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.

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.

The Craziest Objects Left Inside People’s Bodies After Surgery

A sponge, gauze, scissors…

Items that should be left on the surgical tray,  NOT  in your body.

We get it, some people aren’t phased by the sight of blood and can even watch a surgical video without flinching.

But if you’re like the majority of people, you look away. When going in for surgery you may ask how long your surgery will be or what recovery’s like. But the rest…well you leave that to the medical staff. You don’t want all of the spine tingling details. You expect surgery to go smooth. To get in and out and have a nice place to rest your head while you recoup.

A girl lays comfortably in bed full of blankets and pillows.

What you don’t expect is to experience stomach pain and bloating for years and later find out two surgical sponges were left behind during your C-Section. Or come to find out your doctor left behind a towel, that’s now intertwined with your intestines…what?!

Here’s a few of the craziest surgical tales we’ve heard yet.

Missing Retractor

Unless you’re in the medical field, you probably don’t know what a surgical retractor is. Basically it’s a tool doctors use to keep your incision open and to hold back tissue and other organs.

Patient Donald Church knows all too well about these large, metal devices. It’s been nearly twenty years since his surgery, but it’s still one of the wildest stories yet.

Mr. Church’s surgeon left a 12 inch retractor in his abdomen. 12 inches! Can you imagine the misery he must have been going through? Being constantly poked and prodded by a piece of metal. According to Church it was agonizing:

There were days when I would just roll up on the floor in the bathroom and sob, because I was in so much pain. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.

Donald Church

Mr. Church voiced his concerns to his surgeon, but was told that pain post surgery was normal. Even thirty days after surgery, he was still communicating his concerns to no avail. Thankfully his family physician noticed a strange lump in Church’s chest during a routine exam. An x-ray was ordered which clearly showed the retractor. Church lived to share his story, and received some much deserved compensation for his troubles.

Infection Leads to Death

Not all stories have a happy ending. That’s why medical errors are such a huge issue that needs to be addressed. Sometimes people lose their lives because of careless mistakes.

In this story, a mother of three lost hers.

Geraldine Nicholson went in for surgery to have cancer removed. Scary enough, right? But weeks later she learned a surgical sponge had been left in her body from surgery. The sponge was removed, but Ms. Nicholson dealt with various infections spanning a year, because of it.

Cancer treatment saves lives but it also wreaks havoc on your immune system. Even the most mild infection can be life threatening. Because of the sponge’s aftermath, Geraldine wasn’t able to receive the chemotherapy and radiation she needed. She wasn’t left with a fighting chance. All because of a surgical error. Like others, she lost her life because of someone else’s mistake.

Surgical tools with surgeons performing surgery in the background.

Missing Needle

For many, there’s no surgery as scary as open heart.  It’s long and intense, and just seems so vulnerable. Imagine making it through a 9 hour surgery only to learn that a needle has been left somewhere in your body. Unlike some cases, at least the doctor acknowledged their mistake and tried to make it right, but needles aren’t easy to find. There’s a reason for the adage, “Like looking for a needle in a haystack.” Some things are nearly impossible to find.

Just a month after surgery Mr. Burns passed away because of complications from the needle. Only after an autopsy was performed was the tiny but devastating tool found.

Conclusion

According to the CDC there are an estimated 1,500 cases each year of foreign entities being left behind during surgery each year. The most common items are sponges and surgical instruments. Usually poor communication and organization are the culprit for such mistakes.

In most hospitals there are standard precautions in place to avoid errors like these. Such as the scrub nurse counting the number of sponges and instruments, both before surgery and after.

Mistakes happen. There will always be human error, but you shouldn’t be penalized because someone else made a mistake. Medical malpractice affects not only quality of life, but in some cases duration.

You are your best advocate. If someone treated you wrong, reach out to someone who can help.

 

Wrongful Death Guide: Proof, Compensation, the Attorney & More

What No Family Should Experience

Every day in the Houston area, children run and tumble on school playgrounds. Recess is a time for kids to be kids. Releasing their pent up energy, kicking around a ball or two, or maybe even playing make believe. Every once in a while though, things get out of hand and accidents occur. Most of the time it’s a minor scrape or cut. At times though, things such as a broken bone or more serious injury occur. A recess romp rarely turns into a fatal accident, but occasionally the unthinkable occurs.

Last spring at John W. Carpenter elementary school, a 6-year-old boy from Dallas collided with a playground pole. His parents took him to the hospital. While there hospital staff performed x-rays and diagnosed him with constipation. They said it was okay to go home.  Several hours later, the boy lost consciousness. His parents called 911, but the boy died before the ambulance could even arrive at the hospital.

Was there a medical mistake or a misdiagnosis of a fatal condition? According to the family, the negligence that took place was deliberate. The hospital, however, denies this accusation. The family claims that the hospital staff misused an enema and tried to cover up the internal damage that was caused.

No parent wants to ponder the idea of wrongful death amidst tragedy, but legal action is one way that parents can hold negligent professionals accountable. In hospitals, misdiagnosis errors can come about in many ways, from rushed lab work to bad communication between staff. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can find the source of negligence in a misdiagnosis incident. They help families in moving forward in the process.

Staggering Statistics

Doctor stands with arms folded while holding a stethoscope

According to a new study published in the BMJ — formerly the British Medical Journal — researchers have discovered that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States*, trailing only heart disease and cancer.

Based on the results of the study, medical errors result in the wrongful death of roughly 251,000 people each year. That is over 100,000 more than the next highest leading causes of death, respiratory disease (147,000), accidents (136,000), and stroke (133,000).

These statistics are alarming. The 250,000 death-toll number means that about 700 deaths occur each day— which is 9.5% of all annual deaths in the nation. Did you know that The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn’t have any standards in place that require medical professionals to specify medical errors that may have contributed to a patient’s cause of death? Things need to change.

*The study was led by Dr. Martin Makary, a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, whose investigation included communication breakdowns, system errors, surgical errors, emergency room errors, medication errors, anesthesia errors, and more. The study also includes medical “never events.”  Events where staff operate on the wrong person, perform surgery on the the wrong body part, or even leave a foreign object in a patient, after surgery.

Who can speak for victims most effectively in a wrongful death?

Stack of books with glasses on top

Families of a deceased victim often present a strong voice for their loved one’s interests, but holding the guilty staff member or hospital accountable can be difficult.

Medical malpractice lawsuits require experts in the medical field. These professionals can confirm whether you have a case or not.  Even the smallest  details can be the difference between getting compensation or not.

In addition, medically-related lawsuits are often against relatively powerful opponents, such as hospitals, medical device manufacturers, or respected physicians. With several decades of experience going up against these tough adversaries in court, the law firm of Hampton & King repeatedly fights and wins – to hold those guilty, accountable for wrongful deaths. Our firm has handled countless types of medical negligence cases over the years, from fatal diagnostic errors to deadly surgical mistakes. This wide range of cases has given the attorneys at our firm the winning edge.  Successfully advocating for a victim’s interests in court, and seeking justice.

Following the loss of a loved one in a medical sitting, it can be hard to consider legal action. Still, getting the right information about the available options after a fatal accident is often a necessary and helpful step.

What we need to prove in a wrongful death suit?

Man extending his hand to help

When families experience the loss of a loved one in a medical sitting, countless questions are likely to arise if wrongful death is suspected.

There are several key components that add up to a wrongful death. First, we figure out if the reason for death was another person’s negligence, or something else. In healthcare, this can be very complex. Especially if the deceased had existing health conditions or if they have had numerous treatments by medical professionals.  Frequently, expert opinions from those with proven medical knowledge must be introduced in order to explain the cause of death.

Another crucial element is the damage of death inflicted on family members. Of course, the death of a loved one is always emotionally traumatic, there’s no question about that. But there’s often financial damages, and other damages as well. If the deceased was a wage-earner, for example, that person’s death can throw a family’s financial situation into turmoil. All harm must be considered.

While these important factors must be met in order to bring forth a wrongful
death suit, there are countless aspects of successful lawsuits. In addition to the complex nature of wrongful death suits, there also are important deadlines for filing such suits; a Houston medical malpractice attorney can help a family understand the timeline for their case.

At Hampton & King, we know the devastation that medical errors causes victims and their families. It is important to have dedicated and committed representation on their side.  To help hold health care providers accountable for their actions. Call our Houston medical malpractice attorneys and discuss your potential claim with our devoted team today. We may be able to help you seek the compensation you deserve and obtain justice on your behalf.

How to Differentiate Between Adverse Events and Malpractice

Emergency sign showing directions to the main entrance of hospital.

Undergoing any major medical procedure can be intimidating. There are inherent risks with some surgeries or treatments that doctors cannot eliminate. They will still recommend the procedures if they believe it is the only solution. Similarly, taking pharmaceutical drugs can also have side effects that are not pleasant. Many individuals believe that because they endured pain and suffering after a surgery or after ingesting medicine, they have grounds for suing. However, it is not that simple.
Continue reading How to Differentiate Between Adverse Events and Malpractice