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We go to doctors, surgeons, and other medical professionals to feel better. But it doesn’t always work out that way. While some injuries and illnesses are beyond a doctor’s ability to heal, there are times when hospitals, clinics, or their staff misdiagnose or mistreat a patient.
In that case, you may be considering a medical malpractice lawsuit. Here are five questions, and answers, that can help:
The classic case that most people think of as medical malpractice is a botched or wrong-site surgery, where a surgeon is sued for operating on a body part he or she shouldn't. But malpractice liability can extend to staff who make errors in medical treatment as well. Nurses, most of whom handle enormous responsibilities and caseloads admirably, can also be legally liable for causing additional harm to their patients.
And medical malpractice doesn't just apply to physical injuries or ailments. Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals also owe their patients a duty of care, and can be liable for failing to diagnose a mental illness, failing to properly treat a diagnosed illness, or failing to report a threat posed by a patient.
Not all harm comes from mistakes in diagnosis or physical treatment. Doctors can also injure patients by prescribing the wrong medication, prescribing the wrong dosage, or failing to anticipate possible drug interactions. (You may even be able to sue a doctor for prescribing the wrong medical marijuana.) And pharmacists could also be liable if they negligently dispense medications.
If a bad trip to the doctor requires future, hopefully better, trips to the doctor, those expenses could be included in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Damages for personal injury lawsuits can not only compensate you for past injuries, but for the future costs of treating those injuries. (Although you may want to see a different doctor this time)
There are time limits for every injury lawsuit, and the limits on medical malpractice claims can be some of the shortest. Known as a statute of limitations, these laws set the deadline after which you cannot file a lawsuit. Statutes of limitation vary by state, and for medical malpractice claims can be as short as two years.
If you've been harmed by a medical professional's failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, or mistreatment, you should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.