Published in Personal Injury on August 9, 2018.
All doctors take the Hippocratic oath that states, “First, do no harm.” Unfortunately, far too many doctors are doing just that—injuring patients by making completely avoidable errors.
According to researchers at Johns Hopkins, medical errors now make up the third leading cause of death in the country.
An estimated 250,000 people die from medical negligence, and thousands more are critically injured. If you think a medical mistake has injured you or a loved one, you should meet with an experienced Indiana medical malpractice attorney.
Defining Medical Malpractice
Doctors and other medical professionals owe their patients a duty to exercise the care that a reasonably skilled and competent professional would provide in similar circumstances. This standard does not require that your doctor be perfect.
However, they must be competent as judged by how other medical professionals would have acted under the circumstances.
When doctors violate the standard of care, then injured patients can sue them for compensation in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Signs of Medical Malpractice
It is not always easy to know if your doctor or other medical professional has made a mistake.
For one thing, doctors are not in the habit of admitting their mistakes. For another, you cannot rely solely on things like pain, since many medical treatments necessarily cause pain.
If you have open-heart surgery, then you should expect that doctors will break your ribs as part of the procedure. This is a necessary part of the surgery, so patients should expect discomfort following treatment.
Instead, pay attention to the following red flags, which might signal that you have a valid case for a medical malpractice lawsuit:
- Your doctor is avoiding you. This is a sign that the doctor knows he or she did something wrong.
- You aren’t improving. This might be a sign a doctor failed to diagnose you properly.
- You start feeling pain in unusual parts of the body. If you went in for heart surgery but feel pain in your leg, then something might have gone wrong.
- You pick up an infection after surgery. This could be a sign that doctors did not scrub in properly.
- A loved one died. Often, deaths are avoidable if doctors treat patients properly, so a death is a huge red flag, especially if your loved one was young and healthy.
These are only some of the warning signs that a doctor has made a medical error. Remember to trust your gut. If you think something went wrong, then speak to a medical malpractice attorney right away.
How to Sue a Doctor
If you suspect that your injury was caused by medical negligence, then you can bring a lawsuit against the doctor who injured you.
However, Indiana throws a lot of hurdles in the way before you get your day in court. In particular, Indiana’s tort reform laws now require that injured victims submit their case to a medical review panel in addition to litigation in court.
After filing your complaint with the state’s Department of Insurance, the doctor or health care provider receives notification, as does their insurer. A medical review panel is formed and consists of three panel members, typically doctors, who review and consider panel submissions of each party.
Each party can then take depositions or ask questions of the other side before making a medical malpractice submission. After review of the panel submissions, each panel member submits their own opinion as to whether the defendant failed to comply with the appropriate standard of care as charged in the injured patient’s complaint. The three opinions from each panel member make up the medical review panel opinion.
As a victim, you have the right to go to court regardless of how the panel decides the issue. However, we have found that a favorable panel opinion often creates an incentive for defendants to quickly settle the dispute. Even if the panel does not think there is sufficient evidence, it does not preclude you from continuing the action in court.
Compensation Is Available
If you prevail in your lawsuit, you can receive compensation for all your economic losses. These include any sums of money you spent because of the substandard medical treatment you received. For example, our clients have obtained money damages for:
- Corrective surgery
- Doctor’s visits and hospital stays
- Physical therapy
- Assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, crutches, and scooters
- Prescription and over-the-counter medication
If you suffered a catastrophic injury, such as paralysis or a brain injury, then you might need continuing medical care for the remainder of your life. You might also receive compensation to pay for this future care.
Our clients have also received compensation for lost wages, if they could not work while injured. When a catastrophic injury prevents them from returning to work, they might be eligible for lost future wages as well. This compensation can replace the wages they could have earned if they were not totally or partially disabled.
Finally, injured patients can receive pain and suffering damages. These are much harder to calculate, but an experienced Indiana medical malpractice attorney will use his experience to estimate the amount you can receive.
Medical Malpractice Caps
Indiana caps how much you can receive in compensation for a medical malpractice law suit. The caps have recently been increased:
- If your claim for malpractice accrues between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2019, then the maximum amount you can receive is $1.65 million. This amount covers everything—medical care, future medical care, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
- If your claim accrues after July 1, 2019, then the maximum is $1.8 million.
The defendant and his insurer are responsible for only a portion of this amount. For example, for a medical malpractice case that accrues in 2018, the maximum a defendant will pay is $400,000.
The state’s Patient’s Compensation Fund will pick up the remaining amount, up to $1.25 million in compensation.
Trusted Indiana Medical Malpractice Attorneys
After a medical malpractice injury, patients are rightly angry and confused. Unfortunately, the state of Indiana does not make it easy for innocent victims to hold negligent doctors and other health care providers accountable in court.
At Eskew Law, our Indiana malpractice attorneys have the experience necessary to obtain compensation for our clients. We will do everything possible to get you full and fair compensation, in either a settlement or in court. For more information about how we can help, please contact us today.