Helping People in Durham Who are Suffering Due to Medical Malpractice
We place a tremendous amount of trust in our medical professionals, sometimes we even trust them with their lives. Even though most medical providers have years of training and care deeply about their patients, mistakes can still happen. These mistakes can leave you feeling powerless – you need to focus on your recovery and your health doesn’t allow you to sort out what went wrong. Fortunately, the attorneys at Martin & Jones can help, and a Durham medical malpractice attorney is just a phone call away.
The Standard of Care for Healthcare Professionals
Medical malpractice cases are typically the result of negligence on the part of an individual medical provider or the hospital or other institution. However, determining negligence in the context of a medical malpractice case is unusually difficult. The fact that there were complications or the treatment was unsuccessful doesn’t necessarily mean that you are the victim of malpractice. Even if you are certain that your treatment did not go as promised, you have to prove your case.
The critical issue in medical malpractice is determining whether the doctor or hospital provided treatment that did not meet the standard of care. The standard of care is arguably unique to each case. The question is whether they failed to provide treatment according to the standard that most other medical professionals with the same level of expertise and training in the same case or similar case. Most non-lawyers are unable to make this determination, but an experienced Durham medical malpractice lawyer can help.
When Medical Malpractice Can Occur
When you discuss medical malpractice, most people immediately think of surgical errors or cases that result in death. However, medical malpractice can occur at almost any point during your treatment:
- Diagnosis errors – either an incorrect diagnosis or a delayed diagnosis
- Medication errors – prescribing the wrong medication, the wrong dosage, or prescribing a medication that has an adverse effect when combined with a medication you are already taking
- Anesthetic errors – Providing the wrong anesthetic or the wrong dose
- Birth injuries – injuries sustained to the baby or the mother during the birthing process
- Emergency room errors – Errors or inadequate treatment that occurs in the emergency room
The reality is that there are several points at which malpractice can occur. If you suspect that you are suffering as a result of medical malpractice, a Durham medical malpractice attorney can discuss your case with you and determine whether you have a claim.
About Informed Consent in Healthcare Facilities
Generally speaking, there are very few situations where a recommended medical treatment comes with a guaranteed outcome. Complications, side effects, and other potential risks are always possible. However, doctors and hospitals are obligated to disclose any known potential side effects or complications. If they fail to do so and you are injured, you may have a medical malpractice claim.
This is why you are required to sign various consent forms before receiving treatment – your doctor must obtain your informed consent. In a nutshell, those forms are an acknowledgment that you are aware of the risks associated with your treatment. Your doctor or other staff are supposed to provide you with information regarding these risks before having you sign the forms. You may have a claim for medical malpractice if they failed to provide this information, did not provide it in some meaningful way, or misrepresented information regarding the risks.
As a result, the fact that you signed the consent forms does not mean that you don’t have a claim. Informed consent is a rebuttable presumption, which means that you can still pursue a claim if you can prove that the disclosure was inadequate in some material way. However, this is not easy, as it requires knowledge of the law and the rules of evidence. A knowledgeable Durham medical malpractice attorney will know how to overcome the fact that you signed the consent forms.
Damages Your Durham Medical Malpractice Lawyer Will Pursue
If your claim is successful, you could receive money for the following:
- Any medical expenses incurred in obtaining the treatment that caused the injury;
- Any medical expenses required to correct the injury;
- Your lost income; and
- Your pain and suffering.
If you’ve been disabled as a result of medical malpractice, then you may be able to recover additional damages. A Durham medical malpractice attorney can review your case and provide an estimate of what it may be worth.
North Carolina Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
Every type of personal injury case is subject to what is referred to as a “statute of limitations.” This is a deadline imposed by law by which you must file suit. If you do not file your lawsuit within that time period, you will lose all of your rights. In North Carolina, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is three years from the date of your injury.
However, the statute of limitations is more complicated for medical malpractice cases. This is because your injury isn’t always immediately apparent. As a result, you may be able to file a lawsuit up to four years from the date you received treatment. If the doctor left a foreign object inside of you during surgery, you have up to one year from the date you discovered the object but no more than 10 years from the date of your surgery.
Do not assume that you have plenty of time. The statute of limitations presents many complicated legal issues in a medical malpractice case. If you suspect that you are the victim of medical malpractice, you should speak with a Durham medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Malpractice Claims in North Carolina
What damages am I entitled to if I have a medical malpractice claim?
There are three types of damages (i.e. compensation) that you can seek in a medical malpractice claim in North Carolina:
- Economic damages, which include your current and future medical bills and lost income and earning capacity. Generally speaking, economic damages can include any loss that has a specific “economic” value.
- Non-economic damages such as your pain and suffering.
- Punitive damages which are intended to punish the healthcare provider and act as a disincentive to others for similar behavior. Note that punitive damages are awarded only rarely in cases where the healthcare provider has acted recklessly, fraudulently, or engaged in similar behavior.
A Durham medical malpractice attorney will be able to provide you with an estimate of what your case may be worth at the initial consultation.
Is there a limitation on the damages I might receive?
North Carolina does place a cap on non-economic damages and punitive damages in medical malpractice cases:
- Non-economic damages are capped at $500,000
- Punitive damages are capped at $250,000
However, the cap on non-economic damages will not apply in the following cases:
- You suffered the loss of use of part of your body, permanent injury, disfigurement, or death; and
- The healthcare provider was reckless, grossly negligent, fraudulent, or malicious.
Proving that the cap on non-economic damages does not apply can be quite difficult. As a result, if you have suffered permanent injury or disfigurement as a result of medical malpractice, we strongly urge you to discuss your case with a Durham medical malpractice attorney before taking action.
Will my case have to go to trial?
While medical malpractice cases do tend to go to trial more often than other personal injury cases, the majority of them are settled by the healthcare provider’s malpractice insurance carrier before getting that far.
I signed a consent form, did I waive my right to pursue a medical malpractice claim?
Signing an informed consent form is simply an acknowledgment that you understand the potential risks associated with your treatment. It is not a blanket waiver that protects the healthcare provider in every situation. If the provider was subsequently negligent in providing treatment, you can still pursue a malpractice claim. Furthermore, the fact that you signed the consent form does not necessarily mean that the provider made a meaningful disclosure of the associated risks. Nevertheless, how informed consent applies to your case can be complicated, but a Durham medical malpractice attorney will know how to navigate this issue.
How can I afford a Durham medical malpractice attorney
Medical malpractice attorneys handle claims on a contingency fee basis. This means that they will receive a percentage of any compensation they recover as their fee. As a result, you will never pay any up-front legal fees out of your own pocket. A Durham medical malpractice attorney can explain specifically what percentage they will receive and how this process will work in your case at your initial consultation.
Speak with a Durham Medical Malpractice Attorney Today
You don’t have to face your malpractice claim alone. Founded in 1982, we’ve helped thousands of people recover the compensation they need to rebuild their life. We work with our clients every step of the way to help them build a better future. To schedule a free consultation with a Durham medical malpractice attorney, contact us today at 800-662-1234.