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Medical malpractice can result in some of the most catastrophic injuries as well as generate distrust of the medical profession. Most medical providers provide outstanding service to their patients, but when preventable medical errors occur health care providers need to be held accountable like any other person or entity whose negligence or wrongful conduct caused you or a loved one a serious injury or death. The medical malpractice attorneys at Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP, want to help you.
Hospitals and surgeons follow certain protocol before an operation to ensure the correct patient is undergoing surgery, the right organ is to be operated on, and the site of the surgery is confirmed, usually a number of times. Still, poor communication, distraction, fatigue or a failure to follow the protocol results in a catastrophic mistake and a medical malpractice claim.
Surgeons and assistants count the instruments or sponges used in a procedure and take inventory before the incision site is closed. Regardless, objects left in body cavities are not that uncommon and if not discovered, can lead to infections and other serious complications. An emergency surgery to remove the item also exposes a weakened patient to more infection, heart failure and other complications.
Some health care providers through lack of communication with their patients or by treating patients quickly and sacrificing quality for quantity will miss a diagnosis. For example, a general practitioner (GP) may have a patient who is an ex-smoker who complains of a persistent cough for months and is only given cough medication. Another doctor looks at the patient and sends her out for a biopsy that reveals she now has advanced otolaryngeal cancer. The GP may be civilly liable if a reasonably competent physician testifies that the condition should have been diagnosed at a much earlier time when the cancer was very treatable.
A complete medical history and knowledge of a patient’s allergic reactions to medications can prevent a patient from being given the wrong drugs or dosage. Some errors are ascribed to misreading a prescription or record or not adjusting the dosage when complications arise.
Many birth injuries are preventable. Common birth injury conditions such as cerebral palsy and hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy result from oxygen deprivation to the brain from a failure to monitor the fetus or the mother’s condition or communicating to the doctor that the patient or fetus is showing significant changes. Erb’s palsy, an injury to the brachial plexus, can occur if the child’s arm is pulled too hard during a breech delivery. Both baby and mother need to be monitored for changes in respiration, heartbeat, blood pressure and blood glucose levels during a pregnancy.
During a pregnancy whatever a mother experiences, her baby may also experience. Infections that attack the immune system of a mother will have effects on her developing baby. Infections that do not receive medical attention can cause neonatal brain damage. Examples of infections that lead to neonatal brain damage include:
These infections whether serious or common can negatively affect the development of a baby. Research indicates that maternal infections that are left untreated can lead to epilepsy and schizophrenia. These infections can also be the cause of premature births. Babies born prematurely are at a higher risk of cerebral palsy and other brain defects. The mother’s physician should always monitor and properly treat maternal infections. Any physician who fails to do so may be liable for any brain injury that a baby experiences.
Jaundice is very common among preemie babies. It occurs when an excessive amount of yellow pigment is present in a baby’s bloodstream. This can cause a baby’s eyes and skin to appear yellow. If your newborn is experiencing jaundice, this is not a reason to worry, unless left untreated. Excessive amounts of bilirubin (yellow pigment) in the bloodstream can lead to a medical condition called kernicterus. This condition causes serious damage to a baby’s brain.
Physical trauma during a delivery can lead to brain damage. Incorrect use of medical tools inflicted on the head or forceful tugging of the head can damage a newborn’s brain. In some extreme cases, nurses or doctors may accidentally drop a baby. When our heads make forceful contact with any object or surface it can leave serious brain damage. These effects are magnified when involving a newly born baby.
Many patients die or suffer pain needlessly from infections sustained during a hospital stay or by the lack of care from an untrained or overwhelmed staff. Careless handling of a patient, failing to monitor their condition or administer the proper medicines can lead to serious injuries and death.
There are four elements in a Texas medical malpractice case:
Texas law requires that 60-day notice be given to the defendant health care provider before a claim is filed. It also mandates that within 120 days of filing a medical malpractice claim that you serve an expert’s medical report on the defendant with the medical expert’s curriculum vitae and the expert’s opinion regarding the standard of care, the manner in which the defendant doctor failed to adhere to the standards, the causal relationship between the failure and injury, and the harm that resulted or the damages.
Like most states, Texas law imposes a cap on your noneconomic damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Noneconomic claims are limited to $250,000 for each claimant or against each health care institution. Your total recovery is limited to $750,000 for noneconomic damages, including $250,000 from the physician defendants and a maximum of $500,000 from all institutional providers.
Noneconomic damages include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish or emotional distress for which there is no objective basis for measuring it. Texas does not limit your economic losses, which include medical expenses and lost earnings.
Also, medical malpractice cases generally need to be filed within two years of the negligent act. If your child is under the age of 12, you have until the minor attains the age of 14 to file on their behalf.
A plaintiff’s attorney can extend the statute for up to 75 days by sending notice of the claim by a certified letter to the physician or health care provider against whom the claim is being made. The notice letter must be sent before the statute of limitations bars filing a claim. Also, notice to one defendant is considered notice to all in cases where a defendant did not receive the requisite notice within 60 days of filing a lawsuit.
If treatment does not work, you may want to get a second opinion on whether or not your physician or doctor prescribed the right course of action. He or she may have misdiagnosed you, or may not be conforming to traditional medical treatments.
Because of errors in medical testing, you should ask to get your diagnosis retested, or discuss your results with a professional. If a misdiagnosis occurs and you are not properly treated for your condition, you may end up with a serious illness or risk fatal injuries.
If you are diagnosed with a condition such as cancer, or an extreme infection, be sure to note other symptoms. Sometimes doctors may believe your symptoms are the result of a life-threatening illness, which may cause undue stress and emotional pain if you are later diagnosed with a common ailment.
If you are diagnosed with an illness, ask your doctor about other tests that can be given to ensure you are properly treated for your particular situation. Doctors may withhold tests that could change how treatment is administered.
If treatment is actually harming you, tell your doctor first and foremost. You may have been given the wrong treatment or been prescribed a treatment that should not be used in conjunction with other medicines you are taking. If the doctor failed to take necessary precautions, he or she fell below the acceptable standards of common medicine.
Doctors must inform their patients of the risks associated with treatment or not receiving treatment. You could be eligible for a medical malpractice if you have an adverse reaction to a treatment without being made aware of the risks. If you would not have gone ahead with treatment under normal circumstances, the doctor is liable.
You may have been given additional treatments to cover up a misdiagnosis or incorrect administration of medicine. This will rack up a hefty medical bill, so if you believe you are being incorrectly billed, ask your doctor the reason for the multitude of treatment types. If he or she fails to give a satisfactory answer, you may be taken advantage of.
Before beginning treatment, look up what medical journals say and what standard practice is when treating your condition. If you are being offered an inferior treatment, or something alternative that you did not approve, you could have a valid claim on your hands.
Medical malpractice cases are complex and involve complicated issues of liability and damages. You need the experience and resources of legal professionals who know how to handle these unique injury cases and who have the resources to prosecute health care liability claims that usually are intensely defended. When medical negligence has caused serious personal injury or the death of someone you love, call our medical malpractice law firm at 512-593-7650 to arrange a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.