What You Need to Know About Medical Malpractice in Rhode Island
Medical Malpractice Lawyers in Rhode Island
There isn’t a time that can be more frightening than when you have been injured by a doctor, hospital, or medical staff in the state of Rhode Island. Injured parties often feel scared, hurt, and alone. They are mostly unsure if they have a claim or how to go about filing a claim when they have been wrongly abused by their chosen medical professional.
Fortunately, patients have greater access to information and the legal system. You can begin to independently determine the following:
– What medical malpractice really is
– Whether you have a claim or not
– How much the case is worth
– How an attorney can help
– Taking the next steps forward
At Marasco & Nesselbush, PLLP, we have done the heavy lifting for you. Our medical malpractice team has constructed a guide in assisting you in every aspect of medical malpractice as listed above. We think you will find the information very useful in making an informed decision regarding your medical injury that occurred in Rhode Island.
First, we are going to take a look at what medical malpractice is.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
In its simplest definition, medical malpractice occurs when a client is injured by a healthcare provider who cannot properly meet his or her medical responsibilities.
In this section, we are going to look at overarching themes that surround medical malpractice in Rhode Island:
The “medical standard of care” is usually defined in the legal context as the level of care that a competent health care expert, with a comparable background, would have provided under the same circumstances.
In a medical malpractice suit, it is generally a qualified specialist medical witness who will affirm what the suitable medical standard of care was under the circumstances– and how the physician’s deviation from that standard played a role in the complainant’s injuries.
To be considered medical malpractice under the law, the claim needs to have the following characteristics:
- An infraction of the standard of care
- An injury was brought on by the negligence
- The injury led to substantial damages
What are examples of medical malpractice?
Depending on who caused the injury, medical malpractice claims can be brought against hospitals, clinical staff, or directly against a physician, nurse, or other healthcare specialists.
To help you determine whether you have suffered an injury as a result of medical malpractice, you will find some typical examples listed below.
Medical Treatment Failure
There are some cases of medical neglect that are simply jaw-dropping. These tend to involve outrageous mistakes, like amputating the wrong limb or performing a procedure on the incorrect patient.
However, not all medical treatments that go wrong will be the basis of a claim. Only when a doctor or medical facility fails to work out reasonable care will a medical malpractice case be actionable.
Prescribing the Incorrect Medication
Another medical error that can be the basis of a malpractice action involves recommending the wrong medication to a client. This can be deadly or have significant effects, particularly if the client has an allergic reaction, or a hidden condition worsens due to an absence of treatment.
Failing to Diagnose the Problem
If a physician cannot detect an issue that another doctor in comparable scenarios would have diagnosed, there may be an actionable claim. These cases can be rather challenging as many diagnoses typically share multiple overlapping signs. This suggests that a misdiagnosis may have been a mishap any physician might have made, and sadly, that might possibly beat a prospective case.
Post-surgical infections are a real and very scary issue that healthcare facilities and medical professionals aim to prevent. Regrettably, for patients, the source of an infection is extremely difficult to prove.
If a medical professional lies to a client to protect their consent to perform a procedure, this can be both medical malpractice along with medical battery. Informed consent requires physicians to properly explain procedures, medications, and the associated dangers.
Why do you need a lawyer for medical malpractice?
A medical malpractice lawyer in Rhode Island will take you through the process of a lawsuit or settlement offer if you have actually been injured or disabled due to carelessness on the part of your medical professional.
You may need a medical malpractice lawyer if you’ve:
- Caught an infection in the hospital or medical professional’s office
- Been injured in surgery
- Missed or misdiagnosis
- Had anesthesia administered incorrectly
- Been given the wrong prescriptions
- Not been informed of possible threats or consequences
How much does a medical malpractice lawyer charge for services?
Not all legal representatives use the same billing techniques, but numerous medical malpractice legal attorneys charge on a contingency basis.
How much is my medical malpractice case worth?
If you think you may have a legitimate medical malpractice case, you might ask your attorney how much your potential claim might be worth. In this section, we’ll touch on some of the essential concerns an attorney would consider valuing a medical malpractice case.
Settlement Value vs. Trial Worth
The very first thing to understand is that there are really two ways to value a medical malpractice case.
The case’s settlement worth is what your lawyer would fairly try to settle the case for. The settlement worth will be much lower than the trial worth because you settle a medical malpractice case to avoid the threat of going to trial, losing, and leaving with absolutely nothing.
The trial value is exactly what you would reasonably anticipate winning if your lawyer took your case to the courtroom. Let’s take a look at how attorneys project how much you may win at trial in a medical malpractice case.
Calculating Medical Malpractice Damages
Attorneys usually break up damages in medical malpractice cases into 2 categories:
- Special Damages
- General Damages
Special damages are lost earnings, medical bills, and other monetary losses.
Lost earning capability refers to the wages that the malpractice victim lost or will lose– past, present, and future– as a result of the malpractice. This also includes lost work benefits such as health insurance, holiday time, pension or 401(k) contributions.
Medical expenses include the costs that the malpractice victim is fairly likely to incur for future medical treatment needed due to the malpractice. Future medical expenses can typically be quite large in a malpractice case.
Pain and suffering is the basis of a general damages claim and cannot be objectively valued. A jury cannot take a look at a chart to determine what it costs to award a client for the heartache they’ve endured.
Rhode Island judges usually advise juries to use their good sense, background, and experience in determining pain and suffering. Since discomfort and suffering cannot be computed precisely, settlement negotiations between defense and plaintiff’s lawyers often get hung up on exactly what the plaintiff’s pain and suffering might be worth.
Pain and suffering are divided into physical and psychological discomfort and suffering. Physical discomfort and suffering is the discomfort of the victim’s real physical injuries, in addition to the pain and suffering from scarring, disfigurement, and permanency of the injuries.
Mental discomfort and suffering consist of things like mental distress, psychological distress, loss of pleasure of life, worry, anger, embarrassment, stress and anxiety, and shock. Significant mental pain and suffering can also cause extreme anger, lethargy, sexual dysfunction, mood swings, and/or sleep disturbances. Very serious psychological discomfort and suffering can cause serious trauma (PTSD).
Determining previously lost incomes is simple. You simply accumulate the incomes and employment benefits that you lost from being out of work. If you earn $70,000 each year and were out of work for 2 years, then you lost $140,000, plus lost employment benefits.
Future Lost Earning Capacity
Calculating future lost making capacity is normally much harder, and generally requires your attorney to work with an economist to appropriately present the numbers to the jury in a digestible way.
Due to the fact that lost earning capacity involves a computation of losses that might extend for many years into the future, it has to be determined in terms of its present value.
Present worth is a monetary principle that involves determining the value of a future stream of earnings (i.e., your weekly income) as if it were all in a savings account today. To put it simply, how much cash does your employer require in a savings account today in order to pay your income for, say, the next 20 years?
This is a complicated monetary calculation that courts require to be carried out by a financial expert.
How do you prove medical malpractice?
Unfortunately, we cannot expect medical professionals– regardless of their experience or ability level– to “fix” all of our maladies without fail. But we can and should anticipate doctors to carry out at a specific level of proficiency and professionalism.
When a doctor fails to satisfy this standard of care, and it results in an injury to the patient, that patient may seek damages for medical malpractice.
Most medical malpractice cases proceed under the theory that a medical professional was irresponsible in treating the patient. To establish medical carelessness, a hurt client, the complainant, should show:
- The existence of a doctor-patient relationship;
- The applicable standard of care, and the health care specialist’s variance from that requirement, which is a breach of the responsibility owed the client; and
- A causal connection in between the health care expert’s discrepancy from the standard of care and the client’s injury.
Injury to the client
To determine if a medical professional acted irresponsibly, it must be revealed that his/her conduct fell below a typically accepted standard of healthcare.
To establish the requirement to be applied, a complainant must present the testimony of another medical specialist, qualified in the very same field of medicine as the accused, suggesting exactly what requirement, or level of care, is commonly satisfied by those acknowledged in the profession as being skilled and certified to practice.
The plaintiff will have to provide expert testimony not limited to standard of care, but likewise reveal the accused cannot fulfill this requirement.
Irresponsible Prescription of Medications or Medical Devices
A doctor may be held responsible for the prescription of a medication or medical device if he or she disregarded the manufacturer’s instructions, or recommended an incorrect prescription or amount of dosage, that resulted in negative consequences to the patient.
In many cases, a pharmaceutical manufacturer may be accountable where a drug caused a patient injury and the maker failed to caution people of prospective negative effects or dangers of the drug.
In numerous situations, the failure to get a patient’s “consent” prior to administering a treatment is a form of medical negligence and might even trigger a reason for action of medical battery.
It basically means that a doctor (or other medical provider) should inform a patient of all of the prospective advantages, dangers, and options associated with any surgical procedure, medical procedure, or other course of treatment, and should get the patient’s written consent to proceed.
Problems of Evidence: The “Res Ipsa” Doctrine
Proving negligence on the part of a healthcare company is typically very tough. It requires working with expert witnesses, who can testify regarding exactly what the accused should have done under appropriate professional standards.
Fortunately for the general public, the courts are willing to recognize that plaintiffs face certain problems in demonstrating a medical malpractice claim has occurred. If an injured patient is hurt as the outcome of surgery, he or she does not know exactly what triggered his/her injury, but it is the type of injury that would not have taken place without negligence on the part of his or her doctor.
He or she might invoke a legal doctrine referred to as “res ipsa loquitur.” Equated, this Latin expression indicates “it will reveal itself,” and indicates that the plaintiff only has to reveal that a particular outcome occurred and would not have occurred but for someone’s negligence.
When this doctrine is utilized, the burden of proof shifts from the complainant to the defendant to show that she or he was not negligent. To use the teaching of res ipsa effectively, a plaintiff should show that:
- Existence of a Doctor-Patient Relationship.
First, you’ll need to show the presence of a doctor-patient relationship, which (in the eyes of the law) generates the physician’s duty to supply you with qualified care based on the circumstances.
This is not a hard component to prove in a malpractice case. If the physician agreed to supply some kind of medical diagnosis or treatment to you– or if the care was in fact offered missing any particular contract– then the doctor-patient relationship existed.
This component of a medical malpractice case normally goes unchallenged.
- Evidence of the Physician’s Sub-Standard (Negligent) Care.
The issue here is generally whether, in offering treatment to you, the physician showed the skill and care that a similarly-trained healthcare specialist would have demonstrated under the scenarios. In legalese, this is called the medical standard of care, and it’s an important component in any medical malpractice case.
In establishing the medical standard of care– what your doctor should have done– your medical professional will be compared to comparable experts in comparable scenarios, thinking about factors like the community or type of community where the accused practices.
In most cases, it will be required for specialist witnesses (medical professionals or other healthcare specialists) to affirm what a proficient and fairly competent doctor would have done in the exact same situation.
In truth, both the complainant and the accused’s sides often present specialist testimony concerning whether the doctor provided skilled care based upon accepted requirements of medical practice. Medical practice standards published by physician groups are often likewise utilized as proof of the requirement of care in a particular circumstance.
Next, the skilled witness will apply the medical standard of care to your case and methodically show how your physician cannot offer care that measured up to that legal yardstick. This indicates providing in-depth statement as to what your medical professional ought to have done and contrasting it with exactly what was really done, to paint a clear image of the doctor’s liability for medical negligence.
- Link between Medical professional’s Neglect and Client’s Injury.
It’s insufficient to say that your doctor made the kind of mistakes that most doctors would not have made. You’ll likewise need to reveal that the physician’s actions (or failure to act) caused your health condition to end up being worse or led to you suffering some extra injury or damage.
The trick here is making it clear that your injuries aren’t attributable to an underlying medical condition or some other cause, but rather are attributable to the substandard care you got from your doctor. Complainants typically use professional statements to help establish this element of a medical malpractice case (in addition to utilizing an expert to show sub-standard care, as discussed above).
- Quantifiable Evidence of Client’s Damage (Damages).
Finally, you must offer details of the actual harm you suffered (this is called “damages” in legalese). In a medical malpractice case, damages may consist of the expense of extra medical treatment, and income that the plaintiff has lost or will lose by being not able to work.
In addition, a medical malpractice plaintiff can generally recover damages for discomfort and suffering– both physical and mental– that the plaintiff has actually withstood since of the substandard treatment.
- Evidence “By a Prevalence of the Evidence”.
A patient who has been hurt by medical malpractice (the “complainant”) should reveal the elements noted above “by a preponderance of the evidence,” which indicates that they are each most likely than not to be true. This is an easier legal standard to meet than what’s essential in other kinds of cases– in criminal court the requirement is proof “beyond a reasonable doubt,” for example.
But medical malpractice complainants have some special legal difficulties to obtain over, consisting of getting the case past a malpractice review board and submitting a certificate of benefit sometimes, depending upon where you’re submitting the claim.
There are a restricted number of ways to prove medical malpractice. Experienced lawyers will understand right away whether they can easily show fault in your case. Undoubtedly, they will be able to talk about the strengths and weak points of your case and advise you the best ways to proceed. The primary step in discovering the best attorney is to get a complimentary preliminary claim evaluation from a medical malpractice attorney.
What is medical negligence?
The term “medical negligence” is often utilized synonymously with “medical malpractice,” and for the majority of functions that’s adequate. To put it in the simplest of terms, medical negligence is just one necessary legal aspect of a meritorious (legitimate) claim of medical malpractice and/or negligence.
Here is one definition of medical negligence:
An act or omission (failure to act) by a medical professional that differs the accepted medical requirement of care.
When it pertains to medical malpractice law, medical negligence is generally the legality of the law that the case relies on, from a legal liability point of view.
Negligence on its own does not warrant a medical malpractice claim, but when the negligence is the reason for injury to a client, there may be a good case for medical malpractice. Read on to find out more.
Negligence in General
Neglect is a common legal theory that comes into play when assessing who is at fault in a tort case. It’s best to think of a tort case as civil injury case. A common example of a tort case, and a good way to describe how carelessness works, is to consider a motorist getting into an accident on the roadway.
In a vehicle accident, it is normally believed that one individual triggered the mishap– by breaching their legal task to comply with traffic laws and drive properly under the situations– which individual is accountable for all damages suffered by other celebrations involved in the crash.
For example, if a motorist fails to stop at a red light, then that driver is stated to be negligent in the eyes of the law (they’ve also violated a traffic law). If the failure to stop at the red light causes an accident, then the irresponsible motorist is accountable (typically through an insurance provider) to pay for any damage caused to other chauffeurs, guests, or pedestrians, as an outcome of running the red light.
Medical Negligence Explained
In the last section, we took a look at negligence in regard to a driver’s legal responsibility (owed to other motorists, travelers, and pedestrians) to drive a car with sensible care under the situations. Now we’ll look at carelessness in the context of treatment.
Similar to motorists, doctors and other physician likewise have a task to their patients, to supply treatment that is in line with the “medical standard of care,” which is generally specified as the level and type of care that a fairly proficient and proficient health care expert, with a comparable background and in the very same medical community, would have provided under the situations that resulted in the supposed malpractice.
So, medical carelessness occurs when a doctor, dental practitioner, nurse, cosmetic surgeon or other medical professional performs their task in such a way that differs from this accepted medical standard of care. In keeping with our automobile accident analogy, if a doctor offers treatment that is sub-standard in terms of accepted medical standards under the scenarios, then that medical professional has actually failed to perform his or her duty and is said to be negligent.
Medical Negligence Does Not Equal Injury
It’s important to restate that medical negligence does not always lead to injury to the client. When a driver runs a traffic signal and no mishap occurs, the motorist is still negligent, even though nobody got hurt. Likewise, a medical professional or other health care expert might deviate from the suitable medical standard of care in treating a patient, however if the patient is not harmed and their health is not affected, that negligence won’t lead to a medical malpractice case.
How Negligence Becomes Medical Malpractice
In other words, medical negligence ends up being medical malpractice when the medical professional’s negligent treatment causes undue harm to the recognized patient– exacerbates the patient’s condition, is the result of unreasonable and unanticipated problems, or necessitates extra medical treatment, to name just a few examples of exactly what’s considered to be an “injury” in a malpractice case.
The addition of two extra components– legal causation and damages– are required prior to medical carelessness triggering a viable medical malpractice suit. If the doctor’s medical negligence was not a foreseeable outcome of the client’s damage (causation), or if the medical professional’s medical negligence actually had no detrimental impact on the patient’s condition (damages), a medical malpractice claim will fail.
What is considered medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice can develop in many different ways and in many different healthcare settings. However, it is essential to keep in mind that not every circumstance in which something fails– or where the client’s health condition worsens– rises to the level of a practical case of medical malpractice. In this article, we’ll take a look at a few circumstances that would likely be considered medical malpractice, and a couple of examples that wouldn’t.
When It Might Be Malpractice
In the medical community, negligence happens when a doctor provides substandard care to a patient– to put it simply, fails to offer the type and level of care that a prudent, regional, similarly-skilled and educated physician would provide in comparable scenarios.
Negligence that rises to the level of medical malpractice can take place in a number of various circumstances, including the failure to identify a damaging condition, the failure to properly recommend a patient of the major risks of particular treatment, and undesirable errors during the performance of surgery and other treatments.
Medical professionals are not free of the burden of error, and medical malpractice laws do not require them to act as such. Mistakes can and do happen. However, if a medical professional’s mistake falls below the relevant medical requirement of care– the error might rise to the level of malpractice. A lot of medical malpractice cases turn on these concerns: What was the medical standard of care in the situation in concern? And did the offender stick to or deviate from that requirement? Both sides of the case (medical professional and client) will likely rely on medical experts to attempt to boost their arguments.
It’s a rarity in the medical world, however in some circumstances, a medical professional’s action (or inaction) may be considered negligent. For instance, a doctor who carries out surgical treatment or some other dangerous medical treatment while under the effect of drugs or alcohol will likely be stated to have actually acted recklessly.
Or a physician might be charged with administering possibly deadly levels of medication to a client in contravention of accepted medical practices, as in the 2011 criminal case of Dr. Conrad Murray (Michael Jackson’s medical professional).
In this context, recklessness may be thought about a severe form of negligence (as described in the area above) where the medical professional’s actions are up until now below the accepted norm in the medical field that the patient is placed in serious danger of suffering substantial damage.
When It’s Not
Patient’s Condition Becomes Worse
A doctor cannot be said to have committed medical malpractice simply due to the fact that a patient’s condition worsened throughout the course of treatment. In some cases, a physician is unable to treat (let alone cure) a disease, and even when a certain condition is considered treatable, there is no assurance that every client will react to treatment in every circumstance.
As long as the doctor showed sensible care and skill in selecting and carrying out a course of treatment, usually no medical malpractice can be said to have taken place, even when a client’s condition takes a (sometimes unexpected) turn for the worse.
Likewise, considering that not all health problems and illness are treatable, a physician who correctly diagnoses a health issue– and makes sound choices in deciding ways to proceed with the patient’s care– cannot be said to have actually committed malpractice simply because the client’s condition is not treatable, or is terminal. Put simply, medical malpractice laws aren’t in location to use a treatment for unfortunate (but sometimes inescapable) healthcare outcomes such as terminal illnesses and deaths. They’re in place to provide legal defense when the treatment that a patient is given falls short of appropriate standards of medical care.
These Are Challenging Cases
Even armed with the details in this article, you might still have questions about whether your medical professional’s conduct might be considered malpractice. Because medical malpractice cases often turn on complex concerns that aren’t easily addressed without a legal degree and years of experience dealing with patients, you may want to discuss your case with a qualified Rhode Island medical malpractice attorney.
What types of medical malpractice cases are there?
The majority of medical malpractice suits can be taken into one of the following primary categories of physician carelessness:
- negligence impacting pregnancy and giving birth
- mistakes in prescribing or administering medication
- surgical mistakes
Let’s look at each one of these types of malpractice a bit more closely.
Current studies have actually found that misdiagnosing a condition is the most common type of error. The 5 most commonly misdiagnosed diseases or conditions are infections, growths or masses inside the body, cardiovascular disease, blood clot in the lung (lung embolism), and cardiovascular disease.
Misdiagnosis can occur with intricate conditions (like those noted above) since patients do not constantly review the textbook list of symptoms. The consequences of misdiagnosis can be life-threatening and even deadly because the doctor has actually been spending valuable time treating the wrong condition.
Negligence Affecting Pregnancy and Childbirth (Obstetric/Gynecological Carelessness)
So much can fail throughout a pregnancy and delivery that, even in the twenty-first century, medical malpractice impacting both the mom and/or child during pregnancy and giving birth is still an issue today.
Some of the prominent types of medical malpractice throughout pregnancy and childbirth are due to the following medical complications:
- Excessive and inexplicable vaginal bleeding
- Placental irregularities (placenta previa or placental abruption)
- Mother’s gestational diabetes
- Exceedingly long labor that triggers injury to the mother and the child
- Hemorrhaging of the mother or child throughout pregnancy or labor
- Surgeon’s negligence during the course of a Caesarian section
- Negligently giving anesthesia throughout labor or a Caesarian section.
- Premature infants
- Shoulder dystocia or other nerve injury of the baby during labor
These are sadly just some of the problems that can occur throughout pregnancy and labor. However, it is essential to keep in mind when pregnancy is complex does not automatically imply that the obstetrician has actually committed malpractice.
Medical malpractice, like many accident cases, is always based upon carelessness. The patient can just win a medical malpractice suit if he or she proves that the doctor was irresponsible (i.e., the physician did not act fairly or with the skill and care that a fairly qualified medical professional would have demonstrated under comparable scenarios.).
Errors in Recommending or Administering Prescription Drugs
Medical malpractice connected to medication is typical. Medication errors can result from administering the wrong medication or from administering too much or too little medication.
Medication mistakes can also be triggered by the physician prescribing the incorrect medication or the incorrect dosage, the pharmacy providing the incorrect prescription, or any of the medical staff members administering the incorrect medication or the incorrect amount.
It is shockingly simple to administer the incorrect amount of medication. If, for example, any of the health care providers in the whole medication chain (from doctor to nurse to pharmacist) misses out on or transposes a decimal point, the patient could be administered 10 times too much (or too little) medication.
Errors by the surgeon or anesthesiologist during the surgery are not unusual. The most typical surgical errors are harming a nerve, failing to control bleeding, and leaving a foreign object (like a medical sponge) inside the patient.
However, surgeons have performed the incorrect operation, in some cases on the incorrect part of the body or sometimes on the incorrect client completely. The most common places for a surgical mistake are the gastrointestinal system and the spine.
Anesthesia-related carelessness usually involves giving the client too much of a sedative, too little topical or numbing medicine, or even the incorrect type of anesthesia altogether (some people are allergic to particular kinds of anesthesia). But anesthesia-related neglect can likewise connect to patient care during the surgery. For instance, patients must be regularly moved during specific types of surgical treatment to prevent putting excessive pressure on specific parts of the body, and the anesthesiologist is often accountable for having the patient moved. One problem that is well known is a loss of sight brought on by long back surgical treatment in which the client is on his/her stomach during the surgery. If the client is stagnated periodically, the patient’s prone position can injure the optic nerve, and loss of sight can result.
Final Thoughts & Consideration regarding Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
If you’ve made it this far in the guide, then you have an excellent understanding of the basics regarding medical malpractice. No matter your conclusions drawn, it is best to inquire with an experienced attorney at our firm that can assist you in navigating the complicated waters of medical malpractice injury in Rhode Island.
By contacting one of our attorneys, we will be able to assist you in making an informed decision as to whether or not you have a case; and if so, how to proceed. We look forward to speaking with you.