If your doctor injured you because he or she acted negligently and harmed you, you can sue your doctor for medical malpractice. But it’s not an easy thing to do. Several questions need to be answered “yes” before a lawyer is likely to help you with your case.
1. Did My Doctor’s Conduct Fall Below The Standard of Care?
For a doctor’s care to fall below the standard of care, the doctor must do something a “reasonable” doctor under similar circumstances would not do, or fail to do something that a “reasonable” doctor would do under similar circumstances. In other words, if your doctor cut the wrong body part, told you to stop taking a medicine that you needed, or forgot to remove a sponge from a surgical site, you may have a very good argument that your doctor failed to act like a “reasonable” doctor.
Acts that constitute malpractice, however, cannot only be complaints that your doctor treated you rudely, or wasn’t nice to you. In order to have a claim for medical malpractice against your doctor, your doctor’s conduct must rise to something far more significant than rudeness.
Sometimes, it is possible to simply look at a doctor’s conduct and know that the doctor’s act was something that a “reasonable” doctor would not have done. Things like performing surgery on the wrong side, or taking away a medication that you needed are often times things that make negligence on a doctor’s part easy to identify. But the practice of medicine is a complex thing. And more often than not identifying a doctor’s negligence requires another doctor to comb through records and make a determination that the doctor did something or failed to do something that a reasonable doctor should or should not have done.
2. Did My Doctor’s Negligence Cause Significant Harm?
Just determining that your doctor failed to act reasonably isn’t the end of the inquiry into whether you can bring a claim for malpractice or not. Once you’ve determined that your doctor acted unreasonably, you then have to ask if your doctor’s action caused you harm, and more likely, significant harm. In other words, if your doctor gave you the wrong medication, but someone caught the mistake the next day before you had a chance to take the wrong medication, your doctor’s actions, although wrong, didn’t cause you harm, and you won’t have a claim for medical malpractice. On the other hand, if your doctor did surgery on your left leg instead of your right where he was supposed to, and you lose your leg as a result, you’ve suffered an injury that would allow you to bring a medical malpractice claim.
In addition to suffering harm, you’ll also have to ask how serious the harm is. Medical malpractice claims are both difficult and expensive to see through. It can cost literally hundreds of thousands of dollars just to see a case through a trial. What that means, is even if you suffered some harm and the harm is minimal (you had to take a week off of work, or you received a few extra stitches) it won’t likely make any sense for you to bring a medical malpractice claim because it will cost more to bring the claim than you’ll ever receive. On the other hand, if you had to have additional surgeries, you became permanently impaired, or a loved one died as a result of a medical error, you’ll likely have enough to bring a medical malpractice claim against your doctor.
3. Do I have Enough Time to Bring a Claim for Medical Malpractice?
Every state in the United States limits how much time you can take to sue a doctor for medical malpractice. The rule limiting your time is called a statute of limitations. The statute of limitations generally demands that you bring your claim within a certain number of years after learning that you were injured by your doctor. In Colorado and Wyoming, for example, that time is two years. The statute of limitations is an unforgiving thing. Exceptions to meeting them are very, very rare. So if you think you have a claim against your doctor for medical malpractice, do not waste time.
If you can prove that your doctor acted unreasonably, that you suffered severe harm as a result of your doctor’s actions, and you’re within the statute of limitations for bringing a claim, you can likely sue your doctor for medical malpractice. But keep in mind that medical malpractice cases are exceedingly difficult to prove. You’ll likely need a lawyer to help you see it through. So if you think you have a claim for medical malpractice, contact a lawyer right away so that you don’t miss your opportunity to make up for the harm that was done to you.
Sean Olson is much more than just a personal injury lawyer. Sean is an advocate who helps those who are injured navigate our complex legal system. And he is a voice for those who are injured and cannot speak for themselves.