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The relationship between a patient and doctor takes the shape of a contract retaining the essential elements of the tort. Hence, a doctor owes a duty of care to all their patients. If you suffer an injury due to a breach of the duty of care, you may be one of the victims of medical negligence. 

A John Hopkins study conducted in 2016 over an eight-year period revealed that medical negligence was responsible for over 250,000 deaths in a year. The terrifying statistic has alerted medical professionals, legal teams, and the general public. 

When healthcare providers do not meet the professional standards of care that the law requires, the resulting medical negligence may endanger a patient’s life. However, people who sustain injuries from medical negligence often face significant hurdles when trying to recover compensation without any professional legal guidance.

Here are five key things to know before you file a medical negligence claim.

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Understanding The Duty Of Care As
Victims of Medical Negligence

Medical negligence – or otherwise known as medical malpractice – essentially occurs when a medical professional causes injury or harm to a patient under their care, failing to meet the required standard of care. It is simply a breach of duty. In fact, hospital staff are bound by the same laws as physicians in providing medical assistance. Medical negligence can be classified into two categories: negligent treatment and breach of the duty to warn.

To file a medical negligence claim, you need to legally prove that your doctor or healthcare provider failed in their duty of care, which led to physical or psychological harm. While the law requires every medical professional to discharge their duty in a way that befits their skill set, experience, and knowledge, there is a grey area. Hence, it is crucial to be able to differentiate between the various factors that may impact your case. Not every failure of a medical professional – such as known medical risks communicated with the patient – will fall under medical negligence.

The Difference Between Medical Negligence & Medical Errors

While surgical complications and medicinal side effects are known medical risks, there are many other factors that the law recognizes as medical negligence. The following are some of the common examples of medical negligence cases in Australia.

Misdiagnosis

A large number of medical negligence claims may often involve misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. Essentially, when a medical professional misdiagnoses a patient or delays the diagnosis of a serious illness, it can endanger the patient’s life.

Failing to correctly diagnose a patient on time can stop them from receiving timely and effective medical treatment, leading to further complications. In such claims, your medical negligence lawyer will visit multiple doctors within the same specialty and compare your treatment to the negligent doctor’s medical approach. Hence, it can help prove that another doctor of the same skill, under the same circumstances, wouldn’t have misdiagnosed or delayed the diagnosis of the same patient.

Incorrect Medication

Cases involving the administration or prescription of incorrect medications are one of the most common types of medical negligence cases. It generally occurs in the following circumstances –

  • A medical professional prescribes the wrong drug for a patient’s illness 
  • The medical professional prescribes the right drug, but another healthcare staff provides the wrong drug
  • The patient receives an incorrect dosage of the medication.

Incorrect dosages are one of the most common mistakes in the healthcare industry and are usually the result of poor communication. A doctor may write an incorrect dosage, or a nurse may misread the report and administer the wrong dosage. In either of those cases, incorrect dosages are simply unacceptable. If you are one of the victims of medical negligence in this form, you may be able to demand compensation based on your case. 

Surgical errors

It is crucial for medical professionals to inform patients of the expected surgical complications before the surgery and receive informed consent. However, surgical errors occur when a medical professional is negligent during the surgery. Common errors involve – leaving surgical tools in the body, puncturing another organ, or negligent post-op care, etc.

In many cases, due to these errors, patients require another surgery, extending their long-term recovery. However, severe cases can result in further health complications or even death.

Anesthesia Administration

Anesthesiologists can make significant medical errors that can result in permanent brain damage or even death. Common examples include failure to consider a patient’s medical history, failure to inform a patient of surgical and/or anesthesia administration risks, use of faulty equipment, administration of an incorrect dosage of anesthesia, etc. 

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Evidence To Support Your Medical Negligence Claim

In order to successfully file a medical negligence case, you must ensure that you have all the documentation needed to support your claim. Among these materials will be photographs, X-rays, police reports and witness statements that establish a pattern of negligent behaviour by the doctor in question. In addition, medical evidence from other medical professionals and any other financial evidence can also be helpful.

Documentation is essentially one of the most important elements in medical negligence claims. While medical records and bills are guiding evidence for the case, it is also important to document other important factors. These can include the date you suspected negligence, details on pain level, photographs of physical injuries, etc.

Medical records are the key evidence in any medical negligence claim. It provides information about the patient at the time they received medical care before the “negligent” treatment. Hence, the law recognizes them as an accurate account of medical care. It will describe the standard of treatment you received and how it led to the injury. Your medical negligence lawyer will use your medical records to obtain expert medical advice from another medical professional.

Additionally, witness statements also play a key role in supporting your claim. Even if it comes from family and friends, it goes a long way to set out the events as they happened. Through relevant witness statements, victims of medical negligence can explain how the injury happened and how it has impacted their day-to-day life.

During your meetings with your medical negligence lawyer, they will prepare these witness statements with you. Hence, we recommend our clients keep a brief log that details the events as they played out. 

What Can We Claim As Victims of Medical Negligence?

Additionally, the idea behind making a claim is to restore your physical and psychological position prior to the negligent treatment. Hence, you can claim financial compensation to cover the following –

  • Medical Expenses – In most cases, a patient’s injury requires additional medical treatments or another form of medical care (e.g. hiring a 24/7 nurse). Financial compensation from successful medical negligence claims can cover these costs.
  • Loss of earnings – In many cases, the long-term prognosis for recovery from the illness implies a drastic reduction in your work capacity. If your injury or illness has affected your employment and/or future earning potential, you can file a claim to cover your lost earnings.
  • Relevant Travel Costs – If you had to undertake any trips to receive medical treatments for your injury or illness, you could demand compensation to cover the travel costs.

In successful cases, the compensation award will cover various types of damages. Generally, these include –

  • Pain and Suffering – You can make a claim for physical pain caused by the injury and the initial treatment you received. This will also include any psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, and other relevant medical concerns.
  • Long-term Recovery – In many cases of medical malpractice, patients may sustain severe injuries which require a longer recovery time. This entire time period can be painful and expensive, leading to physical, emotional, and financial concerns for which you can demand compensation.
  • Quality of Life – If your injury or illness has resulted in a permanent disability, drastically reducing your quality of life, you can make a claim.

Finding The Right Lawyer For Your Medical Negligence Claim

While many factors can lead to a medical professional’s negligence, you don’t deserve to face the terrible consequences of a medical negligence case, which can be emotionally and financially exhausting. In such cases, finding the right lawyer for your case is incredibly important to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.

For victims of medical negligence claims, proving liability can be complex, with multiple legal complications that are difficult to navigate. At United Legal, our highly-experienced medical negligence lawyers are dedicated to your legal rights and will represent you in Court to ensure you get the justice you deserve. We walk you through the process and provide the legal guidance you need to demand compensation.

United Legal handles its cases on a no-win-no-fee basis to provide a simple and risk-free agreement that protects our clients financially. Our medical negligence lawyers have vast experience in dealing with medical negligence claims.

Talk to one of our lawyers today for a detailed consultation, so we can go over any legal technicalities you have missed – from verbal details to legal documents, medical evidence, and more. We take on your legal burden so you can focus on your emotional and physical well-being.

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