Medical Malpractice

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In a February, 2000, report entitled “Medical Errors: The Scope of the Problem”, the Agency for Heathcare Research and Quality stated that as many as 44,000 to 98,000 people die in hospitals each year as the result of medical errors. The report went on to state that “Even using the lower estimate, this would make medical errors the eighth leading cause of death in this country – higher than motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer or AIDS.” The study only dealt with errors that resulted in death and did not address the thousands of other instances that result in permanent disability short of death.

The Office of the Inspector General for the US Department of Health and Human Services released a more recent study in November, 2010, in which it found that “a disturbing number of hospitalized patients still endure harmful consequences from medical care, 44% of them preventable.” The study further found that an estimated 134,000 hospitalized Medicare patients experience harm from medical care in a month, with the event contributing to death in 1.5%, or approximately 15,000 patients. Medication errors factored in more than half of the patient fatalities in the study.

We realize that physicians are human, and thus, are capable of error. An unexpected outcome from a procedure does not, by itself, constitute malpractice. Physicians undergo extensive training to learn to provide proper care to their patients. The profession establishes what is an acceptable result and what is not, which is called the “standard of care”. A physician acts negligently when he or she deviates from the accepted standard of care.

There is a statute of limitations for medical malpractice suits. The exact time allowed to bring a claim will vary on multiple factors. Regardless, if you have been harmed by the conduct of another, you must act immediately or you can lose your legal rights to seek compensation.

Medical malpractice can be committed by any health care provider, including doctors, nurses or a hospital. Medical malpractice cases generally proceed on one of three basic theories: general negligence, failure to obtain proper informed consent, and negligent prescription of medication or medical devices . By far, the most common theory is general negligence. The injured patient must show: (1) that the medical provider owed a duty of care to the patient; (2) that this duty was breached by the provider’s failure to abide by the standard of care; and (3) that the breach caused the patient’s injury.

If the injured patient is successful in establishing fault, the legal system attempts to balance the harm the patient has suffered, through a monetary award that is paid by the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company. The law can not place a patient in the position they were in before the injury, however, it can minimize the effects of the harm through a monetary award. The monetary award comes in the form of economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are designed to compensate the injured patient for the financial losses that he or she suffered because of the provider’s malpractice. When determining the amount of compensatory or pecuniary damages to award a jury considers factors such as lost earning capacity, medical expenses as well as other financial factors.

Non-economic damages include, but are not limited to, compensation for pain and suffering. Missouri law caps non-economic damages at $350,000.00 for a medical malpractice claim. Finally, punitive damages may be awarded. To receive punitive damages the injured patient must show that the medical provider exhibited behavior that constituted a degree of recklessness greater than that of mere negligence. Punitive damages are not usually awarded.

A medical malpractice attorney will assist you through the legal system, and counsel you as to the value of your claims. Your lawyer will gather all information necessary to present your case favorably. This includes reviewing insurance information, talking to witnesses, investigating the claim, working with your physicians, and, if necessary, hiring expert consultants to assist a jury in fully understanding the negligence and the resulting harms suffered. Your attorney will file the necessary pleadings to institute suit, make multiple court appearances to move your case towards trial, and ultimately present your case to a jury for a decision in the event a settlement can not be reached.

The medical malpractice attorneys at Kennedy, Kennedy, Robbins & Yarbro, LC have assisted many individuals to protect their legal rights in medical malpractice cases. The attorneys have settled and tried many different cases in state and federal courts. The attorneys are compensated for their time in a case through a “contingency fee” arrangement. The amount of the fee will depend on the type of case, its complexity and its anticipated value. There is no cost for an initial consultation to discuss your case.

If you need legal assistance, or for further information about a medical malpractice case, please contact us or call Kennedy, Kennedy, Robbins & Yarbro, LC, at (573) 686-2459. Our commitment is to earn your confidence by answering all questions and providing quality representation.