It’s a loaded question. To prove negligence, you’ll need medical records, perhaps testimonies, evidence of the negligence and your injury. But we’ll get to that soon. Let’s start at the beginning.
You put your life and health in a doctor’s or hospital’s hands. And they let you down. You’re not heading down the road to healing like you thought you would be by now. Instead, you find yourself limping down a twisted path of new injuries and medical bills. And it’s all because of the medical staff’s mistakes. Now you’re wondering if you can sue for negligence. We’ll help you answer that question below.
Can I Sue For Medical Negligence? Here’s What You Should Know
Thinking about filing a lawsuit because of your doctor’s negligence? Here’s what you should know. Medical negligence has a specific definition under the law. You can’t sue your doctor just because you’re not happy with the outcome of your treatment. They must have done something legally negligent.
But what is medical negligence? Here’s how the law defines it:
- Medical negligence is when a medical professional breaches the “standard of care”.
- The “standard of care” is the protocol that any competent doctor should follow in a given situation.
- Medical negligence can take many forms. For example:
When Is Suing For Medical Negligence Possible?
Let’s say your doctor made an obvious mistake. They didn’t look at your charts, and prescribed the wrong medicine. Then you had a severe allergic reaction. Now you’re wondering if you can sue, to recoup your medical expenses, and to seek justice.
The short answer is, yes. If it’s clear that your doctor was negligent, and that negligence led to harm. Let’s say it is – the allergic reaction left your body with permanent scars and damage. Your medical bills are piling up. You have grounds to sue, and the hospital may offer you a settlement. If not, you might take your case to court.
When filing a lawsuit, there are certain things you must prove:
- Your doctor treated you. (Meaning you had actual appointments with the doctor and hired them. You can’t sue a doctor after following bad advice she gave on twitter).
- The doctor did something negligent. (Either by action or inaction).
- The doctor’s negligence harmed you. (You must prove that your injuries were a direct result of the negligence acts. It must be clear that your injuries don’t stem from underlying conditions you have or had).
You can prove the above conditions are true by supplying medical records. You’ll also need expert testimony from a doctor who wasn’t involved in your case. The expert can give their opinion on what the standard of care should have been in your situation.
This is one reason why it’s so important to hire a lawyer when suing for medical negligence. Lawyers can help you get your hands on your medical records. They also have access to the medical experts you’ll need to prove your case.
Can I Sue At Any Time?
That’s a tricky question. There’s one more caveat to suing for medical negligence that you may not have thought of. There’s a time limit!
So no, technically you can’t sue any time you want. You should sue as soon as possible.
The time limit for suing for medical negligence is two or three years in most US states. This is called the “statute of limitations”. You have to file your claim before time runs out.
This can be two or three years from:
- The day you were injured from medical negligence.
- OR the day you discovered your injury.
In special circumstances, the statute of limitations may be extended. For example, there are exceptions for people with mental disabilities. Also, when a child is harmed by medical negligence, the time limit doesn’t start until their 18th birthday. Speak with a medical malpractice lawyer to find out if you’re still within the time frame to file a claim.
Suing For Negligence: The Process
Before filing your lawsuit, you probably want to know what you’re getting yourself into. So what does the process look like? It varies by case. But here’s what you can expect in general:
- First, check the statute of limitations. There’s a few ways you can do this. If you’re in Texas, you can give us a call at Hampton & King. We’ll give you the most up-to-date information. If you’re in another state, you can ask your public law library or even Mr. Google for some general information. But it’s best to consult a lawyer for information about your specific case.
- Determine who you want to sue. Who was the negligent party? Was it a surgeon? A nurse? You’ll need to figure out exactly what happened, and who did it. Check your medical records. It may be in the details. Sometimes people ask us about suing the hospital. The short answer is, it’s possible. For example, let’s say you went to the hospital for a routine operation. While there, you came down with a horrible infection thanks to the hospital’s conditions. The infection almost cost you your life, and it made your hospital bills go sky high. Who’s responsible? That might be a case where you would sue the hospital.
- Hire a medical malpractice attorney. The next step is to consult a lawyer. If your lawyer determines you do have a case, they’ll file a complaint with your state court.
- Enter the discovery phase. Your legal team will enter the “discovery phase”. This involves gathering evidence to support your case.
- Accept a settlement or go to trial. The defendant (the negligent doctor or hospital) might offer a settlement. 9 out of 10 times, the medical provider will settle out of court.
If you don’t accept this settlement, or there is no offer made, it’s trial time. A jury will decide who wins your case.
Can File a Lawsuit Without An Attorney?
Yes, the law does allow you to represent yourself. But there’s a lot to consider. It can be a long, difficult road full of potholes, even with a lawyer. And of course it’s even trickier to traverse on your own.
Take the following into account before you make a decision:
- Most medical negligence lawyers work on a “no win, no fee” basis. If you don’t get a pay out, neither do they. In that case, you have nothing to lose by hiring an attorney, and everything to win.
- Malpractice is a complex area of law. Even if you believe you have a “cut and dry” case, you have to prove without a shadow of a doubt that negligence occurred. This is hard to do.
- You must face the defendant’s lawyers. Your doctor or hospital (or their insurance company) has access to savvy lawyers who know the law top to bottom. They will fight tooth and nail to refute your case and protect their own interests.
- Most patients or families who are victims of malpractice have neither the energy nor the resources to fight for the compensation they deserve.
- Lawyers have access to medical experts. You’ll need expert opinions to prove that your doctor’s actions were negligent.
- Medical malpractice lawyers can often obtain medical records much faster than patients can.
- Research has shown that hiring a lawyer greatly improves your chances of obtaining a settlement or winning your case.
Suing for medical negligence isn’t something you should attempt on your own. Nor is it necessary. Contact the qualified, compassionate lawyers at Hampton & King here.
We’re ready to employ our expertise on your behalf and get justice for your family. We work on a contingency fee basis, so there’s no risk for you. Call us now to get started!