Doctors are often considered some of the most intelligent and educated people in their communities. Other medical personnel, like nurses and technicians, are also given a high level of trust. It's disturbing, then, to realize that errors made by medical personnel account for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year – in fact, medical error may be the third leading cause of death in the United States. Fortunately, if you or someone you care about is the victim of a medical mistake, you do have legal recourse. You can sue for malpractice. However, there are a few things that you should know before you do.
Any Healthcare Provider Can be Sued for Malpractice
It's common to associate malpractice cases with doctors, so many people believe that they don't have a case if the doctor wasn't the person who made the medical mistake. However, this is not the case. Nurses, patient care technicians, and physical therapists can all be sued for malpractice. Furthermore, you can also sue an entity, such as a hospital, for malpractice caused by their employees.
A nursing home may also be sued for malpractice in some cases, but doing so can be complicated. Many nursing homes require incoming residents and their families to agree to binding arbitration in the event of a dispute. If you have a malpractice or neglect case against a nursing home and you or your family member signed a contract with a binding arbitration clause, you may not be able to take that case to court.
You May be Able to Sue for a Privacy Violation
If you've had any medical treatment since 1996, you've probably heard of HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPAA is designed to protect your private medical information from outsiders. The law allows the government to prosecute and fine medical professionals who reveal your personal healthcare information without your consent.
HIPAA doesn't allow for individuals to sue healthcare providers that violate the law. However, if a healthcare provider violates HIPAA and reveals your medical information without permission, you may have grounds to sue based on existing causes for lawsuits, such as invasion of privacy, negligence, and professional malpractice. This is especially true if you can show damages, such as losing business or being turned down for a job because of the information contained in your medical records.
You're More Likely to Go to Trial
If you've had any experience with personal injury cases before, you know that many of them result in a settlement before the case goes to trial. This is not necessarily true when it comes to medical malpractice cases.
That's because when a physician settles a malpractice case for any amount of money, he or she will be reported to the National Practitioner Databank, where anyone will be able to look them up and see that they settled a malpractice case.
As you might imagine, few healthcare professionals are interested in settling a case when it means that they may be reported to a database that is open to the public. Their careers can be damaged by doing so, and many would rather take the case to trial, especially because in most malpractice cases that go to trial, the doctor wins. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't pursue a malpractice case if you've been harmed by a medical mistake, but it does mean that you should prepare for a long, hard fight.
Medical malpractice cases can be considerably more complex than many other personal injury cases, for many reasons. If you believe that you've been injured in a healthcare facility or by a healthcare provider, it's important to find a medical malpractice attorney that specializes in these types of cases before proceeding.