A surgeon’s mistake. A physician’s misdiagnosis. An error by an OB/GYN during delivery. A prescription dispensed in the wrong dose or to the wrong patient. Failure to properly sterilize equipment and surfaces.
Medical malpractice takes many forms. When a health care practitioner, hospital, or clinic fails to do everything appropriate to care for a patient, the consequences can be dire. More than 250,000 deaths occur in the United States each year as a result of preventable medical mistakes. Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent treating injuries and illnesses that would not have occurred had doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and health care facility managers exercised extra caution.
Of course, victims of medical malpractice, including the family members of people who lose their lives as a result of errors and oversights in health care settings, do have a right to claim compensation and monetary damages by filing medical malpractice lawsuits. But holding people and organizations accountable for medical malpractice is rarely easy. This is true for four reasons.
Standard of Care Must Be Violated
As any ethical medical malpractice lawyer in Cleveland will tell you, the difficulty with such cases stems, in large part, from the legal standard used to define “malpractice.” Health care providers must meet the standard of care when treating patients.
Many standards for care exist. They include best practice guidelines, consensus statements from professional medical associations, federal and local laws, organizational policies, and educational practices. Proving a clear violation of one or several of those standards is the first step in winning a medical malpractice case. Doing that is almost never straightforward, though, because patient records and personal recollections of what happened often leave out key details and contradict each other.
Proof of Harm Must Exist
The second, and even more important step that must be taken in order to win a medical malpractice case, is to prove by preponderance of available evidence that the patient would be alive and/or healthier if only the malpractice had not occurred. Diseases and injuries have three outcomes: the patient can die, recover, or remain in pretty much the same condition. One of these things will happen regardless of whether any medical care is sought or provided. Cutting to the conclusion, this means that a poor treatment outcome cannot, by itself, stand as evidence of malpractice.
Comparative Negligence Rules Apply
A valid defense against a charge of medical malpractice and related harm consists of showing that the plaintiff ignored or acted against sound medical advice. A patient who does not take prescribed medications, keep appointments, or make recommended lifestyle changes may find it difficult to convince a judge or jury that their poor health resulted from what a health care provider did or did not do.
Statutes of Limitations Apply
The final piece of the medical malpractice puzzle is that a claim must be submitted within two years of the alleged error or oversight. Very few exceptions to this statute of limitations exist under Ohio law. This means, for instance, that a missed cancer diagnosis that results in a patient dying four years later cannot stand as grounds for filing a medical malpractice case.
Speaking with a caring and experienced Cleveland medical malpractice attorney as soon as you suspect you have suffered from a health care provider’s mistake is imperative. You can schedule a free consultation with a plaintiff’s lawyer at Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman by calling (800) 678-3318 or filling out this online contact form.