What is Medical Malpractice?
Hospitals and health care providers provide an invaluable service to the community and patients. Unfortunately, recent studies indicate that medical mistakes affect up to 1 in 3 patients and result in nearly 100,000 deaths each year. Alabama law recognizes medical malpractice when a healthcare provider negligently cares for a patient and that negligence causes an injury or death. Negligent care generally occurs when the standard of care is below what is expected of a healthcare professional. A medical malpractice action is not warranted when there is negligent treatment without an injury resulting in damages, nor simply because medical care resulted in a bad result or less than ideal outcome. Potentially compensable medical error occurs only when there is: 1) a breach of the applicable standard of medical care; 2) that causes injury or harm; 3) that leads to specific damages.
If you or your loved one was the victim of medical malpractice, contact our legal team today at (205) 598-2531.
Medical malpractice happens in many different ways, such as failure to diagnose a condition when it directly results in personal injury or death. Surgical errors are medical malpractice when further injury, amputation, or death is the result.
Common types of medical error include, but are not limited to:
- Anesthesia Errors
- Delayed Diagnosis
- Emergency Room Errors
- Failure to Diagnose / Misdiagnosis
- Failure to Obtain Informed Consent
- Foreign Objects Left in the Body
- Hospital Negligence
- Medication Errors
- Nursing Home Abuse
- Surgical Errors
- Unreasonable Delay or Failure to Treat
The Importance of Expert Testimony
In Alabama, a statute was created that governs the law of medical malpractice actions. Unlike a car wreck or other typical tort case, there is a heightened burden of proof that exists. The Alabama Liability Medical Act adopted by our legislature requires that a plaintiff provide expert testimony to prove all of the components of a medical malpractice action. Therefore, a plaintiff must hire a “similarly situated” healthcare provider (doctor, nurse, neurologist, etc.) to testify as to the standard of care that was allegedly breached. In addition, an expert witness must also testify as to whether the alleged negligence was the actual cause of the resulting injury or death.
Oftentimes, this requires a different kind of physician or healthcare provider. For example, a nurse would be required to testify against another nurse regarding an allegation of negligence in the nursing care of a patient. However, if this negligence caused a patient to be denied timely treatment of a heart attack, a cardiologist would likely be the only expert qualified to testify to the causation component of the action. Yet another expert may be required to supply testimony that explains to the jury the various intricacies of the damages that the victim suffers.
In addition to the necessity of expert testimony and the complexities of proving causation, there are also caps on damages that affect certain medical entities that are formed as municipal healthcare authorities. There are also immunity issues for hospitals that are deemed arms of the state of Alabama which is generally afforded “sovereign immunity” from civil suit.
Another hurdle for the plaintiff in a medical action in Alabama is the restrictions involving the discovery of evidence. Medical providers and hospitals are not allowed, by statute, to hand over any documents that pertain to a subsequent quality assurance investigation undertaken of a medical negligence incident in a facility. This is often referred to as the “quality assurance privilege.” Furthermore, other acts of negligence involving other patients by an “incompetent” doctor or nurse are not admissible as evidence against that same doctor or nurse.
Put our team in your corner every step of the way. View some of the verdicts and settlements we’ve secured for our clients in past medical malpractice cases.
Our Team Wants You to Be Prepared
Due to the complex scientific issues that often arise in medical cases and the necessity of sometimes multiple physician experts, most medical negligence cases involve a high amount of cost to the attorney. Prosecuting a medical case all the way through trial generally requires a very significant investment of both time and money. As a result this generally leads to the consideration of only those cases with clear and obvious liability and that result in death or severe permanent injury, such as traumatic brain injury, paralysis, loss of vision, or the loss of limbs.
With the heightened burden upon the plaintiff, the insurance companies that represent the health care providers do not generally offer compensation to most patients that pursue a claim. It is not a simple matter of writing a letter in an attempt to negotiate a settlement. Plaintiffs need to be prepared for an often long and difficult process. Some complex medical cases can take years to prosecute. It is also important to know that your entire medical history will likely be reviewed and discussed in written discovery, deposition, and trial.
Free Consult with Our Birmingham Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Our Birmingham medical malpractice attorneys at Fischer & Associates, LLC have achieved significant settlements for clients and their families in medical malpractice actions. We have handled a wide variety of cases and generally focus on cases of “failure to diagnose and treat” that result in death or catastrophic injury.
Our firm has particular experience and / or interest in handling cases involving:
- Birth injuries
- Permanent retinal injuries
- Traumatic brain injury and cognitive damage
- Loss of limbs due to OR mistakes
- Failure to remove sponges or medical equipment after a procedure
- Failure to treat a stroke, heart attack, or pulmonary embolism in the ER
- Anesthesia mistakes in the OR
- Failure to diagnose and timely treat meningitis or encephalopathy
If you or a loved one has suffered what you believe is a medical error, you may be able to seek compensation for a number of damages. Our trial attorneys at Fischer & Associates, LLC can provide you with a free initial legal consultation. If your claim has potential merit that requires further investigation, it is often helpful for the client to provide any medical records or documentation for us to begin an evaluation.
It is often easier and faster for a patient to request and retrieve medical records themselves. However, if there is difficulty with this process, we can request these records on your behalf. Sometimes an initial review of the records is all that is necessary for an evaluation, other times it is necessary for us to consult with a medical provider to discuss complex medical issues that may be difficult to prove or identify.
Call (205) 598-2531 to schedule your complimentary case review today.