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Medical Malpractice FAQ


Are you facing a potential medical malpractice case?  You may have some questions about how your case will be handled and about recent developments in medical malpractice law.  Please read on for some answers to some frequently asked questions about medical malpractice.

What Kinds of Damages Are Available?

There are several types of damage awards (monetary compensation) that are available to people with medical malpractice claims.  First are general damages.  This is compensation for the suffering caused by the malpractice — things like physical and mental pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium.  Second are special damages, that are unique to you- they include more quantifiable expenses linked to the malpractice.  Special damages include medical bills and reimbursement for lost income due to time missed at work.  Finally, punitive damages may be available.  These are reserved for particularly heinous or obscure cases in which the defendant needs to be penalized for their negative behavior.  These damages are meant to punish a physician or medical facility for conduct that is seriously egregious (where a patient was intentionally harmed, for example). Punitive damages are rare in medical malpractice cases.

If I had known the risks associated with my surgery, I wouldn’t have agreed to the procedure. Can I sue my doctor?

You’re exposed to the classic legal answer: it depends.  Doctors must fully inform their patients about serious risks involved in any proposed medical procedure or treatment so that the patient can decide whether to go forward, in light of the danger. This is informed consent.  Doctors, however, don’t have to inform patients of every single conceivable risk that may arise.  The relevant questions are, would another doctor of similar training have revealed the risk?  And would a normal patient have agreed to the procedure had the risk been disclosed?  These are the relevant questions that may be asked of an individual who may or may not have a medical malpractice claim.  Further, in some situations, a doctor is not required to gain informed consent, like in emergencies.  A qualified attorney can assist you in determining whether you had informed consent and whether or not it was necessary.

If my doctor makes a mistake while treating me in a hospital, can I sue the hospital?

Generally, the answer is no.  The reason is that few doctors are actual employees of hospitals; most of them are independent contractors.  This makes a legal distinction.  A hospital might be responsible for a non-employee doctor’s medical malpractice if the hospital does not make clear that the doctor is not an employee. But most hospitals avoid this problem by informing patients of the doctor’s non-employee relationship in admission forms.  There are some exceptions for patients of hospital emergency rooms, who may not be privy to these distinctions.  Further, some states allow patients to sue hospitals for the medical malpractice of a non-employee doctor if the hospital gave staff privileges to an incompetent or dangerous doctor.

You Need a Good Attorney

If you believe you may have a medical malpractice claim, you need a good Columbia personal injury attorney.  More than that, you need an attorney with specific experience in medical malpractice claims.  You can contact an attorney with experience at The Stanley Law Group.  Call 803-799-4700 and set up a consultation today.


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