Medical malpractice, by definition, is when a healthcare provider causes injury to a patient through either a negligent act, or through omission. Because medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the United States, it’s important to know your rights before a medical mistake occurs. When medical mistakes that are a result of negligence do happen, taking legal action can be a difficult process. Some insurance companies will try to settle to avoid going to court, but those settlements are usually for lower amounts than the courts would award. There are certain things you can do, and certain rights you should be aware of, that can help your case whether or not you decide to go to court.
You Have the Right to Take Your Case to Court
You have the right to take your case to court. Three billion dollars’ worth of payouts went to victims of malpractice during 2012 alone. While doctors don’t want to be sued, and insurance companies don’t want to pay victims large sums of money, getting fair compensation is important. Some medical mistakes can permanently limit a person’s ability to earn income. It may be tempting to settle with insurance companies out of court, but if there is enough evidence to take a case to court, this is often going to lead to a larger amount of money being awarded (1). Don’t let an insurance company make you forget that have you a right to have your case heard in a court of law.
You Have the Right to Speak Up
You have the right to express any concerns you have about your treatments, your medical condition, and your care. It’s always advisable to bring a trusted family member or friend along with you to important medical appointments. In hospital settings, a patient advocate can also help if there is a dispute about your care. Their job is to make sure everything that gets done is in a patient’s best interest. They can also help ensure that all rules and procedures are being followed properly.
You Have the Right to Continued Medical Care
Some people worry they will no longer be able to receive medical care if they sue, or they fear that their insurance premiums will be raised. Neither of these concerns should prevent a person with a legitimate case from taking legal action: Insurance companies do not charge more after a legal claim has been filed or if a settlement is agreed upon.
You Have a Right to Get a Second Opinion or to Change Doctors Entirely
When a serious medical condition is involved, always get a second opinion. This can provide reassurance that you are receiving proper care if the doctors agree, and it can help you make sure there hasn’t been a misdiagnosis (2). When going for a second opinion, it is usually wise to keep the first doctor’s opinion to yourself until you learn what the second one has to say. That way, the doctor you are getting the second opinion from won’t be influenced in any way by the first doctor’s.
You Have a Right to Learn About Your Doctor’s Malpractice History
While there’s no law that requires doctors to disclose their history of malpractice, there are databases where this information can be found. You have the right to learn your doctor’s malpractice history through these resources, and no laws are in place that limit your right to do so. Knowing this information might cause you to change doctors or treatment facilities, but being aware of a negligent history can keep you from choosing a doctor that makes frequent mistakes in their practice. It can also be reassuring if you find nothing of concern in those files.
Know that Your Rights are Affected by the Statutes of Limitation
Each state has different statutes of limitation. This means there is a limited time-frame during which legal action can be taken. Bachus & Schanker Law says after that time has passed, there is usually no legal recourse for a person who was the victim of negligence or malpractice. If you think you have been the victim of medical malpractice, it is important to talk to a Denver lawyer who specializes in malpractice lawsuits to make sure you know how much time you have to take legal action (3).
Knowing your rights with regard to medical malpractice can help you take correct and timely action if you think you have been the victim of a negligent mistake. Contact a lawyer from a reputable law group as soon as possible if you suspect you might have a case. You will be able to obtain legal counsel and obtain professional advice about how long you have to decide whether or not you want to sue before the statute of limitation runs out.
This article is from Brooke Chaplan, a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.