What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a health care provider fails to meet a recognized standard of care and, as a result of this negligent failure, a patient suffers preventable illness, injury or death. In most cases, the malpractice consists of a negligent act or failure to act. It can happen at any stage in the treatment process, and it can involve any type of medical professional, including:
- Lab technicians
- Psychiatrists or psychologists
- Physical therapists
Medical errors in the U.S. are among the leading causes of preventable injuries and death. According to the Diederich Healthcare Medical Malpractice Payout Analysis, insurance companies paid more than $3.8 billion in medical malpractice claims in the U.S. in 2017, including $78.8 million in Indiana alone.
Insurers paid about 31 percent of those funds for medical errors resulting in death. Significant permanent injuries accounted for 18 percent of the payouts, while major permanent injuries accounted for 17 percent, and brain damage, quadriplegia, and lifelong-care injuries accounted for 14 percent.
We Know Indiana Malpractice Law
Let the Indianapolis malpractice attorneys at Baker & Gilchrist have independent medical experts review your medical records. We’ll help you determine whether preventable medical negligence was the cause of your pain and suffering.
The attorneys at Baker & Gilchrist help families whose loved ones have been seriously injured by preventable medical errors in Indiana. Each set of facts is different. We work with medical professionals to evaluate your medical records to determine whether a preventable error occurred and a malpractice legal claim is appropriate. Learn more about how to hire a malpractice attorney.
With over 60 years of combined litigation experience, Rex Baker and Caroline A. Gilchrist have the legal skill and commitment to hold accountable health care providers who harm patients. We have seen doctor malpractice and provide detailed answers to a series of questions in our videos. Learn more about how we can help you.
Common Types of Medical Negligence
At Baker & Gilchrist, we see many types of medical malpractice. Common preventable medical errors involve:
A recent study published in the American Journal of Gynecology determined that birth injuries caused by trauma occur in an estimated 26 out of every 1,000 deliveries. Larger infants are more difficult to deliver and more susceptible to birth injuries caused by the use of excessive force from obstetrical tools such as forceps or vacuum devices. Complications that are missed or untreated during pregnancy can often lead to birth injury.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traumatic brain injury contributes to 30 percent of all injury-related fatalities in the U.S. Approximately 2.5 million people sustained traumatic brain injury in a recent year, per CDC. A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is any bump or blow to the head or penetrating head injury that disrupts brain function. A brain injury can result from hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen, due to a medical provider’s over-medication. Traumatic brain injuries range from brief changes in mental status to severely compromised function to extended periods of unconsciousness or amnesia.
Many anesthesia complications occur when a patient is not properly evaluated before a procedure or carefully monitored during and after a procedure. Patients should never die or suffer serious injury during surgery or immediately after because of adverse reactions to anesthesia. Anesthesia errors also include dosage errors, failure to intubate, delayed anesthesia delivery due to equipment problems, and negligent or improper administration of oxygen.
Doctors have a duty to reach a list of possible diagnoses that describe a patient’s symptoms, then to focus on ruling out the diagnoses that pose the greatest risk. A doctor who fails to follow these basic steps can miss a diagnosis, with serious consequences for the patient. Some of the more common medical errors we see involve failure to diagnose a heart attack or stroke. Timely diagnosis and treatment can mean the difference between life and death for patients with certain serious medical conditions.
According to a study published by the National Coalition of Health, cancer misdiagnosis occurs between 15 percent and 28 percent of the time. The study concludes that the causes of these many diagnostic medical errors include doctors who are strapped for time, medical records that are fragmented, pathology interpretation errors, missing important pieces of family medical history, and inflexible adherence to protocol on the part of medical professionals.
Hospitals are the most common institution named in medical malpractice suits likely due to the volume of patients they handle and the severity of the ailments these patients have.
Never events should never happen, right? This is unfortunately not the case. Never events include surgical errors such as operating on the wrong patient, performing surgery on the wrong body part, or performing the wrong operation. These mistakes can cause patients to undergo additional surgeries and prolonged time in recovery, leading to severe economical and emotional strain.
Emergency Rooms handle a large number of patients with a small amount of time per patient. The biggest malpractice problems that we see in these settings are related to delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis, a negligent doctor is not uncommon. These issues arise due to lack of knowledge about the patient’s history, failure to order the proper tests, the high volume of patients, and the high stress environment that is present in Emergency Rooms.
Why Do Errors Occur in Healthcare?
Many factors contribute to the incidence of medical errors. Some common causes of medical errors include:
Too often, a doctor’s inexperience or lack of training in a particular area can lead to serious harm for the patient, particularly in emergency room environments. This situation can occur when doctors fill in for each other and with “locum tenens” work, in which physicians work temporarily in hospitals or practices that are not the location in which they normally practice. Medical errors can also occur when patients are handed off at the end of a shift or transferred to a different area, and when physicians have minimal training and are not yet familiar with new medical innovations.
Sleep deprivation, particularly among interns, has been a cause of medical errors and a source of concern. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study involving interns who were subjected to 24-hour or more work shifts as part of their post-graduate training, as compared for those who were limited to 16-hour work shifts. Researchers concluded that limited work shifts and increased sleep decreased the interns’ failures in attention while treating patients.
Medication errors are a common medical error made by nursing staff. In a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers found that nursing medication errors consisted of: Administering medication at the wrong infusion rate (32.03%); giving the wrong dosage of medication (28.11%), giving medication at unscheduled times (14.37%); giving medication two doses at a time (11.11%); drug elimination (8.49%); and giving a patient’s drug to another patient (5.88%).
Electronic health records
Problems with electronic health records (EHR) can result in major medical errors. For example, CNS News reports on a case in which a hospital in Texas admitted, evaluated, and released a patient suffering from Ebola, a typically fatal, contagious, viral disease. The hospital claimed that the error resulted from a flaw in its EHR.
Many times, medical facilities located in rural areas suffer from a lack of funding and resources. The greatest shortcoming often is a lack of qualified professionals. Many times these facilities located in rural areas are staffed by Nurse Practitioners and their ER departments with “locum tenens” doctors.
Communication errors cause many errors in healthcare settings. This lack of communication can happen between nurses and doctors, errors in Electronic Health Records, and also between patients and staff. It is easy for information to be misinterpreted, misspoken, or even for the communication to not exist at all. The best way for you to combat these errors is by being aware of your health history and giving your doctor all of the information that you can on your condition. Check out our list of questions to ask your doctor before and after surgery for more information.
Reducing Your Risk for Medical Errors
Medical errors and malpractice can occur at any point in the healthcare system, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The Agency offers a number of suggestions to help patients remain safe in the system, including these tips:
Ensure that all of your doctors know about all of your medications.
Bring all your medications and your supplements to your doctor visits.
Inform your doctors of any allergies or reactions to medication.
Ask your doctor for information about your medications in terms you can understand.
Ask for written information on the side effects of medications you are prescribed.
If you are having surgery, make sure that you and your doctor agree on what will be done.
If you have concerns, speak up.
Ensure that your care is being coordinated by someone such as your primary care doctor.
Learn all you can about your condition and treatment by asking doctors and nurses.
What Goes into Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Indiana?
A medical malpractice lawsuit seeks to hold negligent medical professionals accountable and to possibly prevent others from suffering similar injuries in the future. At Baker & Gilchrist, we can carefully guide your case through the three basic stages of a medical malpractice case:
First, we try to identify if we believe there is a potential breach in the standard of care that has resulted in significant permanent injury or death. Many potential hurdles may cause us to decide that we are not interested in investigating a case, including, but not limited to the following:
- The complication was a risk of the procedure.
- We do not have enough time to investigate the case before the statute of limitations expires, or the statute of limitations has passed.
- We have a conflict of interest.
- We cannot prove that the negligence resulted in significant permanent injury or death.
If we think the potential claim may have merit, we will gather your medical records and other important information, including witness accounts, and we will review them with the nurses on our legal team. If their findings point to suspected medical malpractice, we can consult with an independent medical expert who has expertise in the relevant area of medicine. Our firm works with a network of highly knowledgeable experts, including professionals from schools such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford and UCLA. An expert can help us to determine whether a medical professional failed to follow the recognized standard of care. The expert can also help us to establish whether your injury or illness would have occurred if the medical professional had not been negligent.
- Medical Review Panel
If our review of your case indicates that medical malpractice caused harm to you or your loved one, we will advise you to move forward with filing a legal claim against the negligent health care provider (or providers). However, before we file the lawsuit in court, we must file the complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance Division of Medical Malpractice, which will appoint a medical review panel to review your case and report its opinion. This process has to be completed before a claim can be filed with a court and can take one to three years.
If you and our legal team believe your case has merit after the medical review panel has reported its opinion, and we have expert opinion supporting the claim, we can proceed with filing a lawsuit in the proper Indiana court – regardless of the medical review panel’s conclusion. Our attorneys know how to meticulously prepare a case for trial and will be prepared to put on a strong case in the courtroom. We can use that preparation as leverage in settlement negotiations with the medical care provider and/or insurance company. We will always report any settlement offers to you and advise you on whether it represents a reasonable amount.
The decision to accept a settlement offer or go to trial will always be yours – and yours alone – to make. If you wish to settle, we will help you with all paperwork. We will also make sure that your settlement funds are properly and timely disbursed.
What Damages Can You Recover in an Indiana Medical Malpractice Claim?
The amount that you may recover in a medical malpractice claim in Indiana will depend on the unique facts and circumstances of your case. Some of the damages that we typically seek on behalf of injured patients are:
- Past medical expenses related to the medical malpractice
- Future medical expenses (typically based on an expert’s opinion)
- Any income lost due to the malpractice
- Any diminishment in future earnings due to a disability
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Wrongful death damages (if your loved one died due to malpractice).
If a healthcare provider is a “qualified health care provider” under Indiana’s medical malpractice laws, there is a cap on the damages that a patient can recover in a medical malpractice claim. Under current Indiana law:
- If the malpractice claim occurred after July 1, 2017, then the medical care provider’s contribution is capped at $400,000. If your damages exceed that amount, you can potentially recover up to an additional $1,250,000 through the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund (PCF).
- If the claim occurred prior to July 1, 2017, then the total damages allowed are $1,250,000.
At Baker & Gilchrist, we have extensive experience with pursuing compensation through this fund. We will know the steps to take on your behalf.
How Much Time Do You Have to Bring a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Indiana?
Indiana law imposes a statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims. This is a limit on the amount of time that you have in which to file a lawsuit. In Indiana, you must bring the lawsuit within two years from the date of the alleged medical negligence. If you fail to do so within that period of time, your claim may be forever lost.
A few limited exceptions apply. For instance, minors ages six and under at the time of the negligent act or omission have until their eighth birthday to file a claim. Also, if a patient does not know of the negligence, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence, could not discover that he or she sustained an injury within the two years after the negligent care was provided, then the patient has two years from the date when he or she discovers the negligence and resulting injury or discovers facts that, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should lead to the discovery of the negligence and the resulting injury in which to file a lawsuit.
If you fail to bring a claim before the relevant deadline, you can lose your right to pursue just compensation. Due to the time limits that apply to medical malpractice claims in Indiana, you should not wait to seek legal help. Baker & Gilchrist can meet with you right away and begin our review of your case. If you proceed with your medical malpractice claim, we will make sure that all deadlines are met.
Our Indianapolis Medical Malpractice Attorneys Are Ready to Help You
If you have been harmed by a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional, your best course of action is to consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Contact Baker & Gilchrist today and allow us to put more than 60 years of medical malpractice litigation experience on your side. We can provide a timely, free consultation. Call or connect with us online today to learn more.
Rex Baker and Caroline Gilchrist are two of the top-notch medical malpractice and personal injury attorneys in the State of Indiana. Well-known in the legal community as smart and aggressive advocates, Rex and Caroline have the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to win your case. Without a doubt, I highly recommend Baker & Gilchrist for any individual or family that needs help with a personal injury, medical malpractice or wrongful death claim.Review by: Jason ReeseReviewing: Medical Malpractice Legal ServicesDate published:2017Rating: ★★★★★5 / 5 stars
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