Medical Malpractice Lawyer, Salem MA
When you get medical treatment, you trust the doctors, nurses, and the rest of your healthcare team to act in your best interest. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen, and patients sometimes become the victims of medical negligence or malpractice. In fact, some estimates claim that medical errors cause 250,000 deaths in the United States every year, making this the third most common cause of death after cancer and heart disease.
If you believe you are the victim of medical malpractice, we can help. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Mistakes happen, and sometimes, it can be hard to differentiate an honest error from medical malpractice. However, doctors are held to a higher standard than the general public, and as a rule of thumb, medical malpractice occurs when the doctor fails to meet the expected standard of care.
In other words, medical malpractice is when you suffer injuries due to a medical professional’s actions, and in that same situation, most other medical professionals would have done something differently or made different decisions.
Essentials of Medical Malpractice Cases
To successfully bring a claim against a medical professional, you must establish the following three elements:
- You had a doctor-patient relationship. This means that you can’t sue someone based on information you got from their website or advice you overheard them giving another patient. They have to be your doctor or care provider.
- The doctor was negligent. Typically, to prove negligence, your attorney has to establish the medical standard of care and show how your doctor deviated from that standard.
- You suffered damages. Even if the doctor’s actions were not up to par, you usually can only bring forward a claim if you suffered damages. Damages include physical pain and injuries, mental anguish, expensive medical bills, and lost time at work. However, damages can also include loss of consortium (the inability to have an intimate relationship with your spouse or partner), pain and suffering, and emotional trauma.
Types of Medical Malpractice
Within those broad guidelines, medical malpractice can take a number of different forms. However, the majority of medical malpractice cases fall into the following categories:
- Failure to diagnosis
- Improper treatment
- Failure to educate patients about the risks associated with certain medications or procedures
- Surgical errors
- Mistakes administering medication
- Birth injuries
Note that this is not an exhaustive or complete list. If your injuries fall into another category, you may still be the victim of medical malpractice.
What to Expect with a Medical Malpractice Case
Usually, the process starts with a consultation with a medical malpractice attorney. During that meeting, the attorney determines if you’re likely to win your case, and they help you decide the best steps forward. Then, the attorney files a lawsuit, and your health care provider issues a response.
Fifteen days after the response, your attorney presents an “offer of proof” to a special tribunal consisting of a justice of the Massachusetts superior court, a licensed physician who practices medicine in the same area where your injury occurred, and a Massachusetts attorney.
The tribunal looks at your medical records, statements from qualifying physicians, and any other information you have. Then, the tribunal decides if your case should move to court. If the tribunal does not decide in your favor, you can still take the case to court, but you must provide a bond to cover the cost of the defendant’s legal fees. If you win the case, you receive a refund of the bond, but if you lose, those funds go to the defendant.
In court, your lawyer will use expert testimony, medical records, and witness statements to prove that your damages were a result of the doctor’s negligence. In some cases, the hospital may also be responsible. For instance, hospital negligence can come into play if the hospital hired a doctor without doing due diligence or if the hospital knowingly looked the other way in relation to inappropriate activities such as drinking on the job.
Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is the amount of time you have to bring forward a case after suffering an injury. In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations expires three years after the date of the incident. If you don’t discover the damages until after the injury occurred, the clock usually doesn’t start ticking until you find out about the injuries. However, even then, you only have seven years to file a claim. The only exception is when a foreign object such as a surgical sponge is left in your body.
To be on the safe side, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. At Tinti, Quinn, Grover & Frey, P.C., we have the experience you need when you’re trying to fight a medical malpractice claim. To learn more and set up a free case evaluation, contact us today.