When a patient is injured as a result of negligent care by a medical doctor, health care professional, or hospital, the circumstance is commonly referred to as “medical malpractice.” In medical malpractice cases, injuries can vary from minor to life-altering, and, if severe enough, can result in death.
Medical Malpractice is Common
Medical malpractice occurs far too often.
In fact, a recent report from Johns Hopkins Medicine estimates as many as 250,000 Americans die each year from preventable medical mistakes, making it the third-leading cause of death in the United States.
If you believe that you are a victim of medical malpractice, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit as a way to secure financial compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, life care costs, and lost work wages.
Sokolove Law is a personal injury law firm with experience across a broad range of practice areas, including medical malpractice. Submit the form to the right or request a free case review and we’ll let you know if we can represent you.
What Is a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
A medical malpractice lawsuit is typically filed shortly after a medical professional’s care resulted in a patient’s injury. These lawsuits will vary based on the type and severity of the injury, but all medical malpractice suits aim to provide injured patients with significant financial compensation.
In medical malpractice lawsuits, a medical provider or facility may have:
- Failed to provide an acceptable standard of care
- Acted with negligence, either through an omission or a direct negligent act
- Caused significant injury to the patient
In order for a patient to secure financial compensation for an injury caused by medical negligence, their legal team must prove that the injury was the result of medical malpractice, meeting the criteria noted above.
Types of Medical Malpractice
There are several different types of medical malpractice, but the common denominator is that negligent medical care results in a significant injury to a patient. Through no fault of their own, medical malpractice victims are forced to experience dramatic physical and emotional challenges, potentially for the rest of their lives.
It’s worth noting that the type of medical malpractice and the severity of the injury can have drastic impacts on the victim’s claim to compensation. Below, we outline some of the more common types of medical malpractice, though this list is not exhaustive.
If you don't see a certain type of injury below that relates to your circumstance, let us know — we offer free, no-obligation legal consultations and may be able to help.
Birth and Pregnancy Injuries Malpractice
Birth injuries and pregnancy injuries are some of the more common types of medical malpractice. These injuries are caused by medical negligence and take place before, during, or shortly after the birth of a newborn, often resulting in significant injury to the child.
In a birth injury medical malpractice case, the baby’s brain and/or body is injured, resulting in injuries that can last a lifetime. As devastating as it is, around 7 of every 1,000 newborns will be injured at birth.
Some of the more common birth injuries include:
Other serious birth injuries can result in bleeding and/or lack of oxygen in the brain, facial nerve damage, and/or skull fracturing.
Failure to Diagnose Malpractice Lawsuits
Failure to diagnose conditions and failure to diagnose cancer are two of the more common types of medical malpractice lawsuits. When a doctor or medical practitioner fails to diagnose a serious medical condition, illness, or disease, it can prove catastrophic for the patient.
A doctor may fail to diagnose:
- Heart attack
- Blood clot
- Pulmonary embolism
If a doctor fails to diagnose cancer, tumors may progress and spread undetected, and the patient may then miss their window of opportunity for life-extending therapies or surgeries.
During a surgical operation, a surgeon may make preventable mistakes that result in patient injury. Known as surgical errors, this type of medical malpractice is shockingly common.
Preventable surgical errors include:
- Wrong-site surgery (when surgery is done on the wrong part or side of the body, like removing the left lung when cancer was in the right lung instead)
- Wrong-patient surgery
- Damage to internal organs
- Surgical tools left inside of the body
- Improper management of post-operative complications
- Botched plastic surgery
Though these types of errors may seem extreme, over 51.4 million surgeries are conducted each year in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 1 in every 112,000 surgeries will result in an error — a figure that does not include ER and ambulance operations, which produce more surgical errors.
Other Medical Malpractice Cases
While failure-to-diagnose, surgical, and birth-related medical malpractice are more common, there are many other types of medical malpractice as well, each of which can be equally catastrophic.
Some other medical malpractice cases include:
- Delayed diagnosis: A doctor diagnoses a disease or condition later than they otherwise should have
- Emergency room errors: An ER doctor makes a medical error in an emergency-room setting that results in significant injury to the patient
- Failure to treat: A doctor makes an accurate diagnosis, but does not prescribe adequate medical treatment
- Misdiagnosis: A doctor makes an incorrect diagnosis, resulting in improper treatment
- Prescription drug errors: A doctor prescribes the wrong medication or the right medication but in too high or too low a dosage
If you do not see the medical malpractice situation that injured you or your loved one, we can still determine if you have a case. Contact us today for a free consultation.
How to Prove Medical Malpractice
With over 30 years of experience handling medical malpractice cases, Sokolove Law has helped thousands of clients prove their stories and receive medical compensation.
In medical malpractice lawsuits against a doctor, hospital, or health care worker, our legal team generally works to prove the following:
- The doctor’s legal duty to provide standard of care to the patient
- The doctor’s breach of their legal duty to provide standard of care by failing to meet the standards of the medical profession
- The doctor’s breach of duty caused the patient’s injury
- The injury and its resulting damages can be addressed through the legal system
The term “standard of care” or “duty of care” refers to the type of care and treatment patients should normally expect from a medical professional. A doctor may violate the standard of care when they make a decision or an omission that a standard doctor would have most likely avoided.
By filling out a free legal case review, we can help you determine if you have a legal case for medical malpractice.
How Does a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Work?
A medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed shortly after a patient is injured by a doctor or medical professional who fails to provide standard medical care. An injured patient can then file a medical malpractice lawsuit with the help of a medical malpractice law firm.
Lawsuits will then undergo the following phases:
- Discovery: During the discovery phase, both the injured party (plaintiff) and the defendants will request and gather information and evidence related to the case
- Expert Witnesses: During this phase, neutral expert medical witnesses may be called to testify on the merits of a medical malpractice claim; these experts can help both parties determine the standard of medical care and whether that standard of care was breached
- Settlement: Not all medical malpractice lawsuits end in a verdict or settlement, but the majority do; if the evidence presented during discovery and expert testimony is sufficient to prove a breach of medical care, then defendants will often work to cut their losses and settle the case out-of-court, and the defendant and plaintiff attorneys then negotiate a sum to be paid to the victim for their injury or injuries
While most medical malpractice lawsuits are settled before they go to court, some cases do reach trial. When this happens, a judge and jury will listen to the case and render a verdict based on the information presented.
Medical Malpractice Settlements
According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), 93% of all medical malpractice cases are settled out-of-court. Settlements are often the preferred route, because they can save both the plaintiffs and the defendants time, resources, and money.
When a settlement is reached in a medical malpractice case, the injured victim and their legal team receive an agreed-upon amount of compensation from the offending doctor, medical professional, health care provider, and/or hospital.
Average Settlement for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Settlement amounts will vary in every circumstance and are based on the severity of the injury, the victim’s ability to work and earn wages, the cost of future or ongoing medical procedures, the extent of the medical professional’s negligence, and a host of other factors.
In a report published by Medscape, the average settlement amount for a medical malpractice lawsuit is around $425,000. This figure reflects the national average, and it’s important to note that settlement amounts will vary based on the individual factors of your case, including the state you live in.
Surprisingly, many states actually have medical malpractice damage caps that limit the amount of compensation a plaintiff can receive from economic damages (which can be calculated from measurable losses, like medical expenses or lost wages) and/or non-economic damages (for losses you can’t put a price tag on, like pain and suffering).
For instance, Massachusetts has a non-economic damage cap of $500,000 but no cap on economic damages, while both Rhode Island and New Hampshire have no damage caps on medical malpractice cases.
What Is the Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice?
When a doctor, medical professional, or hospital commits a mistake that results in an injury to a patient, the injured patient has only a limited amount of time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. The specific amount of time that a victim has to file a suit is called the statute of limitations. Statutes of limitations vary by state and type of case, but very rarely do they exceed a period of 2-7 years.
A victim’s lawsuit must fall within statutes of limitations. Once this limit has passed, they can no longer file a claim. Don’t let the time limit pass—reach out to us today for a free case evaluation.
Sokolove Law and Medical Malpractice Cases
Simply put: Medical malpractice occurs far too often. Unsuspecting patients have their lives completely upended when they are injured as a result of a medical expert’s negligence. Injured patients leave the hospital feeling confused and upset, searching for answers.
Sokolove Law has been fighting side-by-side with victims like these for more than 40 years.
While the roots of our practice may be in Boston, Massachusetts and later New Hampshire and Rhode Island, Sokolove Law is a national law firm serving clients in all 50 states. We believe every person — no matter their background — should have the right to pursue justice through the legal system.
If you or someone you love has been injured due to medical malpractice, we want to help. Beginning the legal process with Sokolove Law is the first step in advocating for you or your loved one’s rights and getting the justice you deserve.
Medical Malpractice Lawsuit FAQ
What are some examples of medical malpractice or negligence?
Medical malpractice (or negligence) takes many different forms but almost always involves harm done to a patient on behalf of a doctor or medical professional. Some examples of medical malpractice include misdiagnosis, surgery on the wrong area of the body, improperly prescribing drugs, and failure to treat a certain condition properly.
An example of medical malpractice may be a doctor who misdiagnoses a patient with pneumonia when, in fact, the patient has lung cancer. As a result of the misdiagnosis, the patient’s cancer treatment is delayed and they lose precious time that could have been spent combating the disease.
What should you do if you suspect medical malpractice?
If you suspect medical malpractice, your first move should be protecting your health and getting the proper care that you need.
After contacting another doctor, you should retrieve your medical records from the facility where you believe the malpractice occurred. If you suspect malpractice, be sure to monitor your health closely by taking daily notes or writing in a journal any symptoms you experience.
Finally, reach out to a medical malpractice law firm. An experienced and qualified personal injury attorney can help you figure out your next step forward.
How many years do you have to sue for medical malpractice?
The amount of time that a victim has to file a lawsuit is determined by a given state’s statute of limitations. These laws differ from state to state and are determined by the type of case a victim files, such as a personal injury claim versus a wrongful death claim.
Statutes of limitations typically range between 2-7 years, though 2-3 years is much more common. Once the statute of limitations passes, a victim can no longer file a lawsuit. If you suspect medical malpractice in your case, reach out to us today for a free case evaluation.
In a medical malpractice lawsuit, are you suing the doctor or the hospital?
In figuring out who to sue in a medical malpractice lawsuit, the determining factor is often the doctor’s employment status. In most cases, doctors operate as independent contractors, which can help medical facilities, such as hospitals, avoid legal trouble from medical malpractice.
In some cases, however, doctors are full-time employees of a hospital. In these circumstances, a victim may sue the hospital for their injury.
How long do medical malpractice claims take?
How long a medical malpractice case takes to settle or go to trial is largely determined by the complexity of the injury and the strength of the evidence presented during the discovery phase. Cases that are especially complex can take several years to reach a resolution.
By contrast, cases that are relatively straightforward — such as when a doctor mistakenly operates on the wrong area of a patient’s body — can take much less time to reach a resolution.
How much does it cost to sue for medical malpractice?
The act of hiring a medical malpractice attorney rarely costs anything upfront, and that’s because most lawyers practicing in this area work on a contingency-fee-basis. When an attorney is hired on a contingency-fee-basis, it means the victim pays nothing unless your case successfully reaches a settlement or verdict.
Only at the conclusion of a successful medical malpractice lawsuit will the victim’s legal team accept a portion of the compensation. If the lawsuit is unsuccessful, the medical malpractice lawyer does not collect any legal fees.