How Do I Know If I’m a Victim of Medical Malpractice?

Because specialization is an intrinsic element of the U.S. economic system, we often find ourselves relying on the expertise of other people. From doctors and lawyers to car mechanics and computer programmers, everything seems to keep getting more complicated. This is becoming truer than ever as technological advances accelerate.

But we often experience a certain level of anxiety when we rely on someone else to provide a service. That’s understandable because we often don’t have the skills or knowledge to determine what service is needed.

Similarly, when things don’t go right - or results seem less than optimal - we may not have the necessary knowledge base to evaluate the provider’s performance. This can be especially true when it comes to medical services. Most of us are not doctors - so how do we know if medical malpractice has occurred?

The Importance of Identifying Medical Malpractice

According to a study reported by Johns Hopkins, more than 250,000 people die every year in the United States as a result of medical error. Amazingly, this constitutes 10 percent of American deaths. Johns Hopkins further notes that this level would have qualified as the third leading cause of death on the list created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), topped only by heart disease and cancer. Some observers think the number of deaths caused by medical error is even higher.

It is critical to identify medical errors. First, it is important because all patients across society will be safer if issues in the provision of medical care that result in harm can be identified and corrected. Additionally, identifying medical malpractice can help to ensure that those who are injured or killed due to the negligence of a medical care provider can be made whole by the recovery of damages for the harm they have suffered.

When society makes it clear that doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other providers of medical services will be held accountable for their negligence, it has the beneficial effect of encouraging these professionals to exercise reasonable care.

Identifying Medical Malpractice

While medical malpractice is often difficult to identify, below are some signs to watch for.

  • Bad outcomes - A poor result does not automatically mean that medical malpractice has occurred. Sometimes a physician does everything right, and the patient just does not get the outcome everyone had hoped for. However, a bad result can also be a red flag that you should at least investigate further.
  • Inadequate explanation of the procedure and its risks - Patients must give informed consent before submitting to a medical procedure. Thus, if a doctor fails to explain the risks and harm results, the patient may have a claim.
  • Unusual results - If a procedure has very unusual results, further investigation may be warranted.
  • Notice of medical error - Some doctors and hospitals are very honest and notify patients of medical errors.
  • Diagnostic errors - You may learn later that a previous doctor either misdiagnosed your condition or failed to diagnose a condition. If harm results, these errors can lead to a medical malpractice recovery.

The Importance of Professional Assistance

To recover under a claim for medical malpractice, an injured patient must prove that the treating physician did not meet the applicable standard of care. This involves proving that the medical care provider did not act in a way that a reasonable doctor would have acted under the same or similar circumstances. And as suggested by the title of this article, laypeople often are not equipped to determine if medical malpractice has occurred.

But there is an answer. First, an experienced medical malpractice attorney will have a very high level of medical knowledge to help you determine where to start your investigation. Additionally, it is important to obtain the opinion of experts - in this case, other doctors - when investigating and pursuing a claim for medical malpractice.

Call with Questions

At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, our experienced medical malpractice attorneys have relationships with doctors and other medical care providers who can assist in our medical malpractice investigations. We handle medical malpractice cases all around Oregon and would be happy to answer any questions you might have about your case or the process in general. Please call us for a free consultation.


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