How a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Protects the Rights of Injured Patients
Medical malpractice lawyers work to protect and defend the rights of patients who have been injured in a case of medical negligence.
As a patient, you may not even be aware that you possess various rights when it comes to your treatment at a medical facility or by healthcare workers. Some of these rights are guaranteed to you by federal law, your state sets some, and others include the patient Bill of Rights that is followed at the healthcare facility where you were treated.
Experiencing medical malpractice and negligence is traumatic, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Your local medical malpractice lawyers can help you defend your rights as a patient in Michigan and provide the expertise and support you need in handling a medical malpractice claim.
The following guide details how lawyers specializing in medical malpractice work to defend patient’s rights and the basic requirements needed for a medical malpractice claim. It also outlines the many benefits of working with a medical attorney to defend your negligence claim.
What Medical Malpractice Means
According to the American Bar Association, medical malpractice is the result of negligent actions that are committed by any healthcare provider during your treatment.
This can include doctors, nurses, dentists, technicians, hospital workers, healthcare institutions themselves, health insurance providers, pharmacists, and hospice workers. In short, it’s any healthcare provider whose performance of care during your treatment deviated from the standard skill and knowledge set of “those with similar training, and experience, resulting in harm to a patient or patients.”
In other words, medical malpractice suits come about when a healthcare worker administers treatment in a manner that does not fall within the standards of good medical practice set and followed by their peers in the medical industry.
For example, if a patient undergoes a heart surgery that leads to further complications and injuries, those injuries may be the result of negligent action on behalf of the surgeon during the procedure. To determine if this is the case, a judge or jury will look at testimonies that are given by other heart surgeons to determine what a competent heart surgeon would have done in a similar circumstance.
…And What it Does Not Mean
Medical malpractice does not refer to dissatisfaction with the results of surgery. For example, if a plastic surgery patient is dissatisfied with the results of their facelift, it does not constitute medical malpractice. In this case, you would have to show an actual injury that you incurred because your surgeon deviated from the standard of care you would have received from a comparable doctor for the same condition
However, in this instance, if errors that occurred during your surgery – such as being administered the incorrect amount of anesthesia or a procedure that was performed incorrectly – lead to damages, such as infection and disfigurement, you may have a claim.
The line between valid claims of medical malpractice and unfortunate coincidence can be vague and difficult to navigate without a background in the medical field.
Luckily, it’s not something you need to determine on your own: top medical malpractice attorneys in Michigan can work with you to look over your claim and determine whether you are a victim of medical malpractice whose patient rights have been violated.
Federal Patient’s Rights
In the United States, medical malpractice law is based on concepts of medical responsibility that were developed by the ancient Romans as far back as 2030 BC.
These ancient laws recognized that healthcare providers maintained a specific duty of care and responsibility to their patients in assuming the role as a professional caregiver. Your patient’s rights today are still based on this concept.
In contrast to the system used in many other countries, however, rather than being based firmly in a set of federal laws, patient’s rights in the U.S. are typically outlined in a Bill of Rights that is drafted by the state. Federal rights in the U.S. refer more to a set of guidelines that are put forth in various documents for states to use in developing their Bill of Patient’s Rights.
One of those sets of guidelines can be found in the American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics, which outlines the majority of patient’s rights and medical ethics in the United States.
In addition, the American Hospital Association’s Patient Care Partnership outlines standard patient care guidelines, including the generalized rights to informed consent, medical records, and privacy.
As a patient, it is your right to have access to all the information regarding your medical condition, treatment options, risks, and prognosis before treatment.
It is a doctor or healthcare provider’s responsibility to make this information available to you in an understandable way so you can make an informed decision about your care. This is called informed consent.
If your doctor neglected to discuss your diagnosis, the nature of the treatment that you will receive (including possible side-effects), and associated risks before requiring that you sign an informed consent form, you might have a medical malpractice claim.
Right to medical records
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 includes the Privacy Rule, which guarantees patients the right to inspect, review, and receive a copy of the medical records that are held by their healthcare provider.
By law, these records cannot be denied to you in cases in which you are unable to pay for the services you received. If your doctor fails to provide requested documents in a timely or complete manner, you may have a valid claim to medical malpractice.
Right to privacy
Also laid out in the Privacy Rule, patient’s rights to privacy stipulate who can access medical records and when and work to protect your private information.
According to the Privacy Rule, only you or your representative (in the case of minors, a parent, for example) has the right to access these records. In addition, your doctor or healthcare provider can only forward your records to other providers with your written consent.
Patient Rights by State
State-mandated Bills of Rights further define the general guidelines set out by federal laws concerning patient’s rights.
Though state law typically adheres to federal guidelines concerning what may be deemed medical malpractice, it sets its own limitations concerning how a medical malpractice case must be claimed.
For example, state laws govern the statute of limitations or the maximum amount of time an individual has to file a medical malpractice lawsuit after the injury arises. While the majority of states permit a longer statute of limitations for incidents that have resulted in incompetency, disability, fraudulent concealment, or foreign objects left in the body, some states do not.
In addition, states also enforce different sets of criteria concerning the qualifications of “expert” witnesses. This simply means that each state has its own requirements regarding who may testify as an expert. For example, in some states, a general practitioner may qualify as an expert witness when testifying against a specialist. In other states, this may not be the case.
The Michigan Patient’s Bill of Rights
Michigan malpractice law is particularly complex as outlined by the Michigan Patient’s Bill of Rights According to the bill, all patients that are Michigan residents are entitled to various pieces of information in writing from their health insurance provider, including:
- A comprehensive cost-of-service estimate prior to treatment
- What is covered by your medical insurance
- Procedures concerning out-of-state-treatment
Michigan residents are guaranteed coverage in cases of emergency medical treatment. However, Michigan residents are also subject to a particularly complicated set of statute of limitations laws. For example, Michigan law requires that the victim files their complaint within two years of the services rendered. However, this is then further limited to a mere six months after the injury or negligent act was discovered by the victim.
A statute of limitations can also be extended if the victim in question is a minor, a veteran of the U.S. military, or mentally disabled.
Your medical attorney in Michigan can help you understand the limitations and expectations set forth by the Michigan State Health Department in claiming your medical malpractice lawsuit.
Patient Bill of Rights by Facility
In addition to federal and state rights, various healthcare facilities and hospitals enforce their own set of patient’s rights and codes of ethical medical practice.
While many of the bills that are practiced at medical facilities will undoubetly adhere to state and federal laws, they typically function more like non-binding declarations than laws.
That is to say; they include rules or codes of conduct that are taken on by the staff of a hospital as a means of guaranteeing a certain standard of care to their patients rather than promising rights before the law.
For example, a hospital’s Bill of Patient’s Rights may include ambiguous statements, such as a healthcare provider’s commitment to helping a patient “maintain confidence in the U.S. healthcare system.” When scrutinized more closely, it is easy to see that such claims equate to simple formalities, as losing your faith in the healthcare system does not necessarily equate to an actionable offense.
Basic Requirements for a Medical Malpractice Claim
Anyone who has been injured by a preventable error made by a physician in Michigan has the right to file a medical malpractice claim. However, this may also refer to other parties and is not limited simply to a physician.
You have the right to take legal action against any party that was involved in or responsible for the development of your injury. This can include medical care providers, medical device manufacturers, and even responsible government agencies.
Determining exactly who is at fault for your injury can be one of the most complex parts of filing your medical malpractice claim, which is why this aspect is typically left to your medical malpractice attorney. As a law professional with extensive knowledge in the medical field, your medical attorney can help you determine who is at fault and who is liable to pay you damages.
While anyone may file a claim, multiple elements must be involved to actually prove a medical malpractice claim is legitimate. This includes:
An established healthcare-patient relationship
This simply means you must prove your doctor knowingly entered into the duty of providing your care. For example, you cannot sue a healthcare provider who you overheard offering health advice at a party.
This typically the easiest part of a claim to prove, as there is often adequate documentation to suggest that a doctor or provider knowingly treated a patient.
A breach of the duty of the healthcare provider
This is where the expertise of your medical attorney becomes necessary. To pursue a malpractice case, you are required to prove your doctor acted in a way that was negligent or below the standard of care that a competent doctor would have been able to provide.
Damage or harm that resulted from a breach of duty
Even if you can prove that a physician acted in a negligent manner, you cannot sue for damages if no damages can be proven. This means you must have suffered eligible damages or harm to sue for medical malpractice. Eligible damages can include, among others:
- Physical pain
- Mental pain
- Diminished life quality
- Past and future medical expenses
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of the ability to earn a living wage
- Lost wages that resulted from time spent away from work
Any claim you make is subject to arbitration, mediation, and litigation. It is your medical attorney’s job to collect the reelvant facts and administer the applicable law to help you prove the harm you incurred was the direct result of your doctor’s negligence.
Unfortunately, many of us don’t understand the importance of the knowledge and expertise of medical malpractice lawyers until the time comes that we need one.
Questioning the authority and actions of a medical doctor or caregiver on your own can be an intimidating and scary process. Throw in the nuanced and complicated legal vocabulary of patient’s rights concerning medical malpractice, and the situation becomes even more complicated, particularly for individuals who are struggling to cope with the injury that resulted from the medical malpractice in the first place.
You don’t need to handle your medical malpractice claim alone. Top medical malpractice attorneys in Michigan like Cochran, Kroll & Associates P.C. can help you work through your claim and ensure you do not suffer at the hands of the healthcare industry twice.
Take a stand against medical malpractice with your medical attorney to hold negligent healthcare providers responsible and contribute to bettering the standard of care and protecting patient’s rights in Michigan today.
Please call Cochran, Kroll & Associates P.C. to schedule your complimentary and no obligation consultation at <a href=tel:+18666424529>1-866-MICH LAW (1-866-642-4529)</a>. No fee is charged unless a recovery is made.