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When do I have a medical malpractice suit?

While you may think that a big error made by your treating physician gives you cause to file a medical malpractice suit, it is not always that simple. There are a few things you should keep in mind when considering whether to file a medical malpractice suit.

It is only inevitable that humans will make mistakes. Unfortunately, in a high-stakes environment such as medicine, sometimes those mistakes can cause huge detriments to another person's health. And while every mistake made on behalf of your physician is grounds for sympathy, not every mistake gives you grounds for a malpractice suit.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to differentiate between what provides grounds for a medical malpractice suit and what is just human error

What is medical malpractice?

Each state has its own medical malpractice laws and while most of the laws are uniform around the country, it is still vital that you understand your individual state's malpractice laws.

The general definition of medical malpractice is when a medical provider violates the standard of care, and an injury is incurred by a patient as a result.

What constitutes "human error" in the medical environment?

Key to differentiating between medical malpractice and simple human error is understanding what the standard of care is for a certain injury in the medical industry. In order for it to be a legitimate and valid medical malpractice claim, the action on behalf of the treating physician must deviate from the accepted norms of practice in the medical community.

Basically, ask yourself whether the act on behalf of the treating physician was so absurd or horrendous that the injury you sustained was unavoidable. If the answer to that question is yes, a medical malpractice claim might be the next step for you.

If I believe I have a legitimate claim, what are my next steps?

If you have determined that your physician failed to provide the required standard of care, what do you do now?

First of all, determine what exactly went wrong and do so with the practicing physician. Sometimes the treating physician can rectify the problem/injury and you can avoid legal action altogether.

Next, if you are still not able to resolve the issue, contact the pertinent licensing board. They will possibly be able to help you in terms of disciplining the practicing physician.

Lastly, it is also important to know how long you have following the sustained injury to file a claim. In New York, you have up to two and a half years to file a medical malpractice claim. While this might seem like a long time, it really isn't. If you have a legitimate claim, filing it sooner rather than later is the best practice.

Damages

So what can you potentially receive following the filing of a medical malpractice claim? Your possible compensation would come in the form of damages. There are typically three forms of damages you can receive in a medical malpractice suit:

  • Compensation for medical costs and lost wages due to time off work
  • Compensation for pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages

Note that punitive damages are rare and are only available if you can show your treating physician acted recklessly.

At the end of the day, if you have sustained an injury at the hands of your treating physician, understanding how the law works will make it easier to determine whether or not you have a valid medical malpractice claim.

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