Mistakes happen every day in life and unfortunately, when those mistakes involve medical care the outcome can be devastating. In most cases, medical mistakes are not the result of negligence or incompetence on the part of the care provider, but occasionally they are.
Patients file medical malpractice lawsuits for a variety of reasons, but many cases are closed without any financial settlement. Determining whether or not you have a potentially successful medical malpractice case takes some consideration, which could include a discussion with an attorney.
What are some of the most common reasons doctors are sued for malpractice?
Sparsely Completed Medical Records
Doctors and other healthcare providers must keep detailed records of a patient’s condition and treatment. Failing to do so can result in a malpractice lawsuit. If your medical records lack information about your doctor’s rationale for critical decisions, feature errors or omissions, are illegible, or include questionable alterations, you could have a case. Evidence of an altered record almost always guarantees a winnable case.
When you visit a doctor or you are admitted to the hospital, someone must conduct an intake interview to collect your medical history. You are asked about family medical history, allergies, drug use, the names of your other doctors, and several other questions that alert doctors to any potential problems. Without written proof these questions were asked and answered, doctors could face legal action.
Lack of Follow-up
There are times when doctors take a wait-and-see approach to a medical problem, which often is the best option. However, if your doctor fails to observe and monitor a condition, or fails to document the reasons for being less assertive with treatment, it can result in serious consequences and subsequent legal action.
Failure to Obtain Informed Consent
Doctors must explain to you or the person responsible for your medical decisions the risks, alternatives, and expected outcomes of potential treatments. You or your medical guardian must sign a release form, but this form is virtually worthless without proof the doctor personally obtained consent through explanation of the procedure. Often, handwritten or dictated notes are more useful in a doctor’s defense than the standard consent form. The same is true if a patient refuses medical care. Doctors must explain the risks of refusing treatment, creating informed refusal and protecting the doctor against any consequences.
Mishandled Lab Studies
Many patients undergo lab and imaging tests prior to medical procedures. These must be assessed by a doctor in a timely manner and there must be some way to prove the doctor did review the material – such as a signature or initialed document.
Miscommunication between doctors can result in mistreatment of a patient. Doctors must keep track of referrals and keep records regarding conversations with patients and colleagues, in order to prove there were no miscommunications concerning a patient’s care.
Prescriptions and refills must be adequately documented. Failure to do this that results in patient injury leaves a doctor vulnerable to a medical malpractice lawsuit. To prevent problems, make sure charting is done properly and medication control records are easily accessed and reviewed.
Lack of Patient Education
It is a doctor’s responsibility to educate patients about their condition and treatment options. In addition to oral education, you should also receive written information about your medical options. Doctors must also document they have provided you with this information.
Lack of a Sound Doctor-Patient Relationship
Medical malpractice lawsuits are sometimes the result of a poor relationship between doctors and medical staff, and patients. Something as simple as poor phone etiquette or inattention to a patient’s concerns can result in a lawsuit.
Doctors and their staff need to treatment patients with respect. Though complaints about bedside manner, etiquette, and general treatment might not result in a successful medical malpractice award, it could shine light on other mistakes that could potentially result in scrutiny and legal action.