What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice refers to the negligent or incorrect acts of a doctor or other medical professional that lead to unnecessary injury or death to a patient.
Some common medical malpractice cases involve errors with prescription drugs that lead to complications, surgical errors, injuries occurring during childbirth, misdiagnosis, or failure to treat a patient.
Medical malpractice suits are typically complex in nature. These cases require vast knowledge of medical procedures and can be difficult to prove if the cause and effect of the injury or death aren’t straightforward. For example, if a misdiagnosis leads directly to an injury and can be proven, this can be a clear case. Most medical malpractice cases, however, require intense research and documentation to provide adequate proof that negligence or mistakes occurred.
Is it Just Doctors Who Are Liable?
Unfortunately, all medical staff can make human errors or act negligently. The entire medical team is susceptible to medical malpractice claims, from nurses to pharmacists, emergency medical technicians, anesthesiologists, administration, and more.
Examples can include misreading X-rays, MRIs, medical charts, or mammograms. Forgetting the patient’s informed consent before a procedure and a hospital’s failure to have operable and well-maintained medical equipment are also common errors.
Hospitals can also be found to be negligent rather than a specific employee or medical staff. Hospitals and emergency care facilities have a particular standard of care owed to patients, and if this is not followed, they are susceptible to medical malpractice liabilities.
An example of when a hospital would be liable in addition to the medical staff would be if known medical malpractice were found in one of the doctors on staff or if medical staff had a proven drug abuse issue, which led to malpractice.
Can I Be Partially Liable in a Malpractice Case?
A common defense for malpractice cases is for the party in question to divert the blame back to the patient. Perhaps the patient had strict orders to follow instructions post-surgery and didn’t follow these instructions accurately, which led to an injury.
If this situation arises, but it can also be proven that the medical staff was guilty of malpractice, this may be cause for comparative negligence. Comparative negligence means that each party involved and proven negligent is assigned a percentage of fault. Suppose you are found to be partially negligent. In that case, you may have the damages reduced proportionately with the percentage you were assigned to be negligent rather than being able to obtain the entire damages.
Comparative negligence also applies if the malpractice case holds medical staff and the hospital accountable. Each party involved would be assigned fault based on the investigations and responsible for their percentage of fault when compensating the victims.
What Types of Damages Can You Pursue in Medical Malpractice Cases in Georgia?
Three categories of damages are typically sought after in medical malpractice cases. They are general (non-economic), special (economic), and punitive damages.
General damages don’t have a specific monetary value placed on them because they can be challenging to determine. Damages can include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, effects of long-term disability, and more. It can be difficult to place a dollar amount on the items in this category, but a qualified attorney can assist you with estimating and calculating the damages.
Special damages are easier to document as they are related to direct financial costs such as medical bills, missed wages, anticipated medical bills in the future, and estimated long-term loss of income. For example, if you or your loved one can no longer perform at work as you were before the malpractice injuries or death, you can calculate an estimate of the difference in income that resulted.
Punitive damages are meant to punish the guilty party for their particularly egregious offenses or displays of negligence or intent. Punitive damages are allowed in Georgia medical malpractice cases; although they will vary, the general cap is $250,000.
Is There a Statute of Limitation on Medical Malpractice in Georgia?
As with other states, a statute of limitations exists and must be followed for a case to be valid. With medical malpractice in Georgia, that timeline is two years from the date of the injury or death.
In some cases, medical malpractice isn’t discovered immediately. Suppose your loved one passed away years after surgery, and the errors during the surgery directly contributed to their death. Generally speaking, in cases like this, you would have an extended period of time (typically five years vs. the two-year statute) to work with an attorney and file a medical malpractice claim.
Why Work with a Medical Malpractice Attorney?
It is wired within most of us to protect those we love the most. When we go to a trusted source for help with a medical issue and are left with more problems as a result, our desire to protect ourselves and our families can be even greater. You have a right to want justice, and when done correctly, you can obtain the damages you deserve and avoid further financial distress.
Medical malpractice cases are notoriously complex, but our team has years of experience in helping families with these cases and being their tireless advocate when it matters the most.
Contact our office at (706) 954-6745 to confidentially discuss your questions and learn how we can best assist you and your family.