Whether for ourselves or a loved one, each of us has needed to visit a hospital or seek medical attention at some point in our lives. You should not have to be concerned about being treated unjustly when seeking medical help. Doctors have an obligation and swear The Hippocratic Oath, an oath that is deeply rooted in the medical field that includes the principles of medical confidentiality and non-maleficence and is protected by the law in many places; therefore, breaking the oath might result in legal repercussions that go beyond the oath's symbolic meaning.

Unfortunately, even though medical professionals swear The Hippocratic Oath, there are still cases of medical malpractice that happen every day. A thorough investigation into medical errors in the United States was conducted in 2016 by Johns Hopkins researchers. They discovered that 250,000 people pass away annually in the US due to medical mistakes. This is an unacceptable number of patients and family members who are forced to experience significant complications or even wrongful deaths at the hands of the ones who are in the position to save lives. With that being said, our medical personnel need to be held to a higher standard of accountability for the services and care they provide.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Whom can I sue in a medical malpractice claim?

A: You may sue any individual who committed the malpractice. A patient may also bring a claim against the hospital or other organization whose staff engaged in the malpractice.

Q: What is the statute of limitations in a medical malpractice case?

A: The statute of limitations will vary from state to state and will range anywhere from 1 year to 4 years. Use this guide to find which state you are looking for. 

Q: What are damage caps, and why do they exist?

A: Damages caps are laws that limit the amount of non-economic damages that may be awarded for a case. By limiting service providers' liability, damage caps aim to control the high costs of doing business (which are ultimately passed on to the consumer).

Q: What does “established customary standard of care” mean?

A: This is the level of care and skill that qualified doctors are expected to provide for all patients with similar symptoms and circumstances.

Q: How do I gather evidence for a medical malpractice case?

A: In most cases, you won't always be able to acquire the proof required to prove carelessness in a medical malpractice case. More access to medical records will probably be granted to your attorney than to you.

What is medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice is when a hospital, doctor, or other healthcare provider negligently harms a patient. This may include misdiagnosis, medication dosage, health management, therapy, and follow-up care.

The following elements must be included in the claim for it to qualify as medical malpractice in legal terms:

  • A violation of the standard of care - The law recognizes that under like or similar situations, there are specific medical standards that are accepted by the profession as being adequate medical care by reasonably competent healthcare providers. A patient has the right to assume they are receiving care that adheres to these standards from medical professionals. Negligence may be determined if it is found that the standard of care was not met.
  • An injury was caused by negligence - It is not enough for a medical professional to have merely gone against the accepted standard of care for a medical malpractice claim to be legitimate. Additionally, the injured party must demonstrate that their harm would not have happened in the absence of negligence. 
  • The injury resulted in significant damages - In order for a case to be successful, the patient must demonstrate that serious losses followed from an injury sustained as a result of medical malpractice. If the losses are minimal, the expense of filing the claim may exceed the amount that is ultimately recovered. The patient must demonstrate that the damage led to disability, loss of income, unusual pain, suffering, hardship, or considerable past and future medical costs in order to file a medical malpractice claim.

Examples of Medical Malpractice and Negligence

Failure to obtain blood type

In 2003, Duke University Hospital made global headlines for performing a heart and lung transplant on Jesica Santillan, then 17 years old, without ever determining whether the blood types of the organ donors matched. 

Jesica had serious brain damage following the organ transplant, and her body went into shock and shut down. Only after this did the medical professionals learn that Jesica's new organ donor did not have the same blood type as her.

After covering up its mistake for 11 days, Duke University Hospital went public seeking a new donor. Unfortunately, by then, Jesica had already sustained fatal brain damage. 

Wrong Leg Amputation

In 1995, 52-year-old Willie King was supposed to have a diseased leg amputated. Unfortunately for Mr. King, the surgeon amputated the wrong leg. Even though the operating room chalkboard, the hospital's computer system, and the operating room schedule were all marked in advance of the surgery with the correct leg's location. 

After surgery and realizing what had happened, the doctor’s defense was that both legs were unhealthy and would have to be amputated anyway. The doctor was only charged with a $10,000 fine and had his medical license suspended for six months. The lawsuit against the surgeon and hospital was settled for $1.15 million.

Surgical instrument left

In 2000, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, Donald Church underwent surgery. Mr. Church was supposed to have an abdominal tumor removed. Successfully the surgeons removed the tumor with no complications. However, the surgery team failed to remove a 13-inch metal retractor. 

For Mr. Church, it took two months of agonizing pain before the surgical mistake was discovered and ultimately resolved. In the end, Mr. Church recovered $97,000 in damages.

How Can My Attorney Help Me With My Medical Malpractice Claim?

If you're considering filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against a physician or another healthcare professional, you might have to go through special procedural requirements. Due to the inherent complexity of medical malpractice claims, the average person lacks the information, resources, or experience necessary to bring their own claim to a satisfactory conclusion.

Here are the things you can anticipate your attorney doing at each step if you decide to seek legal counsel:

  1. In order to identify any instances in which your provider may have deviated from the accepted standards of care, your attorney will examine the care you received. They will interview witnesses, examine records and charts, and look into the facility's operations to identify precisely when and how your doctor committed negligence.
  2. Your attorney will speak with pertinent professionals. In medical malpractice cases, expert testimony is typically required. For instance, if your heart attack was misdiagnosed, you could require testimony from more cardiologists to support your case. You can be confident they will be able to secure the testimony your case requires if you choose to work with a prominent attorney who has a sizable professional network.
  3. Important evidence will be gathered by your attorney. A creative legal team will look everywhere for supporting documentation for your claim. They will compile the evidence you need to establish your provider's deviation from the industry's accepted standard of care, allowing you to pursue the largest settlement possible.
  4. Your attorney will handle all logistics. You can take a step back and concentrate on more crucial issues, like your healing, while your attorney navigates your claim through the legal proceedings. Almost all facets of your case, including determining damages, negotiating a settlement, and trial preparation, will be handled by your lawyer.

At The Cochran Firm, the leadership of our Medical Malpractice section and many of its section members are Board Certified in Medical Malpractice. All of our medical malpractice attorneys have the experience and expertise to help you screen and prosecute your medical malpractice case.

If you or a loved one has suffered a devastating personal injury as a result of a medical professional’s error, you should speak to our medical malpractice attorneys immediately. Please contact The Cochran Firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Nursing Malpractice 

The majority of people believe that medical malpractice happens when a doctor doesn't deliver appropriate care or services. But it can also happen when a nurse doesn't uphold the standards of their profession and harms a patient as a result. A claim for medical malpractice against a doctor and a nurse are similar in many ways. In order to prove both the standard of care that a capable nurse would have provided and the cause of their injuries, the patient will probably need to provide expert testimony. Instead of a doctor or another medical expert, the expert may need to be a nurse who practices in the same area of medicine as the defendant. In some situations, such as when a nurse deviates from a doctor's instructions and administers the incorrect medication, the negligent conduct may be so evident that an expert witness is not necessary.

Common Nursing Medical Malpractice

Any less-than-ideal result does not necessarily signify nursing malpractice. There are some circumstances when malpractice frequently happens. One of the simplest is when a nurse administers the incorrect medication to a patient or neglects to administer the medication as directed by a doctor. Sometimes a nurse will misidentify two patients and administer the wrong medication to each of them. Or they could give the patient the incorrect dosage of the prescription or deliver it incorrectly, like injecting it in the wrong location.

Another simple example is misuse or improper management of medical equipment. After a surgical procedure, a nurse can neglect to remove equipment from a patient's body or drop a large piece of equipment on them. Since several medical personnel may be engaged in a process, the patient's attorney may occasionally need to look into the circumstance to ascertain whether the nurse or the supervising doctor was accountable for a certain oversight during surgery.

When a nurse ignores an emergency that they see or should see, they are committing a more subtle kind of nursing malpractice. They must adhere to the emergency handling protocols that the hospital or doctor has established. (If the hospital or physician does not have protocols in place, they might be held accountable for malpractice.) However, a nurse must keep a close eye on a patient's status and alert the doctor to any issues.

Statute of Limitations In Medical Malpractice

While medical malpractice statutes of limitations vary from state to state, they are often always short. You might only have a year in some states to file your claim. The majority of states have developed three- or four-part statutes of limitations for cases involving medical malpractice, including The Standard Deadline, The Discovery Rule, The Statute of Limitations for Minor Children, and The Statute of Repose. These additional parts add to the complexity of medical malpractice statutes of limitations.

The Standard Deadline

The standard deadline is the first section of the statute of limitations, which provides victims of medical malpractice with a certain amount of time after the malpractice happens in which to bring a complaint, typically between two and six years, depending on the state.

The Discovery Rule

The standard deadline is exempt under the discovery rule. States introduced the discovery rule because a large number of medical malpractice plaintiffs were losing their ability to bring a legal claim because they did not become aware of their claim until years after the standard statute of limitations had passed.

The Statute of Limitations for Minors

The deadline for minors is the third form of the statute of limitations. A minor's window for bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit expires two years after turning eighteen. It is intended to provide a minor time to bring a lawsuit after turning eighteen if their parents did not pursue a claim when the child was a minor. 

The Statute of Repose

Any law that forbids lawsuits following some defendant activity, even if the plaintiff has not yet sustained an injury. A statute of repose is typically more favorable to defendants than a statute of limitations since the time period starts to run from the date of the defendant's action, even if the injury has not yet occurred.

The statutes of limitations for medical malpractice can be complicated. So to better help, you should speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney at The Cochran Firm today for your free no-obligation consultation. 

Standard of Care 

First of all, you should be aware that "standard of care" is a legal, not a medical, term. Therefore, it is mostly used by attorneys rather than doctors. Typically, physicians only discuss or think about the standard of care when they are testifying in court about cases of medical malpractice or when they are attending seminars on the subject.

The term "standard of care" in medicine is defined slightly differently by each state, but generally speaking, it refers to the care and expertise that an average health care physician would deliver to a patient in their specialty.

Meanwhile, other medical professionals, like obstetricians, gynecologists, cardiologists, and orthopedists, who specialize in particular fields of medicine are typically subject to a national standard of care.

The first requirement for establishing a claim for medical malpractice against a doctor has been met if the injured patient can demonstrate through credible expert testimony that the practitioner engaged in a practice of medical negligence. The affected patient must, however, be able to demonstrate that the doctor's negligence led to specific harms or losses.

Damage Caps

Findlaw defines damage caps as laws that limit the amount of non-economic damages that may be awarded for a case. The point of damage caps is to help the economy. It prevents defendants such as hospitals and the government from large payouts that could make them go bankrupt. It also helps discourage false claims made against entities. 

The patient is frequently the one who suffers when a doctor, surgeon, nurse, dentist, or other health care provider fails to uphold their legal duty of care by rendering services that are below or below the industry standard of care.

Given that this is how most personal injury claims are handled, most people would assume that this is the case. The number of damages a victim of medical malpractice may be awarded has, however, been restricted in several states. According to recent studies, these damage caps are detrimental to everyone's access to quality healthcare by arbitrarily limiting the full and equitable financial recovery of injured patients and their loved ones.

Recent reports show that limiting compensation for medical malpractice only results in:

  • An increase in medical errors because professionals in the medical field are aware that they cannot be held fully accountable.
  • Medicare Part B will pay more for healthcare because physicians will conduct more allegedly "risky operations" if their personal responsibility is limited.

If you’ve suffered a devastating personal injury as a result of a medical professional’s error, you should speak to one of our dedicated and experienced medical malpractice attorneys immediately. Please contact The Cochran Firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Medical Malware Malpractice 

Healthcare cybersecurity preparation is becoming more and more important, and legislators are taking note. According to industry reports, 679 hospitals were breached by cyberattacks in 2021, an all-time high for the industry, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services warns that those numbers could rise. Recent events may even have put the healthcare sector on the verge of a new era in which device manufacturers and healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs) could be held accountable for not only compromised data but also patient harm for failing to adhere to best practices and defend against known threats.

Example of Medical Malware Malpractice

In 2019, Teiranni Kidd checked into Springhill Medical Center in Mobile, Alabama, for a cesarean section. Unfortunately, problems at birth caused the baby to suffer significant brain damage, and two months later, the baby passed away due to continued complications.

Kidd did not learn until after the death of her baby that the hospital's computer systems had been compromised while she was there, causing them to malfunction and potentially jeopardize patient care. This resulted in the Springhill hospital's medical staff being unable to perform tests because of the ransomware assault, which could have revealed the baby's condition and maybe saved the baby from harm. Also, if she had known, Kidd might have chosen to be transferred to a different hospital, preventing the baby's eventual death. 

Later on, in 2021, alongside the ongoing litigation of Kidd v. Springhill, a vulnerability in open-source Apache software known as Log4j was discovered, which left institutions open to attack. Some technology and equipment manufacturers took some time to evaluate the situation and reveal any potential effects. Unfortunately, this was not the case in 2019 for Kidd.

No company will ever be completely safe from cyberattacks, but those that are known to be frequently targeted by threats, such as schools, hospitals, and government agencies, should invest in the tools that will enable them to better assess their risks, protect themselves against assaults, and act fast when attacks do happen. This will, in the case of Kidd v. Springhill, allow for the hospital to fulfill their sacred duty to "do no harm," better safeguarding both themselves and their patients.

Why The Cochran Firm

At the Cochran Firm, the leadership of our Medical Malpractice section and many of its section members are Board Certified in Medical Malpractice. All of our medical malpractice attorneys have the experience and expertise to help you screen and prosecute your medical malpractice case. And we often bring a team of experienced medical malpractice attorneys from several of our office locations to handle our cases at no additional charge to our clients.

The Cochran Firm has the resources to access and hire top medical experts in any field of medicine to help prove your case. Many of our offices have in-house nurses and physicians that help us research difficult medical issues and provide screening in complicated cases. Let our experienced medical malpractice team review your case today.  As with all of our reviews, it is at no cost to you. And if we take your case, we do not charge a fee unless a recovery is obtained on your behalf.

If you’ve suffered a devastating personal injury as a result of a medical professional’s error, you should speak to our medical malpractice attorneys immediately. Please contact The Cochran Firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Works Cited

Goguen, David. “Medical Malpractice State Laws: Statutes of Limitations.” AllLaw, https://www.alllaw.com/articles/nolo/medical-malpractice/state-laws-statutes-limitations.html. 

Jahn, Warren T. “The 4 basic ethical principles that apply to forensic activities are respect for autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice.” NCBI, 27 August 2011, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4863255/. 

Smith, Wesley D. “Hippocratic oath | Definition, Summary, & Facts | Britannica.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 5 July 2022, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hippocratic-oath..

“Study Suggests Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S. - 05/03/2016.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, 3 May 2016, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/study_suggests_medical_errors_now_third_leading_cause_of_death_in_the_us. 

“What is a Damages Cap?” FindLaw, 29 November 2018, https://www.findlaw.com/injury/accident-injury-law/what-is-a-damages-cap.html. Landi, Heather. “Healthcare data breaches hit all-time high in 2021, impacting 45M people.” Fierce Healthcare, https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/health-tech/healthcare-data-breaches-hit-all-time-high-2021-impacting-45m-people.