Everyone relies on doctors, nurses, hospitals and other medical professionals to treat us when we are suffering from a health condition. Most medical providers competently perform their jobs day-in and day-out. However, healthcare professionals can still make human mistakes.
Not every mistake by a medical professional rises to the level of medical malpractice. But when a healthcare provider fails to act according to the applicable standard of care owed to you and you suffer harm and damages because of that medical mistake, you may be entitled to pursue a claim of compensation. A medical malpractice claim can be brought against the negligent medical providers responsible for your harm and suffering.
If you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice in Brockton or elsewhere in Massachusetts, reach out to The Law Offices of Gerald J. Noonan today. We are a family-run firm that has provided quality legal representation for more than three decades.
At your initial, free consultation, we’ll provide you with a straightforward assessment of your case. We can review your legal options and if you hire us, we will work aggressively to get you the justice you deserve.
Contact us today to set up your no-obligation case review with a medical malpractice lawyer in Brockton. Learn how our firm may be able to help you and your family recover compensation from medical negligence.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Doctors take an oath to do no harm as part of their medical training. Medical professionals should take care of their patients without causing injury or damage. Unfortunately, doctors and other medical personnel sometimes harm patient through lack of skill, misjudgments, inaccurate diagnoses or many other possible reasons.
“Medical malpractice” is the failure to exercise a proper amount of professional care that results in an injury, damage or loss to the patient.
Medical malpractice cases involve a wide range of injuries and damage, and the complex nature of medical interventions. If you have been injured or a family member has died as a result of medical malpractice, contact an experienced Brockton medical malpractice attorney today as the Noonan law firm.
I Was Hurt by Medical Malpractice. Who Is Responsible?
In a medical malpractice lawsuit, you must show a healthcare provider was negligent for failing to provide an adequate standard of care. Your injury must have been caused by the negligence (and not some other cause). You must also show that you have a loss or damages stemming from the injury.
Any medical professional who rendered care that caused harm, injury or damage can be held accountable for medical malpractice. The sites and healthcare systems where the medical professional’s practice may also be liable if he or she contributed to the injury or damage.
Examples of potentially liable medical professionals and healthcare facilities includes:
- Treatment centers
- Urgent care centers
Many individual medical professionals, such as physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists and radiologists, are not directly employed by the hospitals where you are treated. These professionals are often classified as independent contractors or independent professionals who have “privileges” to practice medicine at a healthcare facility.
A hospital or clinic can be held responsible for the negligence of its employees, such as nurses or orderlies. Not every doctor who works in a hospital or clinic is employed by that hospital or clinic. That means the entity cannot be held accountable under a theory of employer liability.
However, hospitals and clinics can be held liable if a physician commits an act of malpractice at the facility under a theory of the hospital’s or clinic’s own negligence. For example, the hospital or clinic may have given privileges to a doctor even when it knew the doctor had a history of medical errors.
Compensation in Brockton Medical Malpractice Claims
Massachusetts law allows victims of medical malpractice to recover compensation for their losses, both economic and emotional. You can be compensated for losses such as:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Other economic losses
- Impairment or loss of bodily function, either temporary or permanent
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Pain and mental suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Other general damages
While there are no limits on economic damages, Massachusetts imposes a limit, or cap, on the non-economic categories, such as pain and suffering, in medical malpractice suits. The limit is $500,000.
The limit does not apply, however, if the injuries include substantial disfigurement, substantial or permanent impairment or loss of a bodily function, or other circumstances that would prevent the victim from recovering fair compensation.
Medical malpractice can cause injuries and harm that affect an entire family. For example, if a breadwinner suffers a spinal cord injury and becomes paralyzed, the family’s financial well-being may be profoundly affected. As a result, Massachusetts allows spouses, children and parents of the injured person to bring claims against the negligent party for their own losses, separate from the patient’s loss. These are called loss of consortium claims.
Family members can be compensated for:
- Loss of comfort, solace, or moral support
- Loss of companionship and society
- Loss of enjoyment of sexual relations
- Any restrictions on social or recreational activities related to the injury
Medical Malpractice: The Process in Massachusetts
Medical malpractice cases in Massachusetts must follow a specific initial process. When a suit is filed and the defendant files a response, the plaintiff must provide, within 15 days of the response, an offer of proof to a three-person tribunal convened specifically for that purpose.
The tribunal must consist of:
- A Massachusetts Superior Court justice
- A physician or other healthcare provider licensed in the state who practices in the field relevant to injuries claimed
- A lawyer licensed to practice in Massachusetts
The tribunal is expected to review relevant medical records, treatment notes, statements from medical experts, and test results in to determining whether the evidence is sufficient to raise a question about the healthcare provider’s negligence. If the tribunal finds enough evidence to raise a question of liability, the case can proceed.
If the tribunal does not find sufficient evidence of negligence, the plaintiff must file a $6,000 bond with the court of clerk for the case to proceed. The bond is intended to cover legal fees for the defendant in the event the medical malpractice suit is not successful. The lawsuit will be dismissed if the bond isn’t posted by 30 days after the tribunal has rendered a decision.
If the case proceeds, both parties will engage in a process known as discovery, where each party sends the other written questions and requests for documents. The parties also request that certain individuals give testimony in depositions. Discovery allows both parties to learn about each other’s case and potentially resolve particular issues, narrowing the scope of the trial.
Assuming your case is not resolved with a settlement or by summary judgment issued by the court, you will eventually be assigned a trial date. Your trial will likely be conducted before a jury, which will render a verdict determining whether the medical provider committed malpractice and the extent of financial damages you have incurred as a result of the malpractice.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice in Brockton
The complex nature of modern medicine healthcare providers creates many opportunities to commit negligent errors. Common types of medical malpractice cases include:
- Emergency room errors – These can include failures to properly diagnose or triage a patient, mistakes when rendering treatment to a patient, or prematurely discharging a patient instead of admitting the patient to the hospital.
- Birth injuries – These include oxygen deprivation injuries, caused by a failure to intervene when the baby gets wrapped in its umbilical cord; physical trauma inflicted by improper use of forceps; and injuries to the mother caused by a failure to intervene after signs of fetal distress.
- Surgical errors – Surgical errors include: the performance of surgical procedures on the wrong part of the body; surgery on the wrong patient; performance of the wrong surgical procedure; damage to a patient’s tissues by an improper incision; or materials or equipment left inside a patient.
- Anesthesia errors – These errors include: the failure to give a patient proper pre- and post-procedure instructions; patient distress due to improper administration of anesthesia; and the use of too little anesthesia, resulting in a patient becoming conscious during surgery.
- Failure-to-diagnose or misdiagnosis – These errors allow medical conditions to continue to worsen in a patient, resulting in the patient requiring more intensive and expensive medical treatment, or potentially rendering the condition untreatable.
- Medication errors – Physicians can make medication errors, including: the failure to take proper patient histories; the prescribing of medication contraindicated by the patient’s other medical conditions; the miscalculation of medication dosage; or a nurse administering the wrong medication.
- Pharmacy negligence – Pharmacists can make medication errors by failing to confirm the doctor’s prescription, especially where confusion over abbreviations is involved, or by filling a prescription with the wrong medication or dosage.
Is There Any Defense Against Medical Malpractice?
A medical professional can mount a defense to a lawsuit that alleges medical malpractice has occurred. They may raise these arguments:
- The medical professional acted according to a generally accepted standard of care, and thus was not negligent.
- The actions did not cause the patient’s harm. For example, a doctor treating a cancer patient might argue that the disease caused the harm rather than the treatment.
- The patient didn’t follow the recommended course of care, acted in conflict with it, or failed to take prescribed medication.
- The patient gave a incomplete history of the symptoms, leading to the improper diagnosis and treatment.
It is up to the court to hear your arguments as well as the defenses raised by the healthcare professional. Choose an attorney who will fight vigilantly to see that justice is done.