How To File A Claim Against The Military For Medical Malpractice

A few hours after becoming a father to a healthy baby girl, Walter Daniel became a widower.

His 33-year-old wife, U.S. Navy Lt. Rebekah Daniel, bled to death at Naval Hospital Bremerton in Washington. She never had the chance to hold her precious daughter.

How did a low-risk pregnancy involving a healthy young woman end in such tragedy? To this day, Daniel can’t answer that question. He tried to sue the military for malpractice in 2014, but his lawsuit was tossed out like old basic training boots.

But that wasn’t because he lacked evidence to support his case. Truth is, his case never had a chance, thanks to a famous 70-year-old Supreme Court ruling called the Feres Doctrine.

Fast-forward a few years, and we’re on the cusp of change. A 2019 NDAA provision has tamed the Feres beast just a bit, allowing military members and their families to file medical malpractice claims. Finally, they will be able to hold negligent doctors accountable for their mistakes!

Have you or a family member suffered harm from military doctors within the past 2 years? You can take action! Now, remember the process is still very different for military dependents, veterans, and retirees than it is for active duty members. Let us explain!

A young woman throws a fist forwards, towards the camera.

Step 1: File An Administrative Claim

Hold on! There’s something you need to do before you can break out your boxing gloves.

First, you must file a claim against the military branch in question. It’s essential to do this within two years of finding out that you or your loved one was a victim of malpractice.

To file a claim, gather all the evidence you can. Speak with a lawyer, and dig up those documents, records, receipts, etc. If you want to win, you’ll need to show some proof!

Example items for evidence:

►Proof of a doctor-patient relationship.
►A record of what actions the healthcare provider took.
►Testimony of the actions the provider should have taken. (Clinical practice guidelines are sometimes used for this.)
►Evidence that the doctor’s actions resulted in harm or injury. (You must make it clear that your condition is due to malpractice, and not to an underlying medical condition.)
Proof of damages. These include medical treatment expenses, and loss of income.

Step 2: Wait for the Outcome

Once you have submitted your claim with evidence to back it up, you’ll have to wait for the Department Of Defense to review and investigate it. They have six months to check a case and respond to it.

Here are the three potential outcomes:

►Your case is approved. Congrats! The military agency will pay you the amount requested and you can accept the settlement.

NOW, the next two scenarios do not apply for active duty members of the military. The Feres Doctrine wasn’t overturned but revised, so until that happens members of our military still cannot sue the federal government. But here’s what the others can do:

►Your case is approved, but the military only agrees to pay some of what you requested. You can either accept the partial payment, or reject it and file a federal lawsuit, if applicable under the Federal Torts Claims Act. If you choose to go the lawsuit route, you must do so within six months.
►Your case is rejected. You won’t receive any compensation. If this happens, you might have the option to file a federal lawsuit, as discussed below.

Each letter of the word lawyer is spelled out with scrabble game pieces.

Limitations to Making a Claim

Taking action against the military for medical malpractice isn’t always a straight-forward process. It’s best to go over your options with a lawyer. Also, there are a few limitations:

►You cannot file a claim for injuries that were the result of medical malpractice in a combat zone.
►The military won’t accept claims for injuries that took place over 2 years ago. However, you may file a claim in 2020 for an incident that occurred in 2017.
►You can’t file a civil suit in federal court for a medical malpractice case involving the military, if you’re an active duty service member.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

So the revision to the Feres Doctrine isn’t perfect and definitely has its limitations, but it is still a giant step forward. Service members now have a way to fight back. The revision came at the end of 2019, so the process is still developing, so stay tuned for updates. If you or your loved one suffered from medical malpractice involving the military, please reach out. We’re here to help! Don’t wait for time to run out. Get started on the administrative claim process today by filling out this quick contact form.

When A C-section Is Necessary (& When It’s Not)

Every woman wants an easy pregnancy. To enjoy her baby bump, daydream about her little one, and to have a smooth delivery. Complications are the last thing a mother wants to think about. 

Whether delivery is vaginal or via C-section, bringing a child into the world is an intense process. Doctors and midwives are wonderful and without their expertise, mortality stats would skyrocket. But every once in a while a healthcare professional makes a decision that’s more harmful than it is good.

In this week’s blog we’ll discuss some scenarios you should watch out for, and what you can do if you or your baby have experienced a birth injury.

When C-Sections Are Necessary

There are times when a C-section is absolutely necessary and is the only option for saving lives. Medical staff are highly trained and should understand which instances warrant an emergency surgery. Red flags include fetal distress, an irregular heartbeat, a tangled umbilical cord, and dangerous bleeding among other scary situations. 

In some cases, C-sections are even scheduled in advance. If the mother has certain health conditions such as diabetes or hypertension it may be safer to deliver the baby via C-section. Here’s a few more instances where a C-section may be the safest option:

►Problems with the placenta

►Delivery of multiples (twins, triplets, and more)

►The presence of a dangerous birth defect

►A baby that is too large or is in an unfavorable birth position

Whether a C-section is a last minute decision or scheduled ahead of time, your doctor is ultimately responsible for making the right choices and explaining things to you. Failing to act quickly can result in harmful injuries and in the very worst scenario, death.

A man wearing scrubs holds a newborn baby in his hands and is about to weigh her on a scale.

When C-sections Are Unnecessary

Sometimes C-sections occur when they’re not medically necessary. But why?

Every once in a while, a mother will elect to have a C-section for personal reasons such as fear of delivery or a busy schedule. That’s not generally the case though. The main culprit for unnecessary C-sections is long labor. Here’s what Neel Shah, an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, had to say about it:

“When it comes to cost, on average C-sections are reimbursed at 50 percent more than vaginal deliveries in the US. Eighty percent of the cost of labor and delivery is staffing, and C-sections generally require a small staff working for fewer hours. So it’s not the additional money the doctor makes. A vaginal delivery, from a resource point of view, just costs more.”

There you have it. When a mother has a long labor and delivers vaginally, it costs the hospital more. More money and more time. Women are sometimes pressured into having a procedure they don’t want to because of a lack of patience. If your doctor is throwing in the towel because they want to go to the ball game, that’s a problem. Especially if their decision impacts you and your child in a harmful way.

What Complications Can Arise?

Most of us are so familiar with term “C-section” that we forget it’s actually a major surgical procedure. Incisions are made through the abdomen wall and uterus to deliver the baby. You’ll likely have a 4-6 inch scar, will be in the hospital for a few days, and will need to take it easy for a couple of months. And that’s if everything goes smoothly.

In the event of a medical malpractice error, or simply an unforeseen circumstance you may experience any one of the following:

►Lacerations to other organs 

►Need for an emergency hysterectomy

►Higher risk of blood clots

►Too much blood loss

►Infection at the wound site

If your physician made a risky call and harmed you or your baby, there are things you can do about it. In fact, you should probably consider legal action.

A woman stares out the window as she sits in a chair with her knees cradles against her chest.

Botched C-sections: How To Take Legal Action

Even the most trusted professionals make mistakes under pressure but that’s still no excuse for medical negligence. Mothers and babies deserve the safest method of delivery and care. Performing a risky and unnecessary C-section can endanger everyone and make a doctor liable for malpractice. It may be difficult to prove that your doctor suggested a C-section when it wasn’t necessary, but if you experienced a birth injury, you may want to fight back.

Factors like payment or time of day shouldn’t influence a baby’s birth. If an injury affected you or your child, you should contact a birth injury lawyer right away. It’s important to learn what legal rights you may have and how to move forward.  

How To Prepare For Your Meeting With A Malpractice Lawyer

Life is a journey. With each stage of our lives, we’re faced with new situations we haven’t learned how to navigate.

When you find yourself in the middle of a legal situation, it can feel a bit scary. You probably know contacting a lawyer is a good idea, but what about the rest? You may ask yourself questions like, “Which lawyer do I choose? What do I say? What documents do I even bring?”

This may be new territory for you, but don’t worry. In this post, we’ll share some tips and tricks for communicating with your lawyer. A little bit of prep work can go a long ways and will definitely make for a stronger case.

Your First Consultation With Your Malpractice Lawyer

Every day we engage in professional conversations. Just think about it. You may have a conversation with your doctor, dentist, accountant, coworker, or boss on any given day.  Talking to a lawyer is a professional conversation, just like the rest.

Go into your consultation with confidence. There’s no reason to feel uncomfortable. This is a two way relationship, after all. Remember, you get to choose your lawyer, and they get to choose you. Pay attention to their experience level, body language, and personality. Are they paying attention to what you’re saying? Do they seem to care?

You want a medical malpractice lawyer who has your best interests in mind and will fight for you. If you get the feeling they’re not the right fit, move on. It’s  OKAY to choose someone else.

A man writes bullet points in his journal, to be help him remember everything he needs to communicate.

Provide Every Detail

One of the most important ways you can help both your lawyer and yourself is to always be honest. We’ll harp more on that later…but it’s important to share anything and everything that pertains to your case. Try to explain the events in chronological order. Also, try to make things as easy as possible to understand.

Tip: Jot down your thoughts and questions in a notebook, and bring this to your appointment. This can help you keep your focus and not forget anything important.

Talking about a medical mistake or negligence can bring on a lot of different emotions. Feelings such as sadness, anger, and confusion are normal.  A good lawyer knows and understands this, and will treat you with the respect you deserve.

Ask Questions

No question is a bad one, so don’t be afraid to ask anything. Before you select your lawyer, be sure to ask them many questions about their experience and career. You need a professional who is capable. Ask questions such as:

►How many cases have you won?

►How long have you specialized in medical malpractice? (This is a big one! You don’t want just any lawyer, but one who actually specializes in medical malpractice.)

►What are your biggest settlements?

►Why are you passionate about this area of law?

Like any other service, you hire a lawyer expecting quality care. If your lawyer isn’t patient and understanding, you might consider hiring someone else.

Paying Your Lawyer

Medical cases may seem expensive, but the good news is that most lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means you shouldn’t owe any money unless your lawyer wins the case. Good news! But don’t forget to nail down the specifics. You’ll want to know and understand each and every expense you may be responsible for. You’ll likely owe the firm a percentage of your winnings, and will need to reimburse any litigation fees.

Signing paperwork often means you’re committing to a firm so before you sign, make sure you feel confident and comfortable.

An older man and a younger woman sit at a desk with their laptops and have a professional conversation.

Assembling Relevant Documents

Bringing useful paperwork and records to your appointment is really important. Without these documents, you’re likely wasting your lawyer’s time as well as your own. We recommend bringing the following:

Medical records

X-Rays and other diagnostic images

Photographs of your condition

Medical bills

► Insurance information

► Pay stubs

Proof of lost wages

► W2’s

► Any relevant e-mails, letters, voicemails, or text messages

Gathering pertinent information will not only save your lawyer a lot of time, it will also give them a better understanding of how this medical error has affected your life. Medical malpractice can harm so many different areas of your life, so it’s important your lawyer has all documents to proof how much suffering you’ve experienced.

Honesty Is Key

Being honest is about more than just telling the truth, it’s about sharing everything and not holding anything back. Remember, your lawyer is here to help you and relies heavily on your transparency. Withholding any information can put your case at serious risk. A last-minute surprise in trial can be disastrous. It’s important that your lawyer knows every detail, so they can be as prepared as possible.

A good rule of thumb: It’s better to share too much rather than too little.

Conclusion

We hope this article was helpful and banished any fears you may have had about pursuing a case. Talking to a lawyer is like talking to any other professional and once you find the right lawyer you’ll feel at ease. If you have any questions or are dealing with a medical malpractice mistake, please reach out to our office.

Afraid To Sue For Malpractice? Don’t Be.

Let’s say you need major surgery. You prepare for it according to the hospital’s recommendations, you show up on time, and you leave the hospital soon after the surgery, as expected. When you get home, though, you notice an abnormality: The hospital clearly made a mistake—something you can hold them liable for.

As the weeks go by, you contemplate suing the hospital. You think about the financial stress, the lengthy legal proceedings, what your family and friends may think. 

In this article we’ll cover the most common reasons people don’t sue (and why they probably should). Suing isn’t bad, and it isn’t scary. Let’s dig in.

“It Was Probably Just A Mistake…”

When doctors commit malpractice, it can be challenging to tell them directly. Maybe you’re an exceptionally nice person, and you don’t want to ruin their day.  Plus, you’re thinking there’s a good chance your injury was an honest mistake. Nobody does stuff like that on purpose, and Dr. Schmo seems like a professional. Who doesn’t want to give second chances? 

But here’s the thing. Dr. Schmo’s intention isn’t the problem, the outcome is. If you were injured because of the doctor’s mistake, you deserve compensation. After all, the doctor’s negligence made you suffer physically, emotionally, mentally or all of the above. Think of it like a money-back guarantee. You didn’t get what you paid an arm and a leg for (hopefully not literally too), so you should “get your money back.” 

That’s why doctors have crazy expensive insurance that  you  ultimately have to pay for as the patient — to give the patients they wronged their “money back,” that is. “Sorry I couldn’t give you the smooth and successful surgery you paid for, here’s $X,XXX,XXX to cover what you paid plus the damages we caused and the years of nightmares, PTSD, and other troubles. If you didn’t get what you paid for, you deserve your money back.

A young woman stares out a window as she decides what to do.

“But I Like My Doctor!” 

Let’s say you’ve been visiting your doctor for years. You talk news, politics — they’ve seen your child grow up, maybe you’ve even shared a meal or two together. You don’t want to spoil a personal relationship. Who does? But listen: malpractice is malpractice. Whether or not your doctor is a likable guy is besides the point. If you believe your doctor is your friend, pay attention to how he or she navigates the situation. 

If they don’t sweep it under the rug, or try to hide their negligence, and they not only apologize, but insist that you deserve compensation, guess what? That doctor may actually be a friend, since they’re making sure you’re treated properly (at least the second time around). Fact is, making sure you’re compensated for the malpractice isn’t just good for you — it’ll make that doctor a better doctor too. 

“I Don’t Want Someone To Lose Their Job To Malpractice”

Many people resist suing for malpractice. Who wants to be the reason their doctor loses their job and respect as a medical professional? First and foremost, if you or a loved one has been injured, the medical professional responsible should be held accountable, or else they may cause the same harm to somebody else. But you should also know, doctors don’t really lose their license to practice because of one incident. Their behavior must go beyond ordinary negligence and into the reckless endangerment and a threat to society category. It usually takes two determinations. In fact, almost all doctors get sued for malpractice at least once during their career. 

Now that we’ve covered that, consider yourself. A lawsuit can help cover medical bills, lost wages, and compensation for physical and emotional suffering. Not only that, think about the last time you did something you got in trouble for. Maybe it was a parking fine, or a speeding ticket. Were you less or more careful afterward? The same applies to doctors and other medical professionals. Consequences make you think twice before making the same mistake, and that’s a great thing, for every patient that doctor has in the future. Therefore, it’s critical to hold medical professionals accountable for their actions.

“Malpractice Lawyers Cost Too Much!” 

Are you scared to hire a malpractice lawyer because you think you’ll lose and it’ll break your bank? That’s understandable, but I’ve got some good news for you. Most malpractice lawyers can offer you a free consultation to assess whether your case is viable. This allows you to explore the possibility of a lawsuit without leaping before you look. If a lawsuit isn’t feasible, no harm done. Even better, you can work on a contingency-fee basis, which means you only pay if you win your case!

A woman holds in the palm of her hands a pile of money.

“It’s Just A Little Mistake, That Can’t Be Malpractice, Can It?”

Just because your injury doesn’t seem big, doesn’t make it less likely to be a successful lawsuit. An injury is an injury and malpractice is malpractice. A doctor’s negligence — even a seemingly small error — can cause all sorts of unforeseeable future medical issues. Even if your injuries are small, your case should be successful as long as you can prove negligence. 

Why Suing Is Actually A Good Thing

The main benefit of a successful lawsuit is that it’ll help lift financial burdens, but medical malpractice cases serves another great purpose. For one, when patients bring their malpractice cases to court, it holds doctors accountable. Filing a suit teaches doctors to be more careful with their patients, which helps prevent future malpractice. Ideally, that doctor’s future patients won’t have to suffer from malpractice like you had to. Secondly, more doctors held accountable = less malpractice as a nation. You suing your doctor for malpractice contributes significantly to safer hospitals and medical centers across the nation. 

Filing a lawsuit can offer you a chance to find peace of mind, help others avoid negligent doctors, and receive the compensation you deserve.

Medical Malpractice In The ER – What It Looks Like

Dealing with Emergency Room Malpractice

Heart racing and in shock, you stand there hardly able to breathe. “One breath in, one breath out…” you remind yourself. You anxiously look at the clock, but the minutes seem to drag by. Minutes that seem like an eternity. 

If you’ve ever been in the middle of an emergency situation, then you know these feelings all too well. With stakes so high, doctors  NEED  to make quick and calculated decisions in order to save lives. But what happens if your doctor makes a bad call?

In this article we’ll help identify what emergency room medical malpractice looks like, and what you can do if you or your loved one has been a victim of it. 

A patient undergoes surgery in a room full of doctors and staff.

Common ER Mistakes

Each day, nurses and doctors clock in for their shift. Shifts that are long, tiresome, and unpredictable. Without a crystal ball, there’s no way to foresee what any given day may look like. Will a patient with a traumatic injury arrive via ambulance, or will a worried father of three check in for chest pain?

Working in the ER is tough, there’s no question about it. But when the average emergency room doctor makes $252,235 per year, and has sworn to the Hippocratic Oath, don’t they owe you their best? Burnout and fatigue aren’t good excuses when a patient dies.

Let’s take a look at some of the mistakes a person may experience:

► Failure to do a full physical exam – The four primary vital signs are blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and respiration. Continually monitoring these vital signs is crucial for a patient to have the best chance of survival. If your nurse or doctor isn’t doing this very basic thing then they’re failing you.

Failure to test for life-threatening conditions – What’s the use of technology if your doctor isn’t using it? With high tech imaging and detailed lab tests available, doctors have to make use of these amazing resources in order to do their job well. Invaluable resources that help diagnose and treat.

► Prompt correspondence with specialists – There’s no way a doctor can know EVERYTHING. With countless diseases and different approaches to treatment, there’s a reason doctors often choose an area of medicine to specialize in. If your doctor doesn’t have the knowledge necessary to treat you, they should be referring you to a specialist that does.

► Prescribing the wrong medication or incorrect dosage  Medication errors can be deadly. Accidental overdoses usually occur when protocol isn’t followed or staff members don’t pay close enough attention. Even Hollywood star, Dennis Quaid, dealt with the devastation of a medication error when his newborn twins were accidentally overdosed. Thankfully they survived.

► Surgical errors – Everyone makes mistakes…we get it, but the operating room isn’t the place for foolish errors and negligence. Leaving a 5 inch scalpel in a patient’s abdomen is insane. Sometimes doctors even operate on the wrong body part. WHAT?

►Patient dumping – This may shock you, but sometimes hospitals “dump” patients that don’t have the means to pay for services. “Victims typically fall into one ori more of the following categories: those with a mental health condition, undocumented or under-documented immigrants, and the homeless,” reads one article. A patient in Maryland was left at a bus stop in the freezing rain, wth only a hospital gown on.

A Young Mother’s Story

Let’s paint a picture of what negligence looks like. Theresa Boland, a young pregnant mother fought tooth and nail to receive treatment. At just 30 years old, she certainly didn’t suspect a blood clot, but she knew something was wrong.

And that’s why she made her way to the ER. Her leg pain was severe and was accompanied with redness and tingling. But doctors brushed off her symptoms (at three separate ER visits) as assuperficial thrombophlebitis, sciatica, and cellulitis.  Not one incorrect diagnosis, but three! After multiple ER visits, three ultrasounds, several phone consults, and a visit to her PCP she received the correct diagnosis: acute deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or a blood clot.

“My DVT experience was terrifying and frustrating.  I cannot understand why it took a series of doctors and repeated ultrasounds to diagnose my DVT, especially since my symptoms were classic.”

-Theresa Boland

What would have happened if Theresa’s diagnosis had been delayed any further? Would Theresa and her unborn daughter have made it? Click here to read Theresa’s full account of the story.

A black and white image of a doctor's stethoscope.

ER Malpractice Can Cause Serious Injuries

Nurses and doctors play a significant role in the well-being of their patients. Generally they do a terrific job, but occasionally they make a mistake…and in emergency situations, those mistakes can be quite serious.

When medical malpractice occurs, it can result in paralysis, an diagnosed stroke, severe cardiac damage, a life threatening infection, and can produce many other issue. In the worse case scenarios, some patients even die.

What You Should Do If You’re A Victim

Medical malpractice errors can be costly, and not just in a financial sense. The emotional turmoil, alone, is so so heavy.

Bills pile up and wages are lost. How do you handle disability care, rehab, or burial costs?

It’s a lot to handle but you don’t have to go at it alone. A lawyer can fight on your behalf, and potentially help take back those financial losses and more. It certainly won’t fix everything, but it can help.

You don’t deserve to be in this situation. If your or your family member has been harmed by medical malpractice, please contact our office so that we can help you.

Justice For Military Medical Malpractice Victims (Feres Repealed)

Imagine this: You enlist in the military and spend years of your life putting your blood, sweat, and tears into your nation’s future….

And then, disaster strikes. You get injured or receive a bad diagnosis. Shouldn’t your level of commitment be met with the same level of medical treatment? 

America’s veterans deserve the best. Unfortunately, that’s not what they’ve been getting. Thanks in part to a lack of patients (most military hospitals serve young and healthy populations), surgeons aren’t able to keep up on their surgical skills. This causes surgeons to make more frequent medical errors. 

Even worse, for the last 70 years, an active member of the military hasn’t been able to file a case for medical malpractice. Without accountability, standards are bound to slip.

Thankfully, things are changing.

A woman stands with a group of people with an American flag draped over her shoulder.

The Feres Doctrine

70 years ago a law known as the Feres Doctrine was put into motion, by the Supreme Court.

This law has barred active service men and women from filing a case against the government for damages incurred against them.  Unfortunately, the law was misinterpreted and also took away active duty service member’s right to sue for medical malpractice. Who knows the number of service men and women who were either harmed or lost their life at the hands of a military physician. No one was held responsible, leaving victims without a voice for far too many years.

Thankfully a lot has changed in the last few months. Largely in part to a terminally ill soldier who wouldn’t give up his fight to see this law repealed. In the next few sections we’ll talk about this brave man and what this means for members of the military.

A Story of Tragic Neglect

This is the story of Green Beret Richard Stayskal, who fought hard on the battlefield and now fights hard for his life and to see change.

In 2017, Stayskal began having breathing troubles. “While I was sleeping I felt like I was drowning,” says Stayskal. Alarmed by his condition he checked himself into Womack Army Hospital in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. A CT Scan was ordered but doctors brushed off his concerns. A few months later, after becoming unconscious, Stayskal’s wife rushed him back to the same hospital.

Doctors re-evaluated Stayskal’s condition and the CT Scan that was done a few months prior. But get this,  medical records from the second visit reportedly indicate the staff noticed a possible mass and were going to recommend a biopsy, but never communicated any of this to Stayskal or his wife. They told Stayskal he had a minor case of pneumonia and was free to leave.

It wasn’t until his visit with a civilian  pulmonologist that he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. According to Army Times, the mass which appeared on his CT scan should have been noticed, even by a first year resident. It was that obvious. Had the diagnosis come at the initial visit, which was 6 months earlier, Stayskal’s prognosis could have been much different. 

As of November 2018, Sgt. Richard Stayskal was given a life expectancy of at least 1 year. Not nearly enough time for a man still in his 30’s with a wife and two young daughters.

A photograph of The Statue Of Liberty in New York.

One Last Fight

In a perfect world, this Green Beret wouldn’t spend any of his final days in the halls of government buildings fighting for new legislature. He’d instead be with his family, his friends, the people who he loves. But his sacrifice has been met with success….

In 2019, the House of Representatives repealed the law with a provision inserted in the National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA. Paving the way for service members across America to fight for justice. 

Under the new NDAA provision, malpractice and neglect won’t be left in the dark. Errors will soon come to light and practitioners will be held responsible for maltreatment. 

If You’re A Victim of Military Malpractice

In general doctors are good. Most are in the profession because they want to help people. But like everyone else, they should be held accountable when they make a mistake.

If you or your loved one have been harmed at the hands of a military physician or staff member please reach out to us.  Injuries related to medical, dental, or other healthcare related injuries may be eligible to seek compensation. To read our FAQs about this developing case click here.