We trust that the doctors and other medical professionals who treat us will do so in a competent manner. But when they don’t, our health can be put at risk. Cases like these sometimes rise to the level of medical malpractice. And if you’ve been injured by medical malpractice in Washington, D.C., a dedicated attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve.
Count on Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP. We fight for patients who have been injured by malpractice. Our personal injury firm is ready to assist you today.
What Is Medical Malpractice in Washington, D.C.?
Doctors, nurses, and other professionals in the healthcare field are required to abide by a certain standard of care in treating their patients. When they fail to do so, either through an act or an omission, the law recognizes that as malpractice. Another way of describing medical malpractice is when a healthcare professional makes a mistake that is unreasonable in light of the circumstances.
That last part is important to understand, because contrary to popular belief, not every medical mistake supports a malpractice lawsuit. Doctors and other healthcare professionals are not perfect, and the law does not require them to be. These are some other scenarios which do not necessarily mean the doctor has committed malpractice:
- The patient is not happy with the results of the procedure
- The recommended treatment did not work
- The condition worsened after the doctor treated it
What Are Some Examples Of Medical Malpractice in Washington, D.C.?
So what are some examples of what the law generally considers to be malpractice? These are a few of the most common ones:
- Misdiagnosis of a disease or illness. A misdiagnosis can mean that a serious condition is mistaken for a benign one. Or, it can mean improperly diagnosing something minor as serious and then administering a dangerous or harmful treatment that was unnecessary.
- Prescription medication errors. Doctors and pharmacists can be responsible for these errors. They can include prescribing the wrong medication, dispensing a dosage that is too strong or too weak for the illness, not taking the patient’s medical history or allergies into account, and more.
- Anesthesia errors. Anesthesia is extremely powerful, which is why anesthesiologists are specially trained to handle it. Too strong a dose can be fatal, but a weak dose can lead to the patient feeling pain during surgery. Patients can also be allergic to anesthesia, so care has to be given to make sure there aren’t any adverse reactions.
- Emergency room mistakes. Emergency rooms are busy and in high-stress situations, making mistakes more likely. But patient lives are hanging in the balance, so physicians, nurses, and others have to perform at their best. Failure can mean the loss of life or a serious, irreversible injury.
- Surgical errors. Whether you are going in for emergency surgery or an elective procedure, you expect that your surgeon will operate on you with the highest level of care. If this doesn’t happen, the mistake could prove fatal. There are even surgical malpractice cases in which instruments are left inside the patient.
- Not following up with a patient. Healthcare professionals should follow up with their patients, especially after a particularly significant or dangerous procedure. A doctor should also keep an eye on a patient with a deadly disease to make sure the treatment is working.
As suggested above, medical malpractice doesn’t just involve doctors and nurses. Other professionals may be held liable, such as:
- Lab technicians
- Urgent care facilities
- Physical therapists
- Eye doctors
Why Does Medical Malpractice Happen?
Understanding the reason that malpractice occurred in your case will go a long way in establishing negligence. A few of the most common reasons include:
- Understaffed hospitals, emergency rooms, and care facilities
- Doctors, nurses, and others trying to keep an eye on too many patients at once
- Not understanding what signs or symptoms to look for in a patient
- Lack of proper medical training or experience for the specific disease or condition
- Miscommunication among doctors, nurses, and staff
- Mixed up medical records and patient files
- Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while treating a patient
- Treating a patient after having too little sleep
How To Prove Medical Malpractice
Remember, it’s not enough to show that a medical professional made a mistake or a treatment didn’t go as planned. The error has to be unreasonable in light of the circumstances and fail to follow the accepted standard of practice. With those principles in mind, here is what you will have to prove in your medical malpractice case:
- Duty of care. The healthcare practitioner responsible for the patient must have owed him or her a duty of care at the standards required by the profession. The existence of a doctor-patient relationship presumes this, which is why this element is not generally contested in malpractice cases.
- Breach. By some act or omission, like one mentioned above, the practitioner must have breached the duty of care. This is a fact-specific analysis and often the most disputed part of a malpractice lawsuit. Expert witnesses are routinely called upon to explain what the applicable standard of care is and how it was violated.
- Causation. The healthcare professional’s breach must have directly caused injury to the patient. This element is sometimes overlooked, but the attorney must demonstrate the causal connection between the mistake and the patient’s harm.
- Damages. Finally, the patient must have experienced physical, mental, or emotional injury after taking all of the above into account. Damages can include things like medical bills to treat the mistake, lost wages due to the error, pain and suffering, and more.
Contact Our Washington, D.C. Medical Malpractice Attorney
Proving medical malpractice isn’t easy. And you can be certain that the doctor or hospital will be backed by powerful attorneys. So who’s looking out for you? You need Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP. Reach out to us today to get started on your case.