Medical malpractice lawsuits are lawsuits against a doctor, nurse, hospital, or any healthcare provider for injuries sustained during their medical treatment. These lawsuits can also be brought by the surviving family of patients who died because of improper treatment. It is important to understand that just because something went wrong, it does not automatically mean the healthcare was negligent. Instead, the required proof for a medical malpractice case is extensive.
If you are considering suing your doctor for poor healthcare in Arkansas, talk to a medical malpractice attorney. Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, handles medical malpractice and other personal injury cases in Springdale, Arkansas, and throughout the state. Call today for a free consultation about your case.
Proving Medical Malpractice
In order to prove a medical malpractice case, you must show that you suffered some harm, and that it was the doctor’s fault. Sometimes, surgeries and other medical procedures fail to actually cure you or improve your condition. This is not always because the doctor did something wrong – some things are just too difficult for our current technology and medical science to cure.
In many other cases, the doctor or other healthcare provider’s errors cause severe injuries and worsened conditions. In order to prove medical negligence, you must show four elements:
- The doctor owed you a duty;
- The doctor breached that duty;
- The breach caused your injuries;
- You have injuries or losses you can prove in court, called “damages.”
Standard of Care
Proving the duty first requires proving you had a doctor-patient relationship. Many doctors work for the same practice or hospital, or may be asked to check medical records – but may not create a doctor-patient relationship with the injured patient.
Beyond that, the duty in a medical malpractice suit is usually defined and shaped by the testimony of experts for both sides. These “expert witnesses” are usually other doctors with qualifications similar to the defendant doctor. Each side, the injured plaintiff and the defendant doctor, hire experts to testify to how the treatment should have gone. If the doctor’s care fell below this “standard of care,” then the doctor breached their duty to the patient. Since both sides present experts, it is ultimately up to the jury to decide whether the doctor’s care fell below the standard of care or not.
Causation and Medical Injuries
Even after proving the doctor’s care fell below the standard, there is still a difficult case to prove. If the patient would have suffered the harm regardless of whether the doctor was negligent, you may lose your case. For instance, in a case where a patient died because a doctor failed to diagnose and treat a heart attack, if the heart attack was too massive, it may have been untreatable. This means that the patient would have died, even if the doctor gave the proper care. Because of this kind of complication, medical malpractice require experienced, strategic attorneys.
After proving these elements, you still need to prove what your injuries are. Even in cases that seem obvious, such as where a patient died or has a clear scar, you may still need another doctor to examine the patient to testify to a jury what the injuries are. The more severe an injury is, or in cases of death, the higher the typical jury awards.
Deadlines for Arkansas Medical Malpractice Cases
Arkansas has a strict two-year deadline to file medical malpractice cases. This deadline is called a “statute of limitations,” and begins to run from the time of the injury. When the injury is caused by a specific incident, such as a negligent surgery, determining this date may be simple. In other cases where an ongoing course of treatment was negligent, or where a patient suffered a worsened condition from a delay in diagnosis or misdiagnosis, determining the start date for the two-year time limit might be more flexible. Because of this, it is important to talk to an attorney as soon as possible.
If you were unable to determine the cause of your injury until long after it took place, you are not given an extension to file your case. Many states allow this extension, based on a “discovery rule,” but unfortunately, Arkansas does not allow this. There is a discovery rule in Arkansas, but it only applies in two specific cases:
- If you were injured by a foreign object left inside your body, and could not discover it was there, you have one year to file from the date you discover the object.
- If the patient suffered from medical malpractice as a child under 11 years old, you have two years to file after discovering the injury and its cause. This extension cuts off upon the patient’s 19th birthday.
Minors injured before they turn nine years old have until their 11th birthday, regardless of discovery, to file their cases.
Because these deadlines might completely block you from filing your case, getting your case filed on time can be extremely important. These rules are very strict, so talk to an attorney about your potential medical malpractice case as soon as you can.
Springdale Medical Negligence Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured by poor healthcare, talk to an attorney right away. Especially if you have lost a loved one to medical malpractice, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, offers free consultations on new cases. Call (479) 316-0438 today to talk about your case.