Medical Malpractice

Do you have a case and is it worth pursuing?

Medical malpractice suits are often the stuff of headlines and Hollywood. But looking beyond the headlines of a few sensational cases that grab the public’s attention, medical malpractice is a serious and complicated area of law. When illness or injury forces you to see a physician or go to the hospital, you can generally be assured that the doctor’s years of experience and training will result in excellent treatment of your ailment. But in truth, physicians are only human and as such, errors are always possible.

Medical malpractice is an area of personal injury law that applies to situations when negligent actions by a doctor or other medical professional results in damage or harm to the patient. Negligent actions can include an error in diagnosis, treatment or illness management. If such negligence results in injury, a case could arise:

  • against the doctor, if their actions deviated from generally accepted standards of practice;
  • against the hospital for improper care such as problems with medications, sanitation or nursing care; or
  • against local, state or federal agencies that operate facilities such as city or Army hospitals.

Medical malpractice cases are difficult to win for several reasons. First, the physician’s negligence must cause harm to the patient. You can’t sue a doctor for an error that caused no negative consequences or for what “might have happened.” Also, the case must prove that the harm or injury came about as a result of the doctor’s actions.

In order to file a malpractice claim, an expert witness, usually a physician, must first review the case. The expert must certify that there is a basis for the allegations.

In order to prove malpractice, a physician must testify that the treating doctor made an error. Finding a physician to testify under such conditions is often difficult and costly.

Another difficulty facing malpractice suits is legislation. Physicians and hospitals are protected by legal limits on the amount of damages that can be awarded in a malpractice suit. Also, most states including Michigan have a time limit for filing suits of about two years unless extraordinary circumstances affect the case.

Medical malpractice laws are designed to protect patients’ rights to pursue compensation if they are injured as result of negligence. However, the reality is that malpractice suits are difficult and costly to win. While theoretically, you can seek compensation for any injury caused by negligence, regardless of its seriousness, most lawyers will only take cases where the damage is serious or permanent. Time and money make it unrealistic to sue for an injury that is minor or resolves quickly. An attorney with Nichols & Eberth who has some knowledge in medicine and experience in malpractice suits can help determine if the specifics of your situation are worth pursuing.