Whenever we seek medical care, we ideally entrust the service providers to have our best interests in mind, conduct the right tests, and choose a practical course of treatment. Nonetheless, it doesn't always work out as we planned. Nurses, doctors, and other care providers are often understaffed, overworked, and sometimes pushed to extreme limits by their administration. In such an environment, mistakes are bound to happen.
In case you or someone you love has been injured by a medical care provider in Birmingham, we're here to help. Contact a Birmingham medical malpractice lawyer at Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers by calling 205-666-6000 to learn more about your legal options.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice can happen in a myriad of ways. For instance, surgical errors, such as when a doctor performs the wrong surgery or leaves something in the patient's body, would qualify as negligence. However, negligence isn't always explicit. Other forms of medical malpractice include:
Failure to Diagnose or Misdiagnosis
Misdiagnosis refers to a missed diagnosis, an incorrect diagnosis, or a delayed diagnosis. A doctor might also diagnose one condition correctly but completely miss or misdiagnose another. Failure to diagnose is often based on the physician violating their duty of care by misdiagnosing or not diagnosing a condition.
There are cases where even highly skilled medical professionals make critical errors during surgery, which end up causing several complications for the victims. In some other cases, people might undergo unnecessary surgeries.
Drug Administration or Prescription Errors
Patients can easily suffer fatal or severe injuries when given incorrect medication prescriptions, or when given the wrong kind of a drug.
Some of the most common forms of medical malpractice actions are injuries to children during childbirth. Such claims are usually based on one or more forms of negligence done during the mother's pregnancy or delivery.
Errors with Anesthesia
A few kinds of complications can occur during the administration of anesthesia, including the administration of too little or too much anesthesia, the administration of the wrong kind of anesthesia, and the delayed delivery of anesthesia.
People suffering from serious conditions and are discharged from hospitals too early could suffer complications that require emergency readmissions. Infants are the most common victims in premature discharge cases.
Ignoring or Misreading Test Results
Physicians are given a wealth of medical information including MRIs, X-rays, and computed tomography (CAT and CT) scans, along with many others. In case certain signs on these kinds of reports aren't interpreted properly or are simply disregarded, it can form the basis of a medical malpractice claim.
This list is far from exhaustive. However, whether it's after surgery or not, if a medical professional left you feeling worse than you were before and you think they might be to blame, it's time you started considering contacting an attorney.
Why Should I Hire a Birmingham Medical Malpractice Lawyer?
A medical malpractice claim is difficult to file anywhere in the country, and Alabama is certainly no different. Many people simply lack the resources and specialized knowledge that the insurers of the medical institutions or medical professionals already have.
Fortunately, you don't have to deal with these legal challenges by yourself. Our Birmingham medical malpractice lawyers can work with you to help you pursue the compensation that you're entitled to. You could be facing several financial concerns that might make you think that you can't afford legal representation. At Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers, we handle Birmingham medical malpractice cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning you only need to pay us when we win the case and you're awarded compensation.
How Do You Prove Medical Malpractice in Alabama?
To win medical malpractice cases and get awarded compensation for the same, you have to prove three main points:
The Negligent Medical Professional Did Not Maintain Their Legal Duty to Their Patient
Although there are many situations where a person doesn't have a duty to another, the healthcare provider usually has an inherent duty to their patient. In fact, all professional healthcare providers that have a relationship with a patient has a duty to the patient.
This relationship between the healthcare provider and the patient is often established when the nurse, doctor, etc. start treating the patient. In a medical malpractice case, this is the easiest element to satisfy. The healthcare provider has a duty to utilize the established standards of care when they're treating a patient. Generally, all healthcare providers are held to a standard of other reasonable providers that have a similar education in a similar situation.
The Healthcare Provider's Breach of Duty Caused the Injury
With reference to the previous example, in case a lack of treatment leads to complications, the patient might have a claim. However, to file the claim successfully, you will need to prove that the complications that you or your loved one suffered were as a result of the healthcare practitioner's inadequate care or would have been prevented if the doctor acted within the standard of care.
In some cases, it can be really difficult to prove this, as the doctor's mistake might not have directly led to the said complications. There are even cases where the staff and the surgeon do everything required based on the standard procedures during the operation and post-operative care, but the patient still develops another complication or suffers an infection. This is why it can be the most difficult step when it comes to proving a medical malpractice claim.
The Birmingham medical malpractice lawyers at Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers are invaluable when helping you create a clear timeline along with a cause-and-effect example of how a doctor's failure to meet a reasonable standard of care led to your complications directly.
The Injury Caused Damages to the Patient
Next, our Birmingham medical malpractice lawyers will have to prove that the doctor's failure to meet the reasonable standard of care resulted in your injury and that the injury directly caused damages to you. Damages can include everything from the cost of additional operations, medical care, and rehabilitation needed because of the mistake, to the pain and suffering the surviving family goes through if the medical malpractice error caused a loved one to lose their life.
For instance, if a surgeon makes an error that causes a patient to become paralyzed, our lawyers can paint a clear picture for negotiation and the jury about how your life will be like now that you can't walk. This can include all things from being unable to resume work in your previous field of employment to the pain and suffering caused by being unable to participate in pursuing your hobbies and raising your family as you once were.
Determining the total damages in a medical malpractice case can be quite complicated, and it's essential to hire personal injury lawyers who have extensive experience with the nuances involved in the process, like the team of Birmingham medical malpractice attorneys at Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers.
How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Claim in Alabama?
According to Alabama Code § 6-5-482, the statute of limitations for medical negligence cases is two years. In case a cause of action isn't discovered and couldn't have been discovered reasonably within that time, then action might be taken for up to 6 months after the date of the discovery. The exception provided in this law relates to minors, usually victims who are less than 4 years of age and are allowed until their eighth birthday to commence an action.
What Kind of Damages Are Sought in a Medical Malpractice Claim?
For cases that go to trial, the judge or jury might grant a victim both compensatory and punitive damages. In most cases, compensatory damages consist of both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages refer to the past and future losses the victim suffered that can be calculated, such as lost income and medical expenses. Non-economic damages are inherently more subjective and may involve compensation for pain and suffering and emotional distress.
In cases where it's proven through clear and conclusive evidence that the defendant deliberately and consciously engaged in fraud, oppression, malice, or “wantonness” towards the victim, the court can award them punitive damages. Based on Alabama Code § 6-11-21(a), punitive damages in most civil actions can't exceed $500,000 or 3 times the compensatory damages; whichever is larger. However, under Alabama Code § 6-11-21(d), civil actions for physical injury are subject to limits of $1.5 million or three times the compensatory damages; whichever is larger.
What Happens if I Signed a Consent Form?
Generally, most consent forms are used for evidence purposes – that you were informed of certain risks and that you agree to the said medical procedure. Although a consent form is often sought to release medical facilities and personnel from liability, such agreements aren't always ironclad. A release form could be declared invalid in case it doesn't identify a complication that's suffered by the victim or in case it doesn't define the complication adequately.
Get in Touch With Our Birmingham Medical Malpractice Lawyers Today!
If you or a loved one is suffering from a serious injury or complication as a result of medical negligence, you need an experienced Birmingham medical malpractice attorney by your side. From the moment you meet with the Mike Bell Accident & Injury Lawyers team, we'll work to respond to all your questions regarding what makes a medical malpractice case. We'll offer you an honest assessment of your situation, and discuss your options moving forward.
Call us today or get in touch with us online for a free consultation with our dedicated medical malpractice lawyers in Birmingham, Alabama. We are always available to meet up with you anywhere in the state, at a time that's most convenient for you.