How Serious of an Injury Is Required for a Medical Malpractice Claim?
Any time a patient believes he has been injured because of medical negligence, errors, or mistakes, he may think he has a medical malpractice claim.
However, pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit is typically a long and expensive process. Not all injuries are significant enough to warrant the time and money that would be required to hold a medical professional accountable. If you call a lawyer to ask about pursuing a claim, he will ask you questions about the following issues:
Basics of a Medical Malpractice Claim
First and foremost, the elements of a medical malpractice claim must be in place before you can pursue a claim or lawsuit against a medical professional, regardless of the scope of the injury. There are a few basic facts that must be true if a patient wants to move forward with a claim of being injured due to medical malpractice, including:
- There was a medical professional/patient relationship. The doctor or medical professional about whom you have a complaint must have been providing medical care and treatment to as is patient. Proving a patient relationship with the target defendant is the first step in the inquiry.
- Negligence, error, or a medical mistake occurred that resulted in injury. There needs to be evidence of medical negligence. A misdiagnosis, a medication error, unnecessary treatment, medical mistake or treatment without consent must occur that causes injury. To actually prove medical negligence, ultimately the testimony of a well-qualified expert witness on the issues of negligence, causation, and damages is required.
- There was a specific injury that was caused by the medical negligence. The medical negligence must be the cause of a specific injury to the patient. These injuries may include permanent physical impairment, loss of earnings, medical bills, emotional distress, or death.
If all three of these facts exist, you may have the pieces in place to pursue a medical malpractice claim. However, the scope and seriousness of the injury can determine if it is worth pursuing.
Determining the Extent of a Medical Malpractice Injury
A pharmacist could by error dispense the wrong medication to a patient, but it would not necessarily mean he should pursue a medical malpractice claim. Yes, the pharmacist and patient had a relationship and the pharmacist made a mistake, but that act of negligence also must cause harm. If the customer/patient took the wrong pills and they made him vomit or feel sick, he has suffered an injury, but not necessarily a serious injury. However, if the negligently dispensed medication caused the patient to be admitted to the hospital because of a serious reaction or because he did not get the needed medication, the injuries may be significant enough to justify the time, effort, and expense required to investigate and pursue a medical malpractice claim.
There is not a set rule on exactly how much harm or injury must occur for it to be worth pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, considering that many of these cases take years to resolve and tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs, the injury does need to be significant. The scope of the injury depends on the impact on the patient’s life. Some questions regarding the extent of the injury regarding suffering and financial consequences include:
- Did the injury cause you physical pain? Some people have chronic pain due to an injury caused by medical malpractice. If you endured intense pain or will need to live with pain for the rest of your life, this is a significant injury.
- What mental or emotional anguish was caused? A disfigurement or mental disability caused by medical negligence can impact your quality of life.
- Did you incur additional medical costs? If the medical error resulted in your needing hospitalization, rehabilitation, medications, or other medical costs, this is a financial injury.
- Did the injury impact your ability to work? If you needed to take time off work or lost your ability to work in your field due to an injury caused by medical error, the lost wages and lost earning capacity are a significant harm.
Often, a medical malpractice claim will have more than one of these injury factors. It is not just the financial cost to the victim, but also the level of suffering that is involved that can make the claim worth pursuing. The medical costs and lost wages are just the tip of the iceberg for someone who will never be able to see again, or for someone who lost his loved one to a medical negligence. It can be difficult to put a dollar amount on this type of suffering, but that does not make it any less substantial.
Should You Pursue a Medical Malpractice Claim?
If you have been seriously injured physically, mentally, financially, or a combination of ways from what you have reason to believe may be medical negligence, please contact our experienced team at Nelson & Hammons. We have spent decades asserting our clients’ rights to fair compensation for medical malpractice claims in Louisiana. Please call to discuss your potential claim with one of our attorneys to determine whether pursuing a medical malpractice claim for your injuries is in your best interest, in our opinion.