When we are admitted to a Nebraska hospital or when we go to our local doctor’s office, we trust our lives and safety in the hands of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. When a mistake is made at these facilities, lives are at risk. Unfortunately, medical errors and mistakes are made from time to time. It’s up to the healthcare industry, as well as each individual institution, to bring the margin of error down to an absolute minimum.
If you or someone you love has suffered from a mistake that was caused by a doctor’s, nurse’s, or other medical professional’s negligence, an Omaha medical malpractice lawyer can help your family file a medical negligence claim against that individual or institution. Doing so may give you the financial compensation you need to recover, as well as send a message our healthcare industry can’t ignore. The health and safety of Nebraska citizens must be prioritized.
To begin, you’ll need to understand what medical malpractice is, why and how it happens, and what your rights are so you can get the compensation you deserve.
First, let’s go over some facts and statistics regarding malpractice in the medical industry.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is injured, harmed, or otherwise caused to suffer by negligent or careless actions taken by a medical professional in a facility or institution. Malpractice legal claims are separate from criminal claims and act as a way for citizens to have a voice against injustices that are committed on a civil level. They are categorized as civil claims.
Medical malpractice lawsuits are complex to fight in court. Hospitals and medical professionals tend to do everything in their power to avoid having to pay an innocent victim and their family for errors they were at fault for. A successful malpractice claim can cost a medical institution a great deal of money, as well as their reputation.
Malpractice can happen at all levels of medical care. The following professionals may be able to be held responsible for malpractice:
- Physician/Nurse Assistants
- Medical technicians like laboratory technicians or X-ray technicians
- Other medical professionals like therapists, condition specialists, etc.
Malpractice laws and regulations vary by state. The Nebraska Legislature establishes the laws regarding medical malpractice and how the claims and cases are handled. Nebraska Revised Statute 44-2801 and 25-222 establish patients’ rights and the procedure in the event of medical malpractice.
Statute 44-2801 states that citizens have the right to competent medical and hospital services at a reasonable cost. This statute establishes the right to seek compensation in the event of malpractice. Statute 25-222 establishes the process to hold a medical professional accountable for their mistakes. It also states the statute of limitations, which we’ll touch on later.
How Common Are Instances of Medical Malpractice?
Unfortunately, medical errors are made frequently. Every day, negligent medical professionals put individuals in preventable danger. According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins, medical malpractice is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. It falls behind heart disease and cancer. It is estimated that around 250,000 individuals are victims of fatal medical mistakes every year. This surpasses the CDC’s third-leading cause of death – respiratory disease.
The study attributes the high error rate to a number of factors revolving around the healthcare system. The top factors include poorly coordinated care, the absence or underuse of safety nets or other protocols, fragmented insurance networks, and a variation in how doctors are held accountable for the care they provide.
You would think the high number of mistake incidents and the number of filed claims would correlate. This, however, is not the case. Only two percent of med mal victims file claims and lawsuits. As a result of the claims filed from 2006 to 2016, approximately 144,000 resulted in payment. While this totals to billions of dollars in settlements, it also means that millions of individuals have yet to receive the justice they deserve. Hiring an attorney can ensure you are not left behind.
What Type of Medical Errors Are Common?
There are numerous different forms of medical malpractice. Most result from negligent actions or inactions. Recognizing the most common types can help you if you find you’ve been injured by a physician or other health care employee. The strongest cases revolve around understanding and being able to explain where the doctor went wrong. Common medical mistakes include:
Misdiagnosis, Delayed Diagnosis, or a Failure to Diagnose
This type of medical negligence happens when a doctor or technician makes a mistake and incorrectly diagnoses a patient, delays a diagnosis for too long, or fails to diagnose a condition completely. Mistakes like this are made when there are miscommunication and procedural errors.
A misdiagnosis may happen if an inexperienced doctor determines a patient has a certain condition and chooses not to consult another doctor for a second opinion. Delayed diagnoses are common in busy emergency rooms. Patients experiencing trouble breathing or chest pain, for example, should be seen before someone with flu-like symptoms. If they are not, their condition could worsen quickly. A failed diagnosis is when a doctor does not diagnose the patient at all, even when symptoms are present.
It’s important to know that a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis is not always evidence of negligence. For this type of malpractice to occur, the patient must have suffered from negative consequences from the missed or delayed diagnosis and that the harm was foreseeable.
Failure to Gain Informed Consent
All medical procedures and treatment options, etc. must be approved by the patient before they are administered. A patient needs to understand the risk to benefit ratio associated with whatever procedure they will be undergoing. They also need to be informed of how recovery is likely to go – depending on their individual circumstances and overall health. It is important for the doctor to sit down with the patient to determine if they are capable of giving consent and if they understand everything.
Examples of failure to gain approval include surgical procedures that cause injury and are done without consent or medication that is administered without consent and causes harm. If a patient agrees to a procedure and later discovers they were not told everything, this is also grounds for medical malpractice.
Failure to Provide Appropriate or Adequate Treatment for a Medical Condition
Many examples of malpractice can fit into this category and include cases where a patient is ignored and suffers as a result or is given the wrong treatment and suffers. These mistakes often arise because of understaffing and miscommunication. If, for example, a patient suffers because they were on a strict medication schedule and missed a dose because there weren’t enough nurses working, a med mal case may be possible.
When a patient is given the incorrect medication, or they receive a prescription label that is incorrect, they may medically suffer due to harmful side effects or reactions with other medication. Medication errors are likely if the attending does not examine a patient’s history or check for possible medication interactions.
Medication errors can also happen with poor communication. Generally, a doctor will prescribe medication, the nurse will submit the request to the pharmacist, and the pharmacist will ensure the script is filled. If any mistakes occur along that path, a patient could needlessly suffer.
When a surgeon makes a critical mistake like leaving surgical tools and equipment inside the patient, this can lead to devastating health consequences. Patients often need to undergo secondary procedures to fix what never should have happened. There are also instances when patient identification procedures are not performed, and a patient receives surgery on the wrong side of their body or undergoes a procedure that was meant for someone else.
Anesthesiologists must be present at all surgeries to ensure the patient handles anesthesia well and is not given too much or too little. If they are negligent during an operation, a mistake may happen. In the event not enough anesthesia is given, a patient may wake up during surgery. If too much anesthesia is given, brain cell death is a real possibility.
Birth injuries can occur when a hospital staff member or nurse makes a mistake when taking care of an expecting mother before, during, or after childbirth. Oftentimes these mistakes are tied to a failure to properly monitor the baby or mother or caused by improper use of techniques or tools. Common birth injuries include Brachial Palsy injuries, facial paralysis, brain injuries, fractures, cephalohematoma, and caput succedaneum.
How Does the Medical Malpractice Claim Process Work in Nebraska?
In order to start filing a medical malpractice claim successfully, you’ll need to make sure you pay attention to and follow the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a law that limits the amount of time you have to submit your initial claim to the court system. Your lawyer will be able to determine how long you have based on your situation and the existing laws.
In Nebraska, you have two years from the date the medical error occurred to file a claim. If the error is deemed not discoverable in that time period, you’ll have one year from the date the discovery is made. There is a greater period of time, called a statute of repose, that gives victims ten years from the date on which the professional or facility caused them harm. If you neglect to submit your claim within these timeframes, the court is likely to dismiss your case without glancing at it.
Prior to filing your official claim, your complaint must be considered by a panel of experts, according to Revised Statute 44-2840. This is called a medical review panel. There will be three to four members on the panel, depending on your complaint. Both you and the defendant have the right to choose a physician to be on the panel. Those doctors will choose a third member. In the event that you are suing a hospital, there will be a fourth member from the hospital administration.
The medical review panel will examine your medical charts, test results, and other relevant evidence to decide if they feel as though your case should be heard by the court or dismissed. If your case proceeds to court, you will need the help of an experienced attorney and a knowledgeable physician, who can provide expert testimony on behalf of your claim.
How Are Medical Malpractice Claims Proven?
There are four aspects to proving medical malpractice. The more evidence you gather to support these things, the more likely you are to receive the compensation you deserve. An experienced and qualified attorney is often key at this point.
Here are the points you need to prove to a judge or jury:
- A relationship existed between you – the patient, and the medical professional or facility. You cannot sue a consulting physician for medical malpractice. You can only sue a doctor who diagnosed and treated you.
- The medical professional or facility acted negligently. You have to be able to prove that the mistake made would not have been made under the same circumstances by a competent doctor. The required standard of care typically comes into play to prove this.
- The negligence led to your injury.Testimony from a medical expert is the best way to prove the negligent party’s actions led to your injury.
- The injury resulted in specific damages.You can only sue the medical professional or facility if the injury you sustained due to their malpractice caused you harm. Damages can be economic and noneconomic. Some types of harm include physical pain, mental anguish, additional medical expenses, and lost wages.
What Compensation Is Available for Medical Malpractice Victims?
In the event you are deemed eligible for compensation as a med mal victim, you may be entitled to economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages refer to exact calculations of monetary loss. Noneconomic damages refer to subjective loss that cannot be calculated directly.
Economic damages may include medical care and expenses, loss of wages, or loss of earning capacity. Noneconomic damages may include mental distress and suffering, permanent impairment, disfigurements, loss of consortium, or damages for death.
In Nebraska, there are caps on the amount of damages any one person can receive for a medical malpractice case. These amounts range from $1.25 million to $2.25 million, depending on when the malpractice occurred.
How Can You Improve Your Chances of Receiving Quality Medical Care?
When it comes to medical care, it’s imperative to remember you are in charge of your treatment. While your physician has the knowledge to improve your condition and help you get your health back in order, you do not have to sit idly by and wait for things to happen. Taking control of your hospital stay can help ensure you receive the care you deserve.
It’s important to keep an open line of communication. Ask as many questions as you have and never worry about asking too many. As a patient, you are entitled to understanding everything that is going on with your condition, treatment, and recovery.
It’s also important to speak up if you see something you think is wrong. If you notice conditions aren’t as sanitary as they could be, or you see a mistake in your chart, inform your doctor as soon as possible.
How Can Welsh & Welsh PC, LLO Help You Recover?
Many of the hospitals and doctor’s offices in Nebraska may be understaffed, but that doesn’t mean our healthcare should come with the risk of deadly mistakes. If you or a loved one has been injured or has suffered due to mistakes that were caused in one of our state’s health care institutions or facilities, you may be eligible to file a medical malpractice claim.
Doing so can award your family with compensation that may be able to be used for recovery costs, loss of wages costs, continued home care costs, therapy costs, pain and suffering costs, and more.
At Welsh & Welsh PC, LLO, we can pair you with a trusted lawyer who can fight on your behalf and do everything possible to make sure you receive full and fair compensation and that the hospital or medical professional is held accountable for their errors. To learn more, contact our office today.