I Signed A Medical Consent Form. Can I Still Sue?

Ever wonder if those pesky medical forms you sign before surgery hold up in court? You’re not alone. 

Let’s say you recently underwent a medical procedure that didn’t go as planned. Before the operation, you vaguely remember someone asking you to sign something. It was probably an informed consent form. You were told that it was mandatory and in order to have surgery, you’d have to sign it. Like most human beings in your situation, you sign without reading every minute detail. You trust your doctor, you’re sure they have your best interests at heart, and you desperately need this surgery to get better. 

Sadly, something went wrong. Neither the doctor or hospital wants to take responsibility. You threaten to sue and guess what appears seemingly out of nowhere? That pesky liability waiver with your messy signature staring back at you.

Can you still pursue legal action or is the end of the story? Keep reading to find out!

A man with a ring on his finger signs a medical form.

So WHAT Is An Informed Consent Form?

An informed consent form is a medical document that indicates your consent to undergo a medical procedure. It also informs you of your privacy rights and protects healthcare professionals from legal action if death or injury occurs.

Hold on. So you’re saying I can’t sue my doctor even though they were careless and injured me?

Sounds a bit callous, huh? 

We know it’s frustrating to think that a doctor can literally get away with murder just because of a signature. The good news is, that’s not the case! You still have legal rights and we’re here to fill you in on the details.

Situations Where You Can Still Sue

There are scenarios where a signed form just isn’t going to hold up in court, which is good news for you. Let’s discuss what situations nullify this (sometimes) pesky document.

Someone Was Negligent

We’ve all heard those horror stories where a doctor performed surgery on the wrong body part or anesthesia didn’t kick in. Or how about when a doctor leaves a surgical instrument inside of a patient’s abdomen? In situations like this, it’s pretty obvious that the doctor was negligent. 

But how does this relate to signing a medical consent form?

Well, it’s simple. If you can prove that your healthcare provider was grossly negligent during a medical procedure, then the form can be thrown out. The whole purpose of a surgery consent form is to make sure you’re aware of possible risks, and it’s also there to protect doctors. But we’re talking about protecting doctors that make the right decisions, yet a patient still dies or is injured by no fault of the doctor. Not the ones that are negligent! 

Your Doctor Didn’t Follow Medical Protocol

Healthcare professionals are guided by what’s considered the standard of care. Basically, there are guidelines that the medical profession deems reasonable for certain medical conditions and diseases. For instance, the standard of care for a cancer patient may involve surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.

Now, let’s assume that during surgery, your doctor strays from normal practices and opts to try out a new technique he heard about. And unfortunately for you, it makes things worse.  In cases like this, the surgery consent form holds no weight. You are entitled to sue the doctor for turning you into a guinea pig without your consent. 

You Weren’t Given The Medical Facts

Before you go into a procedure, it’s your right to be made fully aware of not only the benefits but the risks too. Now let’s jog your memory a bit, do you remember if the following things occurred prior to your procedure?

► Did the hospital staff fully inform you of the dangers involved in this procedure? 

► Did your doctor try to minimize the risks or even neglect to mention them?

► Was your physician’s main concern cutting you open rather than hearing your worries and concerns?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you may have grounds to sue. 

A doctor looks at a computer screen to monitor a patient's condition during surgery.

Final Thoughts 

We hope this post was able to give you a little sigh of relief. That even though you signed an informed consent form before surgery, you still have legal rights. Medical malpractice and negligence are completely unacceptable and thankfully the court system agrees.

With that said, what do you do next?

The first step is always to get legal counsel. Simply get in touch with a medical malpractice lawyer (over here!) We’ll untangle this mess, do what we can to help you move on, and fight on your behalf for the compensation you deserve. 

Is Military Healthcare Worse Than Civilian Care?

Each day, the brave men and women of our armed forces suit up to protect our freedom. A job that deserves a special kind of gratitude and respect. We’d like to believe that we’ve come a long way in taking care of our heroes and in many ways we have…

But the truth is, in a place where everyone should feel safe, our military has in a lot of ways been disregarded. We’re talking about the care they receive at military hospitals and facilities.

While the typical civilian hospital treats the most sick and weak of the population, military base hospitals treat the most healthy. Military surgeons in non-combat zones often lack the necessary skills to save lives because they perform surgery enough. This is a problem. Follow along, as we explain why this is happening and what you can do if you’re a victim.

Military Healthcare – A Broken System?

Most service members are in the prime of their lives and in peak physical condition, but this leaves military surgeons with little experience, a terrifying prospect for a potential patient.  According to U.S. News,

“While civilian surgeons may perform as many as 500 operations every year, military surgeons usually perform under 100.”

That’s less than 20% of their civilian counterparts. What happens when our soldiers are on the operating table? Also, let’s not forget that due to healthcare coverage, military families are often treated at a military hospital as well. Did you know that military babies are twice as likely to experience a birth injury? Surely, our heroes and their families deserve the same level of care and odds of survival as civilians do.

The military healthcare system is in need of repair.

A room full of hospitals beds is empty without any patients.

A Tale Of Military Medical Malpractice

So we know the level of care is an issue, but so is transparency. In many of the stories you hear, negligence within the military was never disclosed. That was the case for Private Ashley Shelton.

Pvt. Shelton was deployed to Afghanistan after being told that the 5 pregnancy tests that showed positive for pregnancy were due to false positives. Dr. Jonathan Richard Coyle, who was in charge of pre-deployment screening told Shelton the false-positives were because of mice exposure.

After working 3 months in a combat zone and exposed to harmful chemicals, Shelton gave birth to her son, Benjamin, on August 15th, 2012, without even knowing she was pregnant.

While in the womb, Benjamin was exposed to anthrax and other vaccinations that were required for Pvt. Shelton to be deployed, and received no prenatal care. Benjamin suffers from congenital birth defects. The U.S. Army has yet to recognize the mistake that led to a soldier giving birth in a combat zone in Afghanistan. Pvt. Shelton and Benjamin received no compensation from the government for this malpractice.

What Is Medical Malpractice & Negligence?

Whether a patient is in the military or not shouldn’t matter when they step foot in a medical facility. Every patient deserves quality care, and the standards should be the same. In case you’re wondering if your situation was the result of malpractice or negligence, let’s first discuss what the two terms mean.

These are the most common types of medical malpractice and negligence:

► Failure to diagnose – This is when a doctor misses your diagnosis or even incorrectly diagnoses you with a different condition.

► Incorrect treatment – If a competent doctor would have taken a different treatment path, that could be malpractice. This also includes a doctor choosing the right treatment, but then administering it incorrectly.

► Failure to warn a patient of the risks – Every patient should know the possible risks associated with a procedure or medication so they can make an informed decision.

► Medical errors – This may include medication mistakes, or surgical mishaps, among other errors.

The distinction between malpractice and negligence may seem slight, but in general it all boils down to intent. If your doctor unknowingly makes a mistake that’s often negligence. But if your doctor makes a choice and is aware of possible consequences, that’s considered malpractice.

A little girl spins around in circles while holding an American flag.

A Change To The Feres Doctrine

Until a recent revision to the “Feres Doctrine,” service members were unable to sue the government for military medical care malpractice altogether. For 70 years, a mistake could occur and it be swept under the rug.  Because of this hard fought for amendment, service members can now seek compensation for damages, and regain their voice.

If you or a loved one has been injured by medical malpractice or negligence in a non-combat military facility, now is the time to act. Some cases may be retroactive to 2018. We are eager to help you seek the justice you deserve.

Protect Yourself Against Skin Cancer & A Missed Diagnosis

Ah it’s finally spring…the time of year loved by almost everyone!

The trees green, the flowers bloom, and animals emerge from their winter beds. As the temperature rises, most of us are eager to be kissed by the rays of the sun; turning our skin golden and freckling our noses.

Excited to end the chapter of yet another cold winter, no one wants to be the bringer of bad news, but the truth is…the sun isn’t always our friend.

Did you know that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. but is also the most preventable? In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness month, we’d like to share with you some helpful tips and tricks for staying safe this season.

The Risk Factors For Skin Cancer

As with any disease, certain characteristics and habits can affect your likelihood of getting them. Skin cancer is no different. Here’s a list of important risk factors you should keep in mind before basking in the sun:

Skin Tone – Fair and freckled friends, you’re at a higher risk, so you’ll need to give your skin a little extra care to keep it safe!

Smoking – If you’re a smoker, you know it’s causing damage to your lungs, but you should also know that it increases your risk of skin cancer too.

Previous Skin Cancer Diagnosis – Unfortunately, this cancer is the lightning that often strikes twice. Examinations are crucial, especially if you have had skin cancer before.

Ultraviolet Exposure – This is far and away the most common cause of skin cancer but there’s so much we can do to reduce the harm!

Even with greater risk, there are many measures you can take to help protect your skin. Follow along as we share helpful recommendations.

Four women filled with excitement all jump in the air at the same time near the ocean.

How To Protect Your Skin 

Your skin is your body’s largest organ. Keep that in mind as you enjoy your favorite warm weather activities and give your skin the care and protection it deserves. To limit harmful damage, consider doing the following:

Limit Exposure – Avoid being in the sun for an extended period of time, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are the most harmful. 

Keep From Burning– Having five or more sunburns at any point in your life doubles your risk for melanoma. 

Use Sunscreen – Experts recommend using sunscreen each and every day, with an SPF of 30 or even higher.

Self-Examinations – Examine your skin in its entirety once a month. “What am I looking for?” you may ask. Typically: asymmetrical or unusually large moles, any changes in moles, and spots on your skin that don’t heal within several weeks.

Seek Professional Help – Enlist an expert for a skin exam on a yearly basis to make sure your skin is healthy and happy! And if for some reason your doctor doesn’t take your concerns seriously, visit a different one. 

Be Your Own Advocate

Seeking guidance from your doctor, or even a dermatologist is always a good idea. But what if they don’t listen?

Picture this: You notice a new mole on your chin. You know what to look for, so you keep an eye on it. A month goes by, and it only seems to be getting bigger. You go to your primary care physician and they brush it off, mumbling about how the internet has made everyone think they’re a doctor. 

But you remember that your sister had a melanoma removed a few years ago. This is the fork in the road, do you listen to your doctor? After all, they are one of the few figures we’re taught to listen to without question. Do you hope that they’re right and that you’re just overreacting? 

NO, advocate for yourself.  Ask your friends and family questions, do your research, trust your gut, and most importantly get a second opinion.

Cancer is often missed because of faulty screening, failure to correctly read test results, and failure to investigate family history among other things.

You may feel rude or uncomfortable seeking a second opinion, but this could be a matter of life or death. And you deserve better! 

A girl with freckles on her nose and cheeks stares into the camera.

Staying Safe And Protecting Your Rights

Skin cancer can be very treatable, especially when caught early. Taking heed to the Cancer Society’s recommendations is the smartest thing you can do to protect your skin, and decrease your odds of developing skin cancer.

We also want to reiterate the importance of seeking professional advice. If you or your loved one sought treatment and a healthcare professional failed to treat you, reach out to us. No family should deal with the loss of a loved one because of medical malpractice or negligence.

You deserve to be listened to and taken seriously. Please reach out to us, if you feel you or a family member were misdiagnosed or mistreated. We’re eager to help, and get to the bottom of this.

 

 

Why the U.S. Is Such A Dangerous Place To Give Birth

This might surprise you, but our great nation isn’t so great at keeping mothers and infants safe while giving birth. Take a look at these facts:

► More than 50,000 U.S. women suffer injuries each year while bringing their children into the world. 

► Almost 700 die during or shortly after delivery. (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) 

► The most recent maternal mortality rate (2018) was a whopping 17.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

These numbers put the US dead last among other wealthy developed countries. America ranks 55th in the world, according to the World Health Organization’s maternal mortality ranking. 

What does this mean? It means we lag behind poorer countries like Lithuania, Kuwait and Kazakhstan. It means that with all its wealth and prowess, the U.S. is the most dangerous developed country for giving birth. 

Here’s another surprising fact. Most countries have lowered or flatlined their maternal mortality rates over the years.  America’s rate has risen. The U.S. is one of only two developed nations whose maternal mortality rates have increased since 1990. The other is Serbia. 

A baby girl with a blanket on top of her head looks straight into the camera.

The Culprit

What’s the worst part about all these statistics? The fact that 3 out of 5 of childbirth-related deaths are preventable

Mothers should not die from common delivery complications. Doctors don’t need expensive procedures or new technology to help them. All they need to do is perform basic tasks that experts have been recommending for years. 

So why do the numbers keep rising? Last year, US Today dug through thousands of hospital records. They interviewed victims of botched deliveries to find some answers. This is what they discovered:

► The biggest culprits of maternal death are internal bleeding and strokes caused by high blood pressure. These are preventable!

► Hospital staff often ignore standard medical practice when treating mothers. They should be calculating blood loss instead of “eye-balling” it. They should administer medication for high blood pressure right away to prevent strokes. 

Unnecessary or botched C-sections are a leading cause of injury.

► Malpractice is widespread. It occurs in tiny, rural hospitals with few resources. It happens in the biggest birthing centers boasting the best technology and staff. 

► Data for maternal deaths exists. But the US doesn’t currently track childbirth injuries.

“Your wife’s just not a priority right now…”

Kira Johnson and her husband Charles chose what they assumed was one of America’s best hospitals to deliver their second son in April 2016. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles treated celebrities. So when the two eager parents arrived for Kira’s scheduled C-section, they never expected anything to go wrong. 

Sure enough, Langston Emile Johnson emerged healthy and happy. His mother was doing well. Soon, she drifted off to sleep. 

But hours later, Johnson noticed blood in Kira’s catheter. He mentioned it to a nurse, but no one changed the catheter until an hour and a half later. An ultrasound revealed internal bleeding, and doctors ordered a CT scan. Meanwhile, Kira was shivering uncontrollably, her skin deathly pale. Johnson begged staff to speed up the CT scan, but they told him, “Sir, your wife’s just not a priority right now.”

By the time doctors finally recognized Kira’s dire condition, it was too late. Her abdomen had completely filled with blood. She died during emergency surgery, twelve hours after giving birth. 

Charles later discovered that surgeons had nicked Kira’s bladder during the C-section. He filed and settled a medical malpractice lawsuit against Cedars-Sinai. Later, he told his story during March for Moms in Washington, D.C. Today, he continues to advocate for change. 

“There is nothing I can do to bring Kira back,” Johnson said. “But what I can do is to fight as hard as I possibly can to make sure we send mothers home with their babies.”

A husband and wife smile at one another as they hold their newborn baby.

Everyone’s At Risk, Even The Wealthy

Actor Dennis Quaid and his wife Kimberly’s case proves that medical malpractice before and after birth can happen to anyone, even the rich and famous. In 2007, their twins developed staph infections shortly after birth. Doctors prescribed Heparin, but the pediatric unit administered an adult dose of the drug—1000 times the safe amount for infants. Staff rushed them to the intensive care unit.

When the Quaids called the hospital to check on the twins’ condition, the staff lied and told them they were doing fine. But when they came in the next day, they found their precious children in critical condition. 

The twins recovered from the overdose about two weeks later, but the Quaids were understandably livid. They sued the hospital and won $750,000.

Not everyone is lucky to survive those kinds of errors. A similar drug snafu killed three premature babies at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. The cases are countless. 

American hospitals must do more to reduce the maternal and infant mortality and injury rate. Hospitals need to train their staff members better. Federal agencies need to do more to ensure that hospital staff follow best safety practices. But until that happens, it’s up to individuals to advocate for better care. 

If you (or a loved one) believe you have suffered from birth injury medical malpractice, we can help! Contact us here.

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.

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.