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Can You Sue a Doctor for Negligence? Everything You Need to Know

Did you know that the third leading cause of death in the US is not a kind of disease?

Medical errors account for as many as 250,000 to 440,000 deaths in the country each year. In comparison, accidental injuries led to over 167,000 fatalities in 2018.

These errors have led to at least a third of physicians dealing with a lawsuit at some point in their careers.

The question is, what are these medical errors and do these include negligence? Can you sue a doctor for negligence only?

We’ll uncover the answers to these questions in this post, so be sure to read on.

Medical Negligence vs Medical Malpractice

Many people use the terms “medical negligence” and “medical malpractice” interchangeably. There are even some states, like Florida, where medical negligence means medical malpractice.

In its strictest definition though, medical negligence is only one element of malpractice.

An act or omission is one way that medical negligence can occur. An example is when a doctor deviates or “strays away” from the professional standard of care.

If this deviation harms the patient in any way, that’s considered negligence. In this case, the harmed patient (or their family) may have a valid malpractice claim.

Medical malpractice, on the other hand, can include medical errors, negligence, or both. Medical errors can also result from a medical professional’s negligence.

For instance, after treating a patient, the patient’s health worsened. This could have occurred due to the doctor making a diagnostic error. This, in turn, could be negligence if the doctor didn’t use the right diagnostic methods.

Not All Medical Negligence Cases Cause Harm

It’s important to note that even experienced and compassionate doctors can make mistakes. Very few malpractice cases involve intentional or willful recklessness.

Moreover, not all acts of medical negligence automatically harm or injure patients. An example is when a doctor performs an unnecessary treatment.

In this case, the treatment may not do the patient any good or harm. It simply didn’t have any beneficial effect on the patient.

When Can You Sue a Doctor for Negligence Then?

There are three main things that a victim of medical malpractice needs to sue for negligence. Below is a quick overview of each one.

The Negligent Act Caused Harm or Injury to the Patient

One of the main steps on how to start a malpractice lawsuit is to come up with proof of harm or injury. Without this, the patient won’t be able to sue the medical professional.

Victims also need to prove that the harm or injury was in fact, due to negligence. They need to show the courts that without the negligence, the harm or injury wouldn’t have taken place.

One example is a primary care physician failing to refer a patient to a medical specialist. Instead, they simply prescribed medication or treatment. Unfortunately, the patient’s health further suffered after these prescriptions.

Since the doctor should have referred the patient to a specialist, this may be a form of negligence.

The Doctor’s Negligence Resulted in Severe Damages

For a negligence case to be valid, the patient should have sustained serious harm or injury. Disability and loss of income are examples of considerable damage. A case may also be valid if the patient will face huge medical bills (including future expenses).

Doctor’s Failure to Meet the Proper Standard of Care

Victims also need to demonstrate that their doctor breached the standards of care. An example is a preventable accident during surgery that severely injures the patient. The patient must prove that the surgeon could have prevented this accident.

Medical Negligence Is Difficult to Prove

As a patient, it’s your right to expect only the highest level of care from your doctors. It’s also your right to get compensated in case they fail to provide you with acceptable care.

In some cases, negligence is easy to prove because of obvious medical mistakes. These include surgical professionals leaving items inside patients.

However, most other forms of medical negligence aren’t as easy to prove. There are also too many variables and factors that a case needs to meet for it to be a valid malpractice claim.

This is why the first step on how to file a malpractice suit is to lawyer up. A medical malpractice attorney can determine right away if you have a case in the first place. Moreover, many seasoned malpractice attorneys offer free case evaluations.

If you think that your doctor was negligent, call a medical malpractice lawyer ASAP. This way, you’ll get the help you need to navigate the complex world of malpractice laws.

The Deadline for Filing a Medical Negligence Lawsuit

If you think you have a valid medical malpractice case, you need to file it ASAP. That’s because all states put a time limit on these cases. In most standard cases, the clock starts running from the time you discover the injury or harm.

Some states, like Kentucky and Louisiana, have the shortest deadline, which is one year. Most other states have a two- or three-year statute of limitations. A few others, like North Carolina and Virginia, have a 10-year deadline on special cases.

Either way, you should know your state’s deadlines and file before the legal deadline. Otherwise, you’re at a huge risk of losing your right to any compensation.

Get the Compensation You Deserve as a Medical Negligence Victim

Can you sue a doctor for negligence? Now that you know you can, you shouldn’t delay building your case. If you think you even have the slightest chance of winning, take your case to a lawyer ASAP.

The sooner your lawyer can determine the case’s merits, the sooner you can file the claim. This is even more important if you live in a state that implements a one-year statute of limitations.

Looking for more health-related guides like this? Then be sure to check the rest of our posts under the Lifestyle section.