You went to a doctor because you suffered an injury or contracted an illness. You trusted your doctor to provide you with the best care possible, but your doctor, or the doctor of a loved one, betrayed that trust. He or she failed to provide you with the best possible care, and now, you suffer from a permanent and/or debilitating condition and require additional medical care (possibly including surgeries) to correct the mistake. In addition, you could need lifelong medical care or significantly shortened your lifespan.
All the while, you incur medical expenses, lose income and sustain other financial losses. If you lost a loved one, the expenses associated with that loss could also affect your finances.
So what can you do?
Depending on the circumstances, you might file a medical malpractice claim. The first hurdle to filing such a claim involves determining whether a preventable mistake occurred, and if the mistake caused you injury or the death of your loved one. Mistakes made by doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel take many forms, including but not limited to the following:
- Delayed diagnosis
- Surgical errors
- Failure to diagnose
- Emergency room errors
- Birth injuries
- Medication errors
- Anesthesia errors
- Pharmacy errors
This list does not encompass all of the categories of mistakes. Instead, it represents the most common areas where they occur. Where the mistake occurred in your case might require some investigation to determine. For example, a wrong diagnosis might lead to the incorrect treatment. You might believe a medication error occurred, but the investigation would more than likely reveal that your doctor misdiagnosed you, which led to him or her prescribing the wrong medication.
A medical professional will review the medical records, any witness accounts and other documentation necessary to determine whether a preventable mistake occurred. In addition, he or she needs to connect the injuries you suffered or the death of your loved one to the mistake.
So, if a mistake occurred, what happens next?
Once you file a medical malpractice claim, the court must rule that the following elements exist:
- A duty of care
- A breach of that duty
- An injury or death
To put these elements together, a doctor owes you a duty of care. If he or she breaches that duty, and your injuries (or the death of your loved one) resulted from the breach, medical malpractice occurred. In legal terms, the "proximate cause" of the injury must result from the breach.
When you made an appointment with your doctor or signed in at an emergency room, as soon as the doctor comes in and begins an examination, that doctor's duty to you begins. Any preventable mistake that occurs from that point forward might be medical malpractice if it caused you serious harm or the death of your loved one.
If the court agrees that medical malpractice occurred, it will then consider awarding you damages allowed under Arizona law. Due to the complexities involved in medical malpractice cases, you might benefit from the assistance of an attorney. In addition to understanding the law in these cases, he or she more than likely has relationships with medical experts to review your case, provide an opinion and testify if the case goes to trial.