Medical professionals save lives every day. We can all think of examples of medical professionals who went beyond the call of duty to help someone in need of medical attention. However, everyone makes mistakes.
And when a medical professional makes a mistake, the results can be devastating. Death and permanent injury can result. Who should bear the cost of these mistakes? The victim of the mistake? The parent who is left without a child or the child left without a parent?
The law places the cost of accident on those who cause them. This is true on our roads and in our medical facilities. And isn’t that the way it should be?
Generally, we know what the right thing to do is. If I am playing catch with my son at my house and a ball goes through the neighbor’s window, what should we do? Should we run inside and hide? Should wait for the neighbor to come to us? Should we say, “I have lived here for months or years and never broken your window.”? Should we say, “Look at all of the good things I have done for this community. How dare you question my conduct!”?
No, we should walk over to the neighbor’s house. We should ring the bell. We should say, “We are sorry. We made a mistake. Please let us know how much it cost to repair the damage so that we can pay you immediately.”
What if I bump a parked car in the night? No one saw. No one knows. Should I drive off in silence? Should I look around quickly and leave in a hurry.
No, I should find the owner. Tell him what happened and apologize. I should make arrangements to pay for the cost to repair the damage.
And so it is with medical mistakes. Most of the time, the person who made the mistake is not bad. Usually the person is a talented, dedicated and attentive medical professional. She did not mean to hurt anyone. In fact, she has dedicated her entire professional life to helping people. But we all make mistakes. And when a medical professional makes a mistake, the “cost to repair” the mistake can be overwhelming.
When a doctor or other health care professional is negligent, the affected patient can sue for the damage incurred by the mistake. In some ways medical malpractice cases are different from other negligence cases. In some ways they are the same. A medical malpractice case must get past an additional level of judicial scrutiny in order to be productive. This will require one or more experts in the relevant area(s) of practice.
When death results from a medical mistake, the malpractice claim can be brought by the personal representatives of the deceased. In a wrongful death suit, beneficiaries may sue for their own loss of support and companionship that the deceased would have provided. The damages in a wrongful death suit can include the following:
Expenses for care/treatment/hospitalization incident to the injury causing death;
Compensation for pain and suffering of the decedent;
The reasonable funeral expenses of the decedent;
The present monetary value of the
Services, protection, care and assistance of the decedent; voluntary or obligatory
Society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of decedent
No rule is prescribed for measuring or ascertaining the present monetary value
In some situations, punitive, or punishment damages are awarded. For punitive damages to apply there must be fraud, malice, or willful or wanton conduct on the part of the Defendant. These circumstances are rare in our area because of the quality of care generally provided.
If you have questions about a medical malpractice case or about the medical care you received from a doctor, nurse, therapist, hospital or other health care provider, please call us at (910) 341-7570 or (877) 593-4233. We will be happy to speak with you.