Medical Malpractice: What to do when you or a loved one are hurt by your health care professional.
When it comes to medical malpractice most doctors and health care professionals will do all they can to help us during a health crisis, but they’re human, too. Nobody is perfect. If a doctor makes a mistake, that doesn’t mean he/she is a bad doctor – they may have just had a bad day or made a bad decision.
A 2016 study by Johns Hopkins University found that medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States, just behind cancer but ahead of respiratory disease.
A 2017 report released by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and NORC at the University of Chicago found that 21% of people in the United States report having personally experienced a medical error, and that these errors “often have a lasting impact on the patient’s physical health, emotional health, financial well-being, or family relationships.”
Health care professionals are trained to help you in your time of need. At times, you literally put your life in their hands. Each year in the United States, about 84% of adults and 93% of children will have contact with a health care professional.
So what happens when that medical professional makes a mistake? What happens when you are harmed due to medical negligence? What are the laws in Arizona you must follow? How do you prove your case? What damages might you be able to recover if you prove your case?
What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is harmed because a health care professional deviates from the accepted standard of care – in other words, makes a mistake. With any medical procedure there are risks, and that something bad or a known complication develops after a procedure does not automatically mean malpractice was committed.
A medical malpractice claim can be brought against any licensed health care professional. Examples of negligent acts that commonly result in medical malpractice claims include:
- Failing to timely diagnose an illness
- Misdiagnosing an illness
- Misreading an important lab result
- Prescribing improper medication or dosage
- Failing to follow proper medical procedures
- Failing to warn a patient of known risks
- Discharging a patient prematurely
Elements of a medical malpractice claim in Arizona
To establish a medical malpractice claim in Arizona, you must clear the following two, distinct hurdles:
- The health care provider failed to exercise the degree of care and skill expected of a reasonable health care provider in the profession, and
- Such failure was the proximate cause of your injury.
In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the primary focus will be on what the health care provider should have done, or not done, based on the specific set of symptoms. The health care professional does not have to be perfect. The standard by which the health care provider is judged is the medical standard of care.
Doctors and health care providers must exercise the same degree of care as a reasonable provider with the same training and experience.
In court, medical malpractice plaintiffs must persuade the judge or jury that the health care professional failed to act with the same level of care as an ordinary health care professional with the same training and experience would have. The defense will attempt to persuade the judge or jury that the health care professional acted competently and followed the correct standard of care. The plaintiffs must present testimony from medical experts to support their arguments.
Special procedural requirements in Arizona
Arizona has a unique statute that requires medical malpractice plaintiffs to provide a preliminary expert opinion (along with their complaint) explaining the factual basis for each claim against the health care provider, plus the acts, errors, or omissions that the expert considers to be a violation of the appropriate standard of care. The requirement is intended to reduce the amount of baseless claims.
Medical malpractice statute of limitations
In Arizona, a medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date the injury is discovered and the patient knew or reasonably should have known negligence was committed. For medical malpractice in which the patient died, the wrongful death statute of limitations is two years from the date of death.
For minors, the statute of limitations does not begin to run, however, until the claimant is 18 years of age. So, if you were 16 years of age when you were injured, the two year statute of limitations does not begin to run until you turned 18.
Medical negligence lawsuit damages in Arizona
There are two types of damages available in medical malpractice cases:
- Actual damages that include the cost of additional treatment, loss of wages, loss of future wages, and pain and suffering.
- Punitive damages may be awarded when medical malpractice is the result of grossly reckless, wanton or intentional behavior on the part of the health care professional.
If you have questions
If you have questions about any medical malpractice or any other personal injury matter, call Kevin Chapman or his team at (480) 833-1113 and we can talk about it.
Blog: Kevin’s Other Articles