Medical Malpractice Lawyers Marietta Ga
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When a health care provider (be it a doctor, nurse or some other type of health care provider) renders care and/or treatment to a patient which is “below standards” and which, in turn, causes injury to that patient, then that health care provider may have to pay damages for committing “medical malpractice.” The term “medical malpractice” basically refers to a legal claim by a patient against the medical provider which affords a way for the patient to recover money compensation for injuries actually caused by the medical provider’s malpractice. These “malpractice” or “medical injuries” claims are usually asserted in a civil lawsuit filed and handled in the county where the health care provider lives and/or operates the medical business.
Some common Medical Malpractice areas are:
Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis
Plastic Surgery Malpractice
Generally speaking, there are three basic components (or questions) to any medical malpractice claim. First, did the medical provider make a mistake in their treatment and/or care of the patient? The use of the word “mistake” is usually defined as an act or omission by a health care provider which falls below the accepted standard of practice in the medical community and causes injury or death to the patient. In the State of Georgia, this “standard” is defined as “that degree of skill and care which under similar conditions and like surrounding circumstances is ordinarily employed by the medical profession generally.”
Surgical Error Lawsuit Attorney Marietta
Second, assuming that the patient can prove that the health care provider’s acts or omission fell below the “standard of care,” did the act of malpractice actually cause harm or injury to the patient? This question can sometimes be difficult to answer. Take for example a patient with cancer. If a health care provider fails to detect the patient’s cancer because of malpractice, then can the health care provider be held responsible for injuries which arise from the original cancer? The answer is “no” because the patient had the cancer regardless of the healthcare provider’s malpractice. However, what the health care provider may be liable for is the injuries which result from the cancer not being detected and then permitted to progress without timely treatment, such as loss of limb, more intrusive surgeries or a diminution of chance of survival, etc. In short, health care providers are not liable for all harm suffered by their patients. Doctors are only liable for injuries or harm that result from a deviation from the quality of care that other reasonably competent doctors would provide in similar situations.
Third, assuming that the health care provider made a mistake which caused an injury to the patient, the final question remains: did the patient suffer a significant injury which is capable of being evaluated for money compensation as objectively and neutrally determined by a jury? In other words, a patient may very-well be a victim of malpractice which results in a minor injury. The question is whether one should consider bringing an expensive malpractice action when the ultimate recovery will be small because it is premised on a minor impact on the patient? For example, a doctor may slip during a procedure and inadvertently cut a patient’s arm in a minor way. The answer to the first two “malpractice” questions may be “yes,” but because the injury is minor, the answer to the third question would be “no” (meaning that a civil malpractice action should not be filed).
In summary, medical malpractice can happen under all sorts of different circumstances and scenarios. Some of the more common problems that expose health care providers to liability for medical malpractice include mistakes in treatment, improper diagnoses, and lack of informed consent. These more common scenarios are discussed in the sections below. Naturally, the attorneys at Jackel & Phillips are very well experienced in handling medical malpractice cases and will be happy to consult with you about your case in person or on the telephone (without charge) to help guide you through the proper response to the questions discussed above.
Medical Mistake Lawsuit Attorney Marietta Ga
As discussed above, when a doctor makes a mistake during the treatment of a patient which causes a significant injury to that patient, the patient may sue the medical provider for medical malpractice. Although some treatment mistakes can be obvious (such as operating on the wrong leg or arm), others are generally less apparent to the common person. For example, a doctor might perform surgery on a patient’s shoulder to resolve chronic pain. Six months later, the patient might continue to experience pain in the shoulder. Under these circumstances, it would be very difficult for the patient to determine whether the continued pain is attributable to a mistake made during the original surgery or to some other cause that doesn’t relate to the surgery.
For this reason, medical malpractice cases can and do involve testimony from expert witnesses. With the assistance of your attorney, one of the first steps in a medical malpractice case is to consult with a health care provider (commonly another medical doctor) who has training and experience relevant to the patient’s injury or health issue. Under the guidance of a medical malpractice attorney, the doctor will review the medical records in the case and give a detailed opinion regarding whether malpractice occurred.
A doctor’s failure to properly diagnose can be just as harmful to a patient as a slip of the scalpel. If a doctor improperly diagnoses a patient when other reasonably competent doctors would have made the correct medical call, and the patient is harmed by the improper diagnosis, the patient will usually have a good case for medical malpractice.
It is important to recognize that the doctor will only be liable for the harm caused by the improper diagnosis. So, if a patient dies from a disease that the doctor improperly diagnoses, but the patient would have died equally quickly even if the doctor had made a proper diagnosis, the doctor will likely not be liable for malpractice. On the other hand, a medical malpractice case would probably be viable if a proper diagnosis would have extended the patient’s life.
LACK OF INFORMED CONSENT
Patients have a right to decide what treatment they receive. More importantly, doctors are obligated to provide sufficient details about treatment to allow patients to make “informed decisions.” When doctors fail to obtain patients’ informed consent prior to providing treatment, they may be held liable for malpractice. These issues about “consent” are further discussed below:
Treatment Against a Patient’s Wishes. Doctors might sometimes disagree with patients over the best course of action. Patients generally have a right to refuse treatment, even when doctors believe that such a decision is not in the patient’s best interests. A common example of this is when a patient has religious objections to a proposed course of treatment. When these disagreements occur, doctors cannot provide the treatment without the patient’s consent. Successful treatment will not protect the doctors from liability.
The Uninformed Patient. Patients have a right to make decisions about their own treatment. But that right is of little value if they are uninformed about the benefits and risks of proposed treatment. Therefore, doctors have an obligation to provide sufficient information to allow their patients to make informed decisions. For example, if a doctor proposes a surgery to a patient and describes the details of the procedure, but fails to mention that the surgery carries a significant risk of heart failure, that doctor may be liable for malpractice. Notice that the doctor could be liable even if other reasonably competent doctors would have recommended the surgery in the same situation. In this case, the doctor’s liability comes from a failure to obtain informed consent, rather than from a mistake in treatment or diagnosis.
The Emergency Exception. Sometimes doctors simply do not have time to obtain informed consent, or the situation makes it unreasonable. Medical malpractice law generally assumes that patients in urgent need of medical care who are incapable of providing informed consent would consent to life-saving treatment if they were able to do so. Thus, patients who receive treatment in emergency situations generally cannot sue their doctors for failure to obtain informed consent. It should also be noted that in the State of Georgia, any claim arising out of the provision of emergency medical care in a hospital emergency room or obstetrical unit must be proven by “clear and convincing evidence” that the healthcare provider’s actions showed “gross negligence,” which is indeed a very high standard.
FOREIGN OBJECTS LEFT IN THE PATIENT’S BODY AFTER SURGERY
In the State of Georgia, what may constitute a “foreign object” is not specifically defined, but Georgia statutes specifically exclude “chemical compounds and certain fixation and prosthetic devices” from what may be considered as a “foreign object.” Generally speaking, if a surgeon or surgical nurse fails to remove a surgical instrument or object at the end of a procedure, the patient may have a claim for medical malpractice. A retained foreign object can cause serious complications, including life-threatening infections. Damage to tissues, nerves, blood vessels and organs may also occur. Additional surgery, hospitalization, medical expenses, and a lengthy recuperation period are additional consequences that patients must deal with. Surgical instruments that may be left in the patient’s body after a surgery include:
- Surgical sponges;
- Knife blades;
- Safety pins;
- Electrosurgical adapters; and,
- Cotton and gauze.
Hospitals should have a system of checks in place in order to prevent the retaining of foreign objects. Every sponge and instrument required for the procedure should be counted prior to opening the incision, and all supplies should be accounted for prior to closing the wound. Any member of the surgical team who has committed malpractice, including doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists, may be found liable if it is discovered that a foreign object was left inside a patient after surgery.
Some patients may experience symptoms related to the retained foreign object soon after the surgery, particularly if the object irritates adjacent tissues or migrates within the body cavity. However, in other cases, patients may not become aware of any issues for several weeks or months after the surgery. An x-ray, MRI or other test may be required to locate the object. For this reason, the medical malpractice statute of limitations is extended for cases involving a retained foreign object in many states. This is known as the “discovery rule.” In essence, the statute of limitations begins from the time you knew or reasonably should have known that there was an issue. In the State of Georgia, the two-year “medical malpractice” statute of limitations does not apply in cases where a physician leaves a foreign object in the patient’s body. In such cases, a victim of malpractice must bring the action “within one year of the discovery of the negligent act or omission.”
WE CAN HELP
Because medical malpractice cases follow a complex body of rules and often involve complicated medical questions, it is often essential to get advice or representation from a medical malpractice attorney, who will then call on expert witnesses to bolster your case. Again, the attorneys at Jackel & Phillips are experienced and trained (with proven results) to handle medical malpractice cases and will be happy to provide a free consultation to help guide you through the complicated process of assessing your potential malpractice case.