Everyone has heard the clichés: “We’re all human.” “Everyone makes mistakes.” “Nobody’s perfect.”
Those answers are just fine when they come from a waiter explaining an overcooked filet or a child offering a reason behind a less-than-perfect spelling test. But when it’s your doctor?
The fact is that those go-to answers actually are valid, even for doctors … who are human … and therefore are not perfect … and sure enough, make mistakes, many of which fall under the umbrella of medical malpractice. But none of those answers does anything to appease the feelings of patients (and their families) who bear the brunt of errors ranging from the improper administration of medications to sponges (or other items) being left inside a body during surgery to surgery performed on the wrong part of the body.
Hospitals have not always been required to release the frequency of such errors; rules are now changing, and in many states, it is mandatory that hospitals report errors that cause death and/or serious harm, and patients – and more significantly, insurance companies – are using this information to try to ensure that these mistakes happen with far less frequency. In years past, such an error would result in the insurance company being billed not only for the treatment of the original injury or illness, but also for whatever procedure is needed to correct the mistake. But as the costs incurred by the insurance companies rose into the hundreds of millions of dollars (in many individual states), many insurance companies began to refuse to pay when conditions and/or injuries can be shown to be the fault of the hospital or doctor(s).
While nobody claims that financial compensation can make up for the injuries or fatalities caused by medical malpractice, that doesn’t mean a medical attorney won’t file a claim, or multiple claims, when a doctor’s or hospital’s apparent negligence injures – or worse yet, kills – a patient. A successful medical malpractice lawyer can be instrumental in proving negligence that led to either injury or death, thereby increasing the chance of earning some measure of compensation for the injured patient or his or her family.