If your doctor made a mistake that caused you serious consequences, would you know it? Maybe, but maybe not.
The American Medical Association’s Code of Ethics indicates that physicians should disclose a mistake if the patient has “significant medical complications,” even if this opens the doctor up to legal liability.
But the reality is that many doctors fear a malpractice lawsuit and may not tell you about their mistake. One study found that about 70 percent of doctors admit they would provide “limited or no explanation” if they made a significant medical error.
When doctors do admit to errors, they often hide their role or gloss over the cause of the problem.
As a patient, it’s difficult for you to know whether a poor outcome from surgery or treatment is simply bad luck – or the result of a medical mistake. Here are some signs of medical malpractice you should be aware of:
- Despite adhering to your doctor’s treatment plan, you’re not feeling better, and you may be feeling worse. This on its own doesn’t always mean malpractice – sometimes treatments fail for various reasons. But if your doctor doesn’t seem concerned or makes no effort to suggest other treatment options, you might want to seek a second opinion.
- You get a second opinion, and the diagnosis or recommended treatment is substantially different than the first doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan.
- Your treatment plan seems too aggressive or simply unsuited to your diagnosis. If your doctor recommends a major surgery for a minor problem when you know other treatment options exist, you might wonder why. You should be even more concerned if your doctor can’t explain why you need this particular treatment.
- You suffered a severe complication, and your doctor’s explanation of why seems vague or unsatisfactory. Often healthcare providers will refer to mistakes as “adverse outcomes,” “unfortunate side effects,” or they might say, “These things happen.” These phrases can indeed describe situations that are not the doctor’s fault, but you may want to learn more about why “these things happen.”
- You suffered a rare but disclosed potential side effect from a medication, then learned you had risk factors for the side effect that your doctor didn’t ask about. For instance, some medications can increase blood sugar. If your doctor failed to ask about a family history of diabetes or check your blood sugar levels before prescribing the medication, and you fell into a diabetic coma, they may have made an error.
- Your doctor ordered few or no tests despite repeat visits about a health concern. If your doctor was unwilling to investigate your symptoms, they might have been negligent.
- Your doctor didn’t follow up with you after suggesting further tests or didn’t let you know your results. If you later discovered you had a serious illness, the physician may have made a mistake that caused considerable consequences.
How Can a Summit County Medical Malpractice Attorney Help?
Many people wonder if a severe health complication was medical malpractice or just a bad reaction. An experienced Summit County medical malpractice lawyer can help if you’re unsure what happened or suspect your doctor was at fault.
We’ll review the details of your case, investigate further if necessary, and explain your options for seeking compensation.
Understanding Colorado Medical Malpractice Laws
When reviewing your medical records, we’ll focus on determining what went wrong and how. In order to prove negligence, it’s essential to establish the following:
- The healthcare provider had a duty of care to the patient. This generally means they had a duty to act as another reasonable healthcare provider would under the same circumstances.
- The provider failed in this duty.
- The patient was injured as a result of the provider’s actions.
Often the third point is the most difficult to prove in a malpractice case, so we will work to collect evidence showing that your injuries are the result of the healthcare provider’s failed breach of duty.
For instance, we might work to show that a doctor prescribed the wrong medication for your condition or they prescribed one that was contraindicated by your other medications. Or we might demonstrate that a nurse dispensed the wrong medication or an incorrect dose.
Can You Sue the Hospital Where You Experienced Medical Malpractice?
It depends on the situation. Colorado law prevents patients from suing healthcare facilities for the mistakes of a doctor on staff there.
You can, however, sue the doctor.
Physicians are required by state law to carry malpractice insurance for a minimum of $1,000,000 per incident. If this amount is insufficient for your damages, we will consider whether there are other liable parties.
What’s important to understand about this law is that it only covers mistakes made by doctors. If you experience malpractice by a nurse, nurse’s assistant, or other hospital employee who is not a doctor, you can sue the hospital instead for malpractice.
Another thing to keep in mind is that some malpractice incidents may involve mistakes by more than one party.
For example, let’s say that you were in the hospital, and your doctor accidentally prescribed ten times the intended dose of a medication. That would be malpractice on the doctor’s part, even if it was an honest mistake – they didn’t realize they added an extra 0, etc.
But then, it was a nurse’s job to dispense the medication at that dose.
Despite having dispensed thousands of prescriptions in the course of their job, the nurse has never seen this drug prescribed in such a high dose. Yet they go ahead and administer it anyway.
While it’s technically the nurse’s job to dispense prescriptions according to a physician’s instructions, we could argue that a reasonable nurse in this situation would have confirmed the dose with the doctor before administering it.
If we had expert witnesses who could testify that a reasonable nurse would have confirmed the dose, we might have grounds to sue the hospital.
What If You Signed a Consent Form?
Signing a consent form does not prevent you from suing for malpractice if the healthcare provider’s actions were unreasonable and put you at undue risk. A consent form means you agreed to the treatment, procedure, or surgery after being informed of potential risks.
For example, infection is a potential risk of any surgery. If your doctor took all necessary precautions to prevent infection and you still developed one, you probably don’t have a malpractice case.
On the other hand, if your doctor ignored infection prevention protocols and acted in a way that put you at increased risk, you might have a case.
Of course, you, as a patient, probably have no idea what happened during your surgery while you were unconscious. Even if you did, you might not know every protocol doctors and nurses are required to follow anyway.
That’s why an experienced Summit County medical malpractice attorney can be helpful – we will work to determine what happened and if it meets the criteria for a medical malpractice case.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Cases in Colorado?
In most situations, you have two years from the date the malpractice occurred or when you discovered the error to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, there are some exceptions to this rule depending on the circumstances:
- You’re required to file within three years of the date the malpractice happened, regardless of the date of discovery, unless you can show that the healthcare provider intentionally concealed their mistake.
- You may also get an extension if the doctor leaves a surgical instrument or item inside your body after completing the surgery.
- You may request an extension if you can make a case that you didn’t know about the malpractice and couldn’t have “reasonably known through due diligence.” In other words, you didn’t ignore any symptoms – instead, you saw medical professionals about your continued difficulties until you received a diagnosis that indicated the malpractice.
- If the malpractice affects a minor who was younger than 6 when it occurred, their parent or legal guardian should file a malpractice suit by the child’s eighth birthday in most cases.
If you aren’t sure if it’s too late to file a claim or are wondering if you qualify for an extension, please speak with a lawyer right away.
What is a Certificate of Review?
After filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, you are required by state law to file a “certificate of review” within 60 days. This certificate states that a medical expert in the same field as your doctor has reviewed your complaint and believes it has merit.
Essentially, this medical expert agrees that your doctor acted in a way that another reasonable physician in this specialty would not have. Your attorney will handle finding an appropriate medical expert and seeking their review of your case.
Get Assistance From a Summit County Medical Malpractice Law Firm Today
If you have questions or concerns about a possible malpractice claim, please contact the Olson Law Firm for a free, confidential consultation. We’re always available to review your medical records, answer questions, and explain the possible options for pursuing damages.
Call Olson Law Firm at (303) 586-7297 today.