How Do I Find Evidence for a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?July 19, 2021
Patients trust their doctors, nurses, and other clinicians have the training, skills, and discernment to make the safest and best decisions for their health and wellness. But unfortunately, that is not always the case. A study from Johns Hopkins determined more than 250,000 people die every year in the United States of medical mistakes, making it the third-leading cause of death in the United States behind cancer and heart disease.
Fortunately, most patients are able to survive serious medical mistakes, but some carry lasting health problems as a result. Litigation is an important tool to help innocent victims recover losses after a hospital mistake and hold careless health care providers accountable for their negligence.
Evidence is the key to a successful medical malpractice lawsuit. It is important for patients to learn more about how mistakes happen in doctors’ offices, operating rooms, and emergency rooms across the country, and how to find evidence to support a medical malpractice claim in Maryland.
Common Examples of Medical Errors
Imagine going in for a simple medical procedure only for something to go terribly wrong. The statistics do not lie. Medical mistakes are an enormous problem in this country. That is why many people have a fear of hospitals and would rather ignore their symptoms than see a doctor.
The United States National Library of Medicine reports these are some of the most common medical mistakes:
- Adverse drug events
- Improper transfusions
- Mistaken patient identity
- Restraint-related illness and death
- Slip and fall accidents
- Surgical injuries including wrong-site errors
- Wrong diagnoses
Some less common but still dangerous medical errors include the following:
- Anesthesia mistakes
- Birth injuries
- Emergency room errors
- Failure to diagnose
- Nursing home negligence
- Tools left in patients
- Wrongful death
It is important to note that all of these medical mistakes are preventable with proper training, safety procedures, and sound administrative practices.
Why Medical Mistakes Occur
Injuries and deaths from medical malpractice happen for a wide range of reasons. Poorly trained staff are more likely to make errors in judgment or care. Understaffing is another problem. When hospitals cut corners to reduce costs, patients are the ones who suffer. Even something as seemingly harmless as a computer glitch can cause serious problems for staff who depend digital records for health histories, treatment plans, medications, and even the very identity of the patient.
Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim
When a patient goes in for a routine surgery, only to be injured when the doctor operates on the wrong site, or the nurse accidentally overdoses them on prescription medication, someone needs to be held accountable. The hope is a minor mistake can be corrected without any long-term impact to the patient. But it is not always that simple.
People can be permanently injured when a medical procedure goes wrong. If that happens, the patient is likely to bring a medical malpractice claim against the provider and/or the facility in questions.
Here are the basic elements of a successful medical malpractice lawsuit:
Provider-patient relationship. Before a plaintiff can show a medical error occurred, they must first establish the provider-patient relationship. Once that exists, the doctor/provider has the professional duty to provide the patient with the standard level of care under the circumstances.
Proving this relationship is not difficult. Generally, the agreement to provide care can be reasonably inferred if the patient makes an appointment with their primary care physician or walks into the emergency room with chest pain. It is a given that the doctor on duty will treat them.
Medical standard of care. Doctors and other types of health care providers are expected to treat patients with the same level of care and skill that another provider with similar training and experience would provide. This is called the medical standard of care, and it is the foundation of every medical malpractice lawsuit.
The plaintiff’s lawyer must show there was a gap between the level of care the doctor should have provided, and the substandard care the patient received. In most cases, medical experts will testify about the expected course of treatment and how the provider deviated from that standard approach to patient care.
Medical negligence and patient’s injury. The next step is making the connection between the defendant’s breach of duty to provide the medical standard of care and the patient’s injury. It must be shown that the health care provider’s carelessness directly caused the plaintiff’s condition to worsen or caused an additional injury or harm.
Proof of harm. Finally, the plaintiff’s team must provide details of the harm, or damages, they have experienced. Damages vary from case to case, but in a medical malpractice claim, they can include the costs of medical bills and wages the plaintiff lost because they were unable to work. Medical malpractice claims also allow damages for physical pain and suffering, along with emotional trauma caused by substandard care.
Key Forms of Evidence in a Malpractice Lawsuit
Without the right evidence, a medical malpractice case cannot succeed. There are three primary forms of evidence used in medical error claims:
Defendant’s sworn testimony. The sworn deposition testimony of the alleged negligent pharmacist, nurse, doctor, or surgeon can reveal the clues as to how and why a medical mistake happened. The defendant is sworn to tell the truth, and any inconsistencies with the medical records can jeopardize their credibility.
Expert testimony. In most cases, for a medical malpractice claim to be successful, the plaintiff and their lawyer must prove that another health care provider with a similar background, training, and experience would have acted differently in the situation. Furthermore, it must be shown that by taking a different approach, per the medical standard of care, the outcome would have been more positive.
Medical records. A patient’s medical records are possibly the key form of evidence used in a medical malpractice case. Not only do they confirm their initial diagnosis, but also they may contain important details such as medications, vital signs records, imaging tests, and other information that suggest a patient was in distress or harmed by a provider’s error. When the patient has trouble getting their medical records, they can sign a release allowing another party, their lawyer, to have access to them.
Skilled Lawyers Know Where to Look for Evidence
Although all of this evidence seems relatively straightforward, patients are often surprised by just how reluctant medical practices and hospitals are to release medical records, especially if a grievous mistake happened on their watch. Similarly, doctors and other clinicians are not always eager to testify in cases against other professionals in their own state.
When it comes to gathering the proper documentation for a case like this, it is best to defer to the medical malpractice lawyer. It takes a skilled and experienced legal firm to cut through the red tape to access the evidence and experts that will prove their case.
The best thing any patient can do to support their lawyer is to give them copies of any medical records related to the case, including imaging reports, prescriptions, treatment plans, health insurance statements, and doctor bills.
Not All Cases Go to Court
When medical malpractice is obvious, the doctor’s insurance company may offer the injured plaintiff a settlement. Before any plaintiff who has been harmed by a negligent medical professional accepts a quick-off settlement, their lawyer should be involved with the negotiations to ensure they receive what they deserve.
Medical Malpractice Cases Take Time
Claims involving possible medical malpractice are complex. The mediation process can be quite lengthy. And if a case goes to trial, it can take months or even years to resolve. Patients should discuss concerns with a lawyer to find out if it makes sense to pursue a claim, accept a settlement, or go to court. Much depends on the extent of one’s injuries and other losses the patient suffered.
The reality is mistakes are inevitable, even from the accomplished doctors who are trusted to provide the highest level of care. Anyone harmed by a doctor’s negligence should document their injuries and contact a lawyer specializing in medical malpractice as soon as possible.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Clients Injured by a Doctor’s Error
Doctors and other medical professionals wield an incredible amount of power. As patients, we trust these experts to provide the best care possible and do no harm. If you have been hurt by a medical mistake, contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton for help. From birth injuries and anesthesia mistakes to surgical errors and hospital negligence, our team is here to advocate for you and pursue compensation for your pain, suffering, and financial losses due to medical malpractice. Call us at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free no-obligation case review.
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.