Serving clients in Fayetteville and all of NW Arkansas
Undergoing medical and surgical procedures can be a stressful experience. If things do not go as planned, it can be even more devastating. When you go to a doctor, or any medical professional, you expect them to take care of you. Unfortunately for so many people, negligent medical treatment often results in undiagnosed conditions, misdiagnoses, surgical errors, injuries, and worsened conditions.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of poor medical care, you might have a medical malpractice claim against the doctor or other medical professionals who failed to properly treat you. Especially if you have lost a loved one to medical negligence, you may be able to recover large amounts of compensation. To talk to a medical malpractice in Fayetteville, Arkansas, call Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law today.
Fayetteville, Arkansas Medical Malpractice Cases
A medical malpractice claim is a type of lawsuit against a doctor, hospital, nurse, or any medical professional who failed to give you the proper level of care. It is important to understand that just because something went wrong, it is not automatically a case of negligence. Healthcare providers are not miracle workers, and do what they can to help patients within the limits of medical science. Sometimes, complications are an expected part of medical care.
In order to prove medical malpractice, you must prove that the healthcare professional was negligent. To prove negligence in a malpractice case, you must prove four elements:
- The doctor owed you a duty;
- The doctor breached that duty;
- That breach caused your injuries or loss;
- You have injuries or losses that a court can compensate you for (called “damages”).
Before you can prove a doctor was negligent in caring for you, you must prove they had a duty to care for you, and what that duty was. This starts with showing a doctor-patient relationship existed. Sometimes doctors are joined in malpractice suits because they are part of the same practice, but if they never actually took the patient’s care upon themselves, you may not be able to sue them for negligence.
Breaching the Standard of Care
Proving the duty, and whether it was breached, requires proving what the “standard of care” is. The standard of care is the minimum, competent level of care that a doctor should give a patient under the circumstances. This is not a checklist of things that the doctor should do, but rather a full description of how the patient should be cared for, given what the doctor knew at the time of care. This is usually proved by having other doctors with the same qualifications as the defendant testify in court. These doctors, called “expert witnesses,” help explain what the doctor should have done, and how his care fell below the standard of care.
Causation in Medical Malpractice
To prove negligence, you must also prove that the doctor’s poor care actually caused your injuries. Many times, the defense the defendant doctor raises is that their negligence did not cause the harm, because the patient would have suffered harm anyway. For instance, in malpractice cases where a doctor gave poor cancer treatment, and a patient passed away, the doctor’s defense may be that the cancer was too advanced, and the patient would have died regardless of the negligence. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can call the proper experts and show the proper evidence to help prove causation in your malpractice suit.
Injuries and Worsened Condition
Finally, you need to prove what your injuries are. In cases of surgical errors, injuries may be obvious – severed nerves, ruptured blood vessels, or extra incisions. In other cases, the injuries may be less clear. In many cases based on failure to diagnose, delay in diagnosis, or misdiagnosis, the injury is the patient’s worsened condition. Proving an injury in a case like this requires testimony of how the patient’s condition would have improved if the proper treatment started right away, versus what actually happened to the patient.
Statute of Limitations for Arkansas Medical Malpractice Cases
Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit on time is one of the most important requirements to have your case heard by a judge and jury. If you fail to file your medical malpractice suit within the two-year deadline in Arkansas, you may not be able to recover compensation for your case. Arkansas’ “statute of limitations,” the law that decides the deadlines for filing an injury case, gives injured patients two years to file.
The start date for this two-year clock is more complicated, though. § 16-114-203 of the Arkansas Code says that the two-year deadline begins to run from the date your injury occurs. That means that even if you did not know you were harmed by malpractice, you have two years do discover the malpractice and file a lawsuit. Deciding this specific date may be difficult in cases where a doctor failed to diagnose an injury, so make sure to speak to an attorney about your deadline to file.
If you are injured by a foreign object left inside your body, and you were unable to discover the object was inside you, your deadline may be extended. This is Arkansas’ “discovery rule,” and extends your deadline to file as one year from the date you discover the foreign object. This only applies to foreign objects, though; while some states allow you to file within a few years of discovering any medical malpractice injury, Arkansas does not generally allow this.
If the patient is a minor under nine years old at the time of the injury, the deadline runs until the minor’s 11th birthday. This gives injured minors extra time to learn of their condition and appreciate the injury before suing. This is especially helpful in cases of birth injuries or other malpractice, where the child’s problems may not be discovered until they are much older. Additionally, people injured before they turn 11 years old are able to take advantage of a “discovery rule” extension. This means that if you do not discover the malpractice until after the child turns 11, and you could not have reasonably discovered the malpractice injury earlier, you have two years from the date of discovery of the injury – or until the child turns 19 years old (whichever is later). This only applies to people injured before they turn 11, though, and would not apply for adults.
Fayetteville, AR Medical Negligence Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured by a doctor’s poor healthcare, you might be entitled to compensation. For a free consultation with our medical malpractice attorney, call Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law today at (479) 251-7767. Because your case may have important deadlines attached, do not delay.