Missing a diagnosis may be malpractice, but in some circumstances it can happen even with proper care. This blog will discuss the dangers of medical malpractice and how attorneys properly investigate each claim to determine if they are viable cases.
What is medical malpractice?
In North Carolina, medical malpractice is just another way of saying medical negligence. Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional provides care that is below the standard of care, resulting in injury or death to a patient. A patient also has to prove that the injury resulted in damages, which could include things like:
- Mental or emotional distress
- Medical expenses
- Loss of income
- Loss of services
Is misdiagnosis considered medical malpractice?
Misdiagnosis is not always malpractice. The key question is whether the doctor or health care provider should have diagnosed the patient correctly if they had been following the standards of practice and exercising reasonable care and their best judgment. In some cases, a patient may not be showing any signs of symptoms of a disease, making it very hard or even impossible to diagnose them. If there aren’t any clues that the patient has the disease, then there probably was not any malpractice in missing the diagnosis.
On the other hand, in many patient cases the fault falls back on the healthcare professional. This can be for a multitude of reasons, including failure to recognize symptoms, failure to examine a patient’s medical history, failure to order medical tests, or failure to follow up on an abnormal test result. If you suspect that a medical professional did one of these things or otherwise missed a diagnosis that they should have caught and it resulted in injury or death, your next step is to contact a medical malpractice attorney.
Investigating a claim
Your doctor failed to follow proper procedures. So, what’s next? You should first seek legal counsel before filing a claim. Although it is possible for a person to file a claim on their own, there are many complexities involved in medical malpractice claims that can make this process difficult. When medical malpractice claims are filed without an attorney, they are typically dismissed by the court for failing to comply with North Carolina’s laws and court rules.
A medical malpractice attorney can investigate your case and determine if your case is viable. This will usually involve a thorough review of the medical records. If the attorneys believe there may have been malpractice, they will usually consult with one or more medical experts to see whether they agree that malpractice occurred. In North Carolina, attorneys are required to find expert witnesses who are willing to testify that malpractice occurred before they can file a claim in court.
Once a malpractice claim is filed, the lawsuit can take anywhere from several months to a few years to resolve, and sometimes even longer. The attorneys will continue to investigate the claim through the discovery process, which involves written questions called interrogatories and requests for documents that could end up being evidence if there is a trial. The discovery process also involves depositions, which is where the parties and witnesses provide sworn testimony in response to question from the lawyers in the case.
The parties have the option to settle out of court if they can come to an agreement. Sometimes this happens informally through back and forth negotiations between both sides. Other times it can happen at a mediation, which is a formal meeting where both sides come together to see if they can resolve the matter. If the case settles out of court, then the case will not go to trial. If the parties are unable to come to an agreement to settle the case, a trial will be necessary. At trial, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff (the patient or his/her family) then has to prove that the healthcare professional was negligent during the diagnosis of the patient. A jury will ultimately determine whether there was malpractice and how much the plaintiff is entitled to recover in damages.
How We Can Help You
Our medical malpractice attorneys are on call to investigate your claim as thoroughly as possible. With over 35 years of experience, our legal professionals have the skills and unique insight to form a case for you that will grant you the compensation that you deserve.
If you have sustained injuries due to the negligence of a doctor, feel free to call our office today at (866) 380-2281 or fill out this form online for a free consultation.