If you believe you’ve been mistreated by your doctor, you might ask yourself “can I sue my doctor for malpractice? Do I have a case? And if I do, how do I go about it?”
Today we’re talking about bringing a doctor to court, and getting compensation for malpractice.
- What you can sue them for.
- Valid reasons to sue your doctor.
- How to prove negligence and win your malpractice lawsuit.
- The types of damages you can get compensated for.
- What to do when a doctor lies to you or harms you.
- Why holding medical professionals accountable is important.
- The most common questions about suing for medical malpractice.
- And much more.
Let’s start with a real life example.
Sherman Sizemore went to Raleigh General Hospital on Jan. 19, 2006 for what he thought would be a routine exploratory laparotomy.
But what happened in the operating room changed his life forever.
Before the surgery, the staff gave Sizemore paralytic drugs.
But for the first 16 minutes of the procedure, they neglected to turn on his inhalational anesthesia.
That meant that the 73 year-old minister and coal miner was conscious – as they operated on him. He felt every incision, and heard the doctor’s every word. But he couldn’t move or cry out for help.
Sizemore experienced overwhelming trauma, as you might imagine. After surgery, he was a different person. He couldn’t sleep, and he couldn’t bear to be alone. Two weeks after his hospital visit, he took his own life. Later on, his children sued for damages and won. They proved that staff negligence had cost their beloved father his life.
Sizemore’s story may be rare, but doctor negligence isn’t as uncommon as you might think. Medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease and cancer.
Sometimes, patients and their families don’t realize that they can sue a doctor or hospital for negligence. Or, they are unsure how to do so. But there’s no reason to be afraid. Read on to discover valid reasons for suing doctors, and how you can win the settlement you deserve.
Suing Doctors For Malpractice
What Can You Sue For?
First, let’s discuss some of the types of mistakes doctors make and what you can potentially sue them for:
- Your doctor gave you the wrong medication or dosage.
- Your physician misdiagnosed the condition or disease.
- Your physician failed to diagnose the condition or disease.
- Your doctor failed to diagnose you in a timely manner, delaying treatment.
- You were injured during surgery or treatment because of medical negligence.
- Wrongful death (a loved one dies because of negligence).
- They made errors when issuing medication.
- They didn’t follow the “standard of care” during treatment.
- They reused needles or other non-reusable equipment.
- They used defective medical devices in the surgical process.
- Your surgeon left a foreign object inside your body.
- Your surgeon operated on the wrong part of your body.
- Your surgeon performed a surgery you didn’t need.
This is a scratch on the tip of the iceberg. Mistakes happen in so many different ways, each causing their own set of trauma. When a doctor makes a mistake it can cause physical, emotional, and mental anguish. It can impact relationships, finances, and so much more. These types of mistakes can even lead to the patient suing for medical malpractice.
How Do You Prove Malpractice?
To sue your doctor for malpractice, prove:
1. You were this doctor’s patient and he or she was your doctor.
2. Your doctor made a mistake and this negligence harmed or injured you.
3. This injury resulted in damages substantial enough to receive compensation for. For example:
- Loss of income.
- Loss of future wages.
- Loss of consortium.
- Loss of life enjoyment.
- Medical expenses.
- Future medical expenses.
- Nursing costs.
- Prescription costs.
- Physical therapy expenses.
- Physical pain.
- Mental anguish.
Medical records, billing statements, receipts, wage statements, employment records, diaries, and pain journals can contribute to this process.
Successfully show these things and you can sue your doctor for malpractice. But it’s not exactly easy. To navigate the complex world of medical malpractice, your best bet is to hire an experienced and competent attorney. There are many advantages to doing so, as you’ll soon see.
The Advantages Of Using A Medical Malpractice Attorney
For many victims, getting fair compensation seems unattainable. And we get it. But when you hire a skilled medical malpractice lawyer, you’ll have someone to guide you through the entire process. They’ll explain what to expect throughout the process, and interpret the legal documents and laws as necessary.
Help compiling evidence.
A knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney can help you compile the evidence you need for your case. This will likely include medical records, for one. And specifics about your treatments (dates, records of mistakes, etc), and proof that the physician is at fault. You’ll need evidence that you or your loved one was injured because of negligence, or that they didn’t follow the “standard of care.”
Negotiation with the hospital’s insurance company, that is. For your settlement. Your lawyer will negotiate a settlement on your behalf, seeking the highest level of compensation possible. In the vast majority of medical malpractice cases, this is where the journey ends. But if not…
In the unlikely event that you go to trial, your lawyer will represent you and pursue the highest possible compensation. Up to this point, you (most likely) have not paid a dime.
Strong witness to testify on your behalf.
A good attorney will find a knowledgeable medical expert witness and other witnesses as needed, to testify on your behalf.
Your attorney will make sure all necessary paperwork is completed and turned in properly and on time.
No need to pay unless you win.
The best part? Most medical malpractice lawyers work on a contingency basis. This means that you won’t have to pay any money out of pocket unless you win your case. So no need to worry about finances either!
5 Reasons To Sue Your Doctor Or Hospital
When doctors commit malpractice, it can be challenging to face them directly. Maybe you’re a bit too kind and don’t want to ruin their day. Plus, what if your injury was an honest mistake? Nobody does stuff like that on purpose, right? 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 their “money back.” “Sorry I couldn’t give you the smooth and successful surgery you paid for. Here’s $X,XXX,XXX to cover what you paid, and the damage and years of nightmares, PTSD, and other problems we caused.”
1 – Medical lawsuits help keep doctors honest.
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.
2 – Holding doctors accountable is healthy.
Many people resist suing for malpractice. Who wants to be the reason their doctor loses their job and respect as a medical professional? But remember, you and your family come first in this relationship. If you or a loved one has been injured, the medical professional responsible should be held accountable. If not for you, then for others. Because if they aren’t, 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.
3 – Medical bills aren’t exactly cheap.
Now that we’ve covered that, consider yourself. Medical bills are expensive, especially when you find yourself missing work because of an injury caused by negligence. 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.
4 – Suing your doctor doesn’t have to break the bank.
Are you scared to hire a malpractice lawyer because you think you might lose a lot of money? 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. And again, you can work on a contingency fee basis, which means you only pay if you win your case! Learn more about suing your doctor in our article Can I Sue My Doctor For Not Helping Me?
5 – A small mistake can be a very big deal.
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.
What Kinds of Damages Can You Sue A Doctor For?
You can recover many types of damages when suing a doctor for malpractice. These fall under the umbrella of these categories:
- General damages. (For pain and suffering, loss of future income.)
- Special damages. (Medical bills, loss of past income.)
Sometimes, victims can recover punitive damages. They’re able to when they prove that their health care providers knew that their actions were harmful.
The amount you are awarded will depend on the specifics of your case. If you believe that you or a loved one are a victim of doctor negligence, contact Hampton & King for a free consultation to discuss your case. Our attorneys will explain the ins and outs of suing a doctor. They’ll use their medical malpractice expertise to help you win the compensation you deserve.
Now that we’ve covered the reasons, let’s address some of the most commonly asked questions about suing doctors.
FAQs About Suing Your Doctor
Do doctors lie to patients, and what do I do if my doctor lies to me?
Sadly, lies are fairly commonplace in the doctor-patient relationship. Many doctors tell half-truths, minimize problems, or give over simplified explanations. Studies have shown that many outright lie or hide mistakes. If you believe your doctor is lying to you, consider speaking with a medical malpractice lawyer to figure out your options. You may be pleasantly surprised with your rights.
How do I file a lawsuit against a doctor?
The easiest answer to this question? Go straight to the source. Call the best medical malpractice lawyer in your area and find out if you have a case, and what needs to be done if you do. Easy peasy. That said, the first step will be to report the doctor to your state’s medical complaint board. Second, you’ll start the investigation with your lawyer, and then third, file your malpractice suit against the doctor. Here’s our guide to filing a malpractice lawsuit.
Can you sue a doctor for lying?
When doctors lie, it may point to medical malpractice. You can sue your doctor for lying if your lawyers can prove a breach of duty of care. A doctor’s duty of care states that the healthcare provider must provide information to patients for informed consent. However, some doctors deliberately lie to their patients, causing them harm in the process. While some lies are not exactly harmful, some are malicious enough to cause heavy damage.
If you think your doctor lied to you, contact a medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your options. (If you were harmed because of the lie or omission, in particular.) Again, you may be surprised with your options.
Should you sue your doctor?
Yes! Kidding. It depends of course. You have to be able to show that the doctor harmed you (or a loved one) because he or she was incompetent. Let’s say they operated on the wrong part of your body, prescribed the wrong medication, or failed to inform you about a significant risk. And you were injured as a result. You probably should sue. To find out if you have a case and should sue your doctor, read this.
How long can you wait to sue a physician?
Two years is usually the rule for most states, and every state gives you at least one year. You typically have two years from the day the malpractice happened to file. In Texas for example, you’d have at least two years, but in some cases, 6 years.
Why is it so hard to sue a doctor?
One reason it can seem difficult to sue your doctor is because you, as the victim, have to provide the proof. The doctor is innocent until proven guilty. Here’s something many don’t know (until they experience it). A good medical malpractice lawyer helps you provide that proof — your attorney should bear the lion’s share of the work.
Can you sue a doctor without a lawyer?
Yes. But there’s a bazillion reasons not to. If you’re interested in this route, there’s nothing wrong with looking into it more. But in most cases, suing your doctor without a lawyer is more or less like building the Rainbow Bridge without an engineer.
What kind of attorney do I need to sue a medical professional?
You need a medical malpractice lawyer to help you bring a negligent doctor to justice. A good medical malpractice lawyer will work hard to get you well-deserved compensation. Why a medical malpractice lawyer? They’re specially trained to handle medical malpractice cases. If you use another type of lawyer to sue a doctor, you’re less likely to win the case.
Can a doctor just stop treating you?
Yes, technically your doctor can stop treating you for any reason, as long as it’s non-discriminatory. But that said, your doctor has to follow the right protocol. You have the right to walk away whenever you want, but your doctor doesn’t. Your doctor has to take the right steps, and if he or she doesn’t, you may be able to sue them for malpractice.
What to do if a doctor mistreats you?
Doctors exist to serve their patients by treating them properly. Mistreating is the precise opposite of their job. They’re here to serve, not to bully, talk down to, or harm people. So if a doctor mistreats you, they’ve violated their hippocratic oath (“first, do no harm”) and need to be held accountable. If they’re rude, consider tactfully correcting them. Maybe even remind them of their duty. If the problem is more severe, like negligence or malpractice, call a medical malpractice attorney. That way, you can discuss your options, and take action.
Can suing actually be a good thing?
A successful lawsuit lessens your financial burdens. That said, medical malpractice cases serve other vital purposes. 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 suffer from malpractice like you did.
Secondly, more doctors held accountable = less malpractice as a nation. You suing your doctor for malpractice contributes significantly to the people around you. It helps create safer hospitals and medical centers across the nation. Filing a lawsuit can:
- Alleviate your financial burden.
- Offer you a chance to find peace of mind.
- Help others avoid negligent doctors.
- Receive the justice you deserve.
Can you sue a physician personally?
If your physician has been negligent with your treatment and/or diagnosis, you can sue them personally, for malpractice. Again, you have to be able to show that your physician harmed you in a way that a competent physician wouldn’t have in the same situation. But yes, you can sue the negligent individual, not just the hospital.
Can you sue a doctor for negligence on behalf of a patient?
Generally, only victims of medical malpractice are liable to sue a doctor for medical negligence or malpractice. That said, exceptions are made if the patient is a minor or the patient has passed away.
If the patient passed away, the patient’s next of kin can sue the doctor or hospital on behalf of the patient. But if the patient is a child, the child’s legal guardian or parents have express permission to sue on behalf of the child.