providers involved. The complaint will also ask the court for compensation. The summons calls for the defendant to respond to the complaint. The patient’s medical malpractice lawyer will arrange to have the paperwork delivered to the defendant, or someone at the office who is authorized to receive the paperwork.
Do Doctors Lose Their Medical License When They Are Sued?
Patients often assume that a malpractice lawsuit will result in their health care provider losing his or her medical license. However, that is unlikely, unless criminal conduct is involved or there is a pattern of misconduct over a period. Claims that are made against the doctor will be reported, and these claims could stay on the doctor’s permanent record.
Different Types of Malpractice
The following are the most common types of preventable medical errors that lead to medical malpractice claims:
- Failure to diagnose: If a physician does not diagnose a life-threatening disease, such as cancer or heart disease, it can have devastating consequences, including disease progression and even death.
- Surgical errors: These can include leaving surgical instruments inside the body or performing a surgical procedure on the wrong side of the body.
- Prescription drug errors: Prescribing the wrong medication or the incorrect dosage can cause serious health complications.
- Failure to treat: When a physician fails to treat a condition, discharges a patient too soon, or does not provide the proper follow-up care, the health conditions can become serious or life-threatening.
- Birth injuries: Injuries such as shoulder dystocia, spinal cord injuries, and cerebral palsy are common birth injuries caused by medical errors.
What Damages am I Entitled to in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
There are two types of damages patients are entitled to receive:
- Economic damages: These are the quantifiable expenses, including:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Non-economic damages: These are awarded for injuries that result in a diminished quality of life. They include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Punitive damages, which are awarded only when a health care provider commits a particularly egregious mistake
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Justice for Victims of Medical Negligence
If you or a loved one was injured, or your health was compromised while under the care of a physician or other health care provider, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will conduct a thorough investigation into your case and determine whether your injury was caused by negligence. Our dedicated legal team will protect your rights and secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve. We will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.