Phoenix Medical Malpractice Attorney
When it was published 15 years ago the Institute of Medicine’s landmark study “To Err is Human” shook up the medical community by declaring that 98,000 Americans each year died from medical errors. But if that report was a bombshell—and indeed it was, drawing much-needed attention to the problem of preventable patient harm—an updated medical error estimate is even more explosive.
According to a study published recently in the Journal of Patient Safety, 210,000 – 440,000 premature annual deaths are associated with preventable harm, while cases of serious harm could be 10-20 times more common. That would mean somewhere between 2 million and 9 million injuries occur in US hospitals each year.
Even assuming that these estimates are a bit high, it’s undeniable that far too many patients are injured and killed each year by the very healthcare that’s supposed to improve their quality of life. Mistakes can and do happen, but when those mistakes result from unreasonable oversights or omissions, patients have the right to hold doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers responsible.
If you or a loved one suffered a serious medical injury that you believe was preventable, it’s worth discussing what happened with the Resendez Injury Law Group. Malpractice lawsuits are not frivolous ways for patients to “game” the system; they are legitimate means of addressing provider negligence.
Talk to experienced Arizona medical malpractice attorney Rudy Resendez today and learn your rights: call (602) 824-9444 or send us a message.
Understanding Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice doesn’t simply mean that a patient suffers an undesired outcome. Medicine is an imperfect science practiced by imperfect individuals, and it is sometimes the case that patients are unhappy with a treatment or result. However, Medical malpractice occurs when that treatment or result involves negligence—a concept that carries a very specific legal meaning.
What’s Required for a Malpractice Claim
Although a legal expert should help you determine whether you have a claim against a doctor or other provider, there’s a good chance you have a case if the following criteria are in place:
- The existence of a doctor-patient relationship. This part is pretty straightforward: you must have been seen and treated by a doctor. One foreseeable way in which the doctor-patient relationship test could become more complicated, though, is if there’s a consulting physician who didn’t provide care to you directly.
- Negligence. The typical medical malpractice case involves expert testimony by one physician that another physician did not practice medicine in a reasonably skillful and prudent manner. Doctors, even though they’re highly skilled, aren’t held to a standard of perfection. Instead, they’re generally held to accepted standards within their field and the scope of medical knowledge.
Beyond these case elements, you must also be able to show that the doctor’s (or other provider’s) negligence caused your injury/harm and that the injury caused specific damages (such as additional medical costs, lost wages, physical suffering and emotional pain). That is, even if a negligent medical error occurred, if you didn’t suffer any losses because of it, you probably wouldn’t have a case.
Special Medical Malpractice Consideration for Arizonans
As touched on above, expert testimony is usually needed to prove that provider negligence occurred. In Arizona, a so-called “Affidavit of Merit” must usually be obtained before a medical malpractice case will be heard by a court. The Affidavit is the sworn testimony of a qualified health professional that the case is legitimate and should proceed. It is a way to limit frivolous lawsuits.
Types of Malpractice
John T. James, whose study provides the revised estimate of patient adverse events (PAEs), identifies the following types of medical errors:
- Errors of commission (either the wrong medical action is taken or the right action is performed improperly)
- Errors of omission (a medical intervention was needed but wasn’t taken)
- Communication errors (information vital to the patient’s care is not communicated, either between two or more providers or between providers and the patient)
- Diagnostic errors (errors that result in delayed treatment, the incorrect treatment or no effective treatment)
- Context errors (a physician fails to account for a situation unique to the patient that impacts his or her ability to receive necessary post-hospital treatment)
If these error definitions seem a bit too technical, here are some more concrete examples of medical errors that commonly kill and injure patients:
- Failing to order appropriate tests
- Medication errors
- Surgical errors
- Anesthesia errors
- Childbirth injuries
- Hospital infections
- Lab errors
- Improper patient monitoring
- Premature patient discharge
- Misdiagnosing a condition
Seriously Injured by Medical Care? Get Help From an Experienced Phoenix Medical Malpractice Lawyer.
There is a limited amount of time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. An Arizona medical malpractice case must normally be commenced within two years of the time the injury occurred. However, in some cases involving public (governmental) entities such as a county hospital, those cases must normally be commenced with the filing of a Notice of Claim against the alleged negligent public entity within six months of the time when the person bringing the medical malpractice claim realizes he or she has been damaged and knows or reasonably should know the cause, source, act, event, instrumentality or condition that caused or contributed to the damage.
Sometimes, it takes months to even suspect that something may have gone wrong at the hospital. Given the time constraints injured patients face, the opportunity to pursue justice can slip away without prompt action.
Your medical care may have hurt you, but it doesn’t hurt to discuss your care with a legal professional. Learn more though a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with the Resendez Injury Law Group.
From our Phoenix offices we serve clients in Peoria, Avondale, Goodyear, Buckeye, Surprise, Mesa, Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, Gilbert, Queen Creek and all other areas of Arizona including Flagstaff, Yuma and Gila Bend.
For More Information:
- Journal of Patient Safety: A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care
- To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System
- Arizona State Senate: Medical Malpractice
- Public Citizen: Medical Errors: The Real Crisis