Many people find themselves facing the flip-side of the old saying "Hurry up and wait" when they visit their doctor's office, clinic, or emergency room. Instead, "Wait and be hurried along" might be the slogan of today's medical patients.
As health care resources are stretched and costs climb, patients find themselves abruptly shuttled from room to room hoping to see a doctor, only to be rushed off after getting a few minutes to tell the doctor about their symptoms and problems.
Unusual Facts Can Impact the Case’s Value
A jury in Duluth, Minnesota recently awarded $1.25 million to the family of a 21-month-old child who died of appendicitis. His family claimed he was misdiagnosed twice over a period of four days; once with influenza and once with gastroenteritis.
A crucial part of the evidence was that the doctor who saw the child had too many patients, too close together when meeting with the child and his parents. Perhaps jurors related to the frustration when doctors barely have time for little more than a brief greeting to their patients.
A Careful Review of Facts
People may assume that if a health care provider is involved and the outcome isn’t optimal, they can automatically sue for malpractice and win. However, many states have tedious conditions for medical malpractice suits.
Each state has its own set of procedures, rules and laws when filing and pursuing professional liability suits. It’s important to consult promptly with an attorney who specializes in malpractice, and is licensed in the state where the care occurred.
Many states have much shorter time limits if the health care provider is affiliated with a government body or agency. Rules about "statute of limitations" or deadlines, by which cases must be filed in order to be timely, must be followed.
Whether the time limit starts running at the time of the office visit, surgery, or treatment, or only when the harm is discovered is an intensive study an attorney in the area needs to assess.
"Breach of the standard of care" is a critical concept.
Any case claiming professional malpractice hinges on the testimony of experts about how the professional (doctor, nurse, dentist, etc.) acted as a "reasonably well-qualified" member of that line of work, in that geographic region, would have acted. The inquiry is about the professional’s "breach of the standard of care."
The jury is given formal instructions by the judge, known as "jury instructions", about how to reach their verdict. Among the instructions, which vary by state, will likely be a caution to the jury to decide whether the professional broke the standard level of care according to their review of the expert testimony.
An attorney will consider carefully the costs involved in retaining needed expert witnesses and any unusual factors which may affect the sympathy and credibility of the parties.
In their final verdict, juries will also give strong thought to the patient's conduct, including whether the patient ignored medical advice or missed appointments without good reason.
Question for Your Attorney
- I can't get an appointment with my doctor until months away, although I'm suffering from a major medical issue. What can I do legally?
- I think my doctor misdiagnosed me. Can I sue them for malpractice?