As you sit in the hospital room waiting for your loved one to recover from a medical procedure, you can’t help but worry about the level of care they’re receiving. Thoughts may race through your mind: “What if something goes wrong? What if the healthcare provider makes a mistake?” Unfortunately, medical errors are more common than we’d like to believe, and the consequences can be devastating.
But when a medical error occurs, is it always considered medical malpractice? Or is it sometimes just medical negligence? Whether you’re experiencing these concerns or have already suffered harm due to medical malpractice or negligence, it’s important to understand the difference.
What is Medical Negligence?
Medical negligence occurs when healthcare providers do not fulfill their professional obligations to patients by failing to provide the appropriate standard of care that a similarly trained professional would have provided under the circumstances. Every medical provider has a duty of care they owe to patients, and failing to fulfill that duty can be considered medical negligence.
However, just because a healthcare provider has committed medical negligence does not necessarily mean that there’s a provable medical malpractice case.
When Does Medical Negligence Become Medical Malpractice?
In Georgia, medical malpractice cases are typically judged according to the “reasonable care” standard, meaning that healthcare providers are expected to provide a level of care consistent with what other providers in the same field would provide under similar circumstances.
Medical negligence becomes medical malpractice when the negligence caused by the healthcare provider’s actions or omissions is the direct cause of the harm that the patient can be compensated for. When a patient is harmed due to a healthcare provider’s negligence, they have a right to pursue compensation for their injuries.
Medical malpractice can occur in any healthcare setting, including hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes.
In a medical malpractice case, the plaintiff (person harmed and initiating a lawsuit) must prove the following four legal elements:
- Duty: The healthcare provider had a duty to provide care to the patient.
- Breach: The healthcare provider failed to meet the standard of care.
- Causation: There is a link between the healthcare provider’s breach and the patient’s harm.
- Damages: The patient suffered harm, such as physical or emotional pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost wages.
If all four elements are proven, the patient may be entitled to damages for their injury or harm caused by the healthcare provider’s deviation from the accepted standard of care.
Examples of Medical Negligence
Some examples of medical negligence include the following:
- Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a serious illness
- Delayed diagnosis or treatment
- Prescription errors, such as administering the wrong medication or dosage
- Surgical errors, such as leaving surgical instruments inside a patient’s body
- Anesthesia errors, such as administering too much or too little anesthesia
- Infection resulting from a healthcare provider’s failure to follow proper hygiene protocols
- Failure to properly monitor a patient’s condition or vital signs
- Failure to obtain informed consent before a procedure
- Nursing home neglect or abuse
- Birth injuries resulting from medical negligence during labor or delivery
- Misinterpretation of lab results or diagnostic imaging
- Failure to provide proper follow-up care
- Medical equipment malfunctions due to lack of maintenance
- Failure to identify drug interactions or allergies
- Inadequate or improper patient counseling
- Discharging a patient too soon or against medical advice
- Failure to refer a patient to a specialist when necessary
- Using experimental or unproven treatments without informed consent
- Administering treatment without a proper diagnosis
- Errors in administering radiation therapy.
Not all instances of medical negligence constitute medical malpractice. To prove medical malpractice, the patient must show that the healthcare provider breached their duty of care and that the breach caused harm or injury to them.
How to Protect Yourself from Medical Negligence and Medical Malpractice
While medical professionals are trained to provide the best care possible, mistakes can still happen. Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself from medical negligence and medical malpractice:
- Choose a Reputable Healthcare Provider: Research and select a healthcare provider with a good reputation. Look for providers with positive patient reviews who are well-regarded in their field.
- Communicate Effectively: Be open and honest with your healthcare provider about your medical history, current symptoms, and concerns. Clear communication can help prevent misunderstandings and mistakes.
- Keep Records: Keep track of your medical records, including test results, diagnoses, and medications. This can help you monitor your treatment and ensure that nothing is overlooked.
- Ask Questions: Don’t hesitate to ask about your treatment or medications. Ask your healthcare provider to explain anything you don’t understand, and ensure you are fully informed about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
- Get a Second Opinion: If you have concerns about your diagnosis or treatment plan, consider getting a second opinion from another healthcare provider. This can help confirm your diagnosis and ensure you receive the best possible care.
- Follow-Up: Attend all follow-up appointments and tests your healthcare provider recommends. This can help detect any potential problems early on and prevent complications.
- Seek Legal Advice: If you suspect you have been a victim of medical negligence or medical malpractice, consider seeking legal advice. A qualified medical malpractice lawyer can help you understand your rights and options and may be able to help you seek compensation for any damages you have suffered.
Protecting yourself from medical negligence and malpractice starts with being an informed and engaged patient. By taking an active role in your healthcare and staying informed, you can ensure you receive the best possible care.
How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Claim?
When it comes to medical malpractice and medical negligence cases, time is of the essence for filing your claim due to Georgia’s statute of limitations.
In Georgia, the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice or negligence claim is generally two years from the date of the injury or death. However, this rule has some exceptions, such as cases involving minors or cases where the patient did not discover the injury until later. Consult a medical malpractice lawyer to understand how the statute of limitations applies to your case.
How Can an Atlanta Medical Malpractice Lawyer Help?
If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to medical malpractice or medical negligence in Atlanta, hiring an experienced medical malpractice lawyer can make all the difference to your case. Your lawyer can help you by:
1. Investigating Your Case
A skilled medical malpractice lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation of your case. They will review your medical records, interview witnesses, and consult medical experts to determine if medical malpractice or negligence occurred. They will also evaluate the damages you have suffered and determine the amount of compensation you may be entitled to receive.
2. Building a Strong Case
Once a medical malpractice lawyer has determined that you have a case, they will work to build a strong case on your behalf. They will gather all necessary evidence, including medical records, expert testimony, and witness statements, and present it to a judge or jury if you go to trial.
3. Negotiating a Settlement
Most medical malpractice cases are settled out of court. A skilled lawyer will negotiate with the defendant’s insurance company to obtain a fair settlement on your behalf. They will fight to ensure you receive compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
4. Representing You in Court
If your case goes to trial, a medical malpractice lawyer will represent you in court. They will present your case to a judge and jury and argue on your behalf. They will use their legal expertise and experience to fight for your rights and help you obtain compensation for your injuries.
Q: Can I sue a healthcare provider for medical malpractice or medical negligence if I signed a consent form?
A: Signing a consent form does not waive your right to sue a healthcare provider for medical malpractice or medical negligence. Consent forms typically outline the risks and benefits of a treatment or procedure, but they do not absolve the healthcare provider of their duty to provide competent care.
Q: How are damages calculated in medical malpractice or medical negligence cases?
A: Damages in medical malpractice or medical negligence cases are typically calculated based on the harm suffered by the plaintiff. This can include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related costs.
Q: What is the difference between compensatory and punitive damages in a medical malpractice or medical negligence case?
A: Compensatory damages are designed to compensate the plaintiff for their losses, such as medical expenses and lost wages. Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for their behavior and deter similar behavior in the future.
Q: Can I file a medical malpractice or medical negligence claim on behalf of a loved one who has passed away?
A: Yes, in Georgia, certain family members of a deceased patient may be able to file a wrongful death claim on their behalf. Consult with an attorney to understand your specific legal options.
Get the Legal Help You Need: Contact Greathouse Trial Law Today for Your Medical Malpractice or Medical Negligence Case
Take action as soon as possible if you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice or medical negligence in Atlanta. Do not wait until the last minute to talk to an attorney, as it takes time to develop a medical malpractice case. Seeking the guidance of a qualified Atlanta medical malpractice lawyer from Greathouse Trial Law can help you understand your legal rights and options and work towards obtaining justice and compensation for your injuries.
If your life has been impacted by medical malpractice or medical negligence, don’t hesitate to contact us for your FREE case evaluation. We will listen to your story, answer your questions, and provide the guidance and support you need during this difficult time.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.