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Not long ago, a rather shocking statistic came out of Johns Hopkins University. Researchers at the university found that approximately 10% of the deaths that occur in the United States are caused by medical errors. That translates into more than 250,000 deaths that are the result of medical malpractice on an annual basis. That doesn’t even begin to take into account all of the injuries and problems that occur that are not fatal but still negatively impact people’s lives.
Since medical errors and doctor malpractice are so common, it is important to know what to do if you or a loved one run into problems. If you think that you were treated incorrectly because of a medical error, follow these five tips:
#1. Switch Doctors Right Away
The very first thing that you should do is take steps to protect your health. If you believe that your current doctor made a mistake in your treatment or diagnosis, you should search for a new doctor right away. Hopefully, that doctor will be able to help you reverse any ill effects that you suffered as a result of the mistake. Your new doctor will want to review your medical records. They may also need to conduct tests to come up with an accurate diagnosis. Once that is out of the way, they can develop a treatment plan that will help mitigate any damage caused by the original doctor. In the case of a treatment error, that means addressing any side effects or issues caused by the error. In the case of a misdiagnosis, that means adjusting your treatment plan to better address the specific needs of your condition.
#2. Get Copies Of Your Medical Records
Once you have dealt with any immediate health issues, you should request your medical records right away. If you plan on suing for medical malpractice, your medical records will play a big part in helping you build a case. Your records contain everything from a detailed medical history to a record of the initial symptoms that led to your diagnosis. They also have information about any tests that you underwent or medicine that your doctor prescribed. Information like this can help show that the doctor made an error.
For instance, imagine that you rush to the emergency room because you have pain in your chest. The family history section contained in your medical records shows that you have a genetic predisposition to heart conditions. Despite that, the doctor that you see fails to test whether or not you are experiencing a heart attack. Instead, they tell you that you have anxiety and send you on your way. If it is discovered at a later date that you really did have a heart attack, the records would help prove the doctor’s negligence. Since they didn’t thoroughly review your history, they didn’t order the right tests, which led to a misdiagnosis.
The best time to get your records is before you file your claim. Otherwise, there is a risk that the doctor could change the records. Even though it is against the law to put false information in medical records, it isn’t unheard of when doctors are trying to avoid lawsuits.
#3. Write Everything Down
The minute that you realize your doctor may have made an error, you should start keeping an accurate record of everything that happens with your health. Write down any new or changing symptoms. Take notes about the effects of the error. For instance, if you are forced to miss work so that you can be treated for a problem that was caused by the error, it is important to note this in your records. Try to create new entries in the journal on a daily basis so that you have an accurate record of everything that you endured. Your journal can be submitted as evidence if you file a malpractice claim. The more thorough it is, the better job it will do of supporting your case.
#4. Talk To A Lawyer
Medical malpractice is a complicated area of the law. You should never try to act as your own lawyer. Instead, always seek outside representation. Look for a lawyer who specializes in cases involving medical malpractice. Set up an initial consultation to discuss your case. This will give you a chance to make sure they meet your expectations before agreeing to work with them.
When describing your circumstances to your lawyer, include as much detail as you can. Even something that seems relatively minor can have a big impact on your case. Bring any documents that you have supporting your claim along with you, including copies of your medical records and the journal that you have been keeping. This will give the lawyer the information that they need to begin an investigation. They may reach out to you for additional info if they have any questions during the research phase. Once you retain the services of a lawyer, they will take care of all of the legal issues so that you can focus on your health.
#5. Don’t Talk To Anyone Else About Your Case
The only person that you should talk to about your claim is your lawyer. Don’t talk to the doctor or to anyone else who works at the hospital or healthcare clinic. You should also avoid posting anything about your case on your social media accounts. There is no such thing as privacy when it comes to social media, even if you have your account hidden from public view. There is always a chance that anything you post could be discovered by the doctor or medical facility.
After the claim is filed, the insurance company of the defendant may try to reach out to you. Never talk to them directly. Instead, give them the contact information of your lawyer. Avoid answering any questions. Insurance adjusters aren’t your friends. Instead, they are there to represent the interests of the insurance company, meaning they want to pay out as little as possible. That is why you should leave any interactions with the insurance company to your lawyer rather than trying to handle them yourself.