Washington Medical Malpractice LawyersLast updated on: August 9, 2021
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Every day, millions of people depend on the care of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to treat their injuries and illnesses. Unfortunately, medical errors occur, and when they do, it may be because of negligence on the part of the healthcare professional. A healthcare professional’s negligence, such as a misdiagnosis, can result in further harm or illness for which they can be held liable.
If you have been the victim of medical negligence, you should be aware of your rights and possible next steps. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer will be able to assist you with your claim, allowing you to focus on recovery after your injury or illness.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a type of civil claim that involves professional negligence; it occurs when a healthcare professional or provider neglects to provide appropriate treatment, omits to take an appropriate action, or gives substandard treatment that causes harm, injury, or death to a patient. Healthcare professionals and providers have a duty to provide a certain standard of care, recognized by the profession, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their patients. When a medical professional deviates from this standard, they may be held liable for the resulting harm.
Medical Malpractice Statistics
A study published by Johns Hopkins University in 2016 found medical errors to be the third leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for roughly 250,000 deaths per year. The most common errors that lead to a medical malpractice claim are diagnostic errors. Diagnostic errors accounted for 33% of medical malpractice claims from 2013-2017; during that same period, surgical and procedural claims were the second most common types, accounting for 24% of claims, and medical management claims were third, accounting for 14% of claims.
An annual report published by the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner shows that from 2013-2017, there were 4,898 medical malpractice claims filed, with 2,602 of those claims accompanied by a lawsuit. Attorneys reported that claimants received a total compensation of $304.5 million on 226 claims that were settled during that same period.
Examples of Medical Malpractice
Many situations involving medical negligence can result in a medical malpractice suit. Common examples of medical negligence include:
Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose
Diagnostic errors are the most common basis for medical malpractice claims. A doctor, nurse, or other provider may fail to take a proper patient history or disregard a patient’s symptoms. The doctor may also fail to order tests or order the wrong tests; it is also possible that the test results could be ignored or misread.
Any of these actions could result in either a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose basis for a medical malpractice claim. Consult a medical malpractice lawyer today if you believe your injury was caused by misdiagnosis.
It is possible for a surgeon to puncture an organ during surgery or leave a piece of surgical equipment inside your body. Surgical errors extend to the surgery team as well, including the anesthesiologists. An anesthesiologist may be liable for administering too much anesthesia or failing to monitor your vital signs.
Other surgical errors include performing unnecessary surgery and operating on the wrong body part. If you feel you have been the victim of a surgery gone wrong, Washington medical malpractice lawyers are available to help you receive the maximum compensation you are entitled to.
Medication errors include prescribing improper medication or incorrect dosage. A doctor may also prescribe two medications which interact with each other in a way that is harmful to you. In a hospital, a doctor or nurse may administer medication to one patient that was meant for another.
Other, less common instances of medical negligence include lack of informed consent for treatments or procedures, failure to provide proper follow-up care, and premature facility discharge. If you have been the victim of any of these errors, consult a medical malpractice lawyer immediately.
Can I Sue My Doctor?
Your doctor or other healthcare professional is not responsible for all the harms you may experience as a patient. However, your doctor may be legally responsible if your harm or injury is the result of their deviation from the standard of care expected from medical professionals. It is important to note that dissatisfaction with the results of treatment does not imply malpractice.
For you to have a claim for medical malpractice, you must show that your physician or provider acted negligently in providing care, and that such negligence resulted in your injury or illness. In a case for medical malpractice, you must prove the following four legal elements.
- The healthcare professional owed a professional duty of care to you as a patient.
- He or she breached that professional duty of care either through negligence or omission.
- The breach was the cause of your injury or illness.
- Your injury or illness resulted in damages.
If you feel as though your situation satisfies these elements, you should contact a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer will advise you of your rights and decide the best course of action.
How a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Works
The process of pursuing a medical malpractice claim and lawsuit begins long before your medical malpractice lawyer files the lawsuit on your behalf. There are a few steps you need to take before your claim and lawsuit are filed.
Treat Your Injuries
If you believe you are a victim of medical malpractice, the first thing you should do is have your injuries treated. Find another doctor to assess and treat your injuries. The separate treatment will provide documentation of your injuries to be added to your medical record; after your treatment, be sure to obtain a copy of your medical records.
Your medical malpractice lawyer will be able to use your records as evidence for pursing your claim or potential lawsuit; the sooner you give your lawyer your medical records, the better. Your lawyer will use your medical records to seek the medical opinions of other professionals regarding your injuries, and this process could be time consuming. The opinions of these professionals may be important and helpful to your case.
Notify Other Parties
After treating your injuries, you should notify insurance companies and/or the practitioner’s workplace, clinic, or hospital that you are preparing to file a suit. Your claim may need to be reviewed by the Medical Board before it can be filed.
At this stage, there is also a possibility that a settlement could occur. Insurance companies and hospitals may agree to enter into settlement negotiations to avoid a lawsuit. If a fair settlement is agreed upon, there is no need to go to court.
Filing and Mediation
After treatment and notification to insurance companies and employers, you should file your insurance claim. Your attorney will then commence a lawsuit on your behalf. Once the lawsuit is filed, the next step is mediation.
In mediation, a neutral third person called a mediator helps the parties discuss and try to resolve their dispute. Washington state requires mandatory mediation for any claim that involves healthcare; this additional step allows for a potential settlement before addressing the claim in court. The parties are not required to come to an agreement through mediation; if mediation fails, then the case goes to trial.
When to File
Like all civil claims, medical malpractice claims are subject to a statute of limitations; a statute of limitations is essentially a time limit which dictates how long a person has a right to file his or her claim. In Washington, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice states that a patient has three years from the time of the negligent act or omission which caused his or her injury, OR one year from the time the patient discovered or should have reasonably discovered his or her injury, whichever period expires later, to file a claim.
This means that a patient has three years from the date of his or her injury to file a claim, but if a patient’s injury is not discovered until after the three-year period, he or she has a year from the date they discovered their injury to file a claim. The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is also three years. After the three-year mark, your medical malpractice or wrongful death claim is barred, or not allowed, and you will not be able to recover damages.
There are some circumstances that may “toll” or pause this three-year period. If you find yourself near the filing deadline, it is worth discussing your case with an experienced medical malpractice attorney who may be able to provide valuable information and guidance regarding Washington’s statutes of limitations.
Washington is a comparative negligence state. This means that, for the purposes of calculating damages, each party that is found to be liable is assigned a percentage of fault. If you may have contributed to your injury or illness, you may also be assigned a percentage of fault. Even if you do possess a small percentage of fault in a medical malpractice lawsuit, you can still file a claim and receive compensation.
What You Can Recover
You may be able to recover the costs that stem from your injury or illness in the form of compensatory damages; compensatory damages cover both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are the direct, out-of-pocket costs associated with your injury or illness, such as additional doctor’s visits, physical therapy, medications, etc. Non-economic damages cover the physical and emotional toll of your injury or illness, such as mental anguish and pain and suffering.
Economic and non-economic costs you may recover through damages include:
- Current and Future Medical Costs
- Lost Wages
- Lost Earning Capacity
- Pain and Suffering
- Wrongful Death
Washington does not limit the amount in damages that you may receive in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Your damages will be reduced in proportion to your relative liability for your injuries. Unlike several other states, you are still able to receive damages even if you are found to have been more than fifty-percent liable for your injuries.
HOW ZINDA law group CAN HELP
Suffering an injury or illness because of your doctor’s negligence can be incredibly painful, both physically and emotionally. The medical malpractice lawyers at Zinda Law Group have the knowledge and skill necessary to thoroughly represent you in in your medical malpractice claim. Our lawyers have many years of experience navigating the complex landscape that is the insurance claims and legal system.
Zinda Law Group medical malpractice lawyers will fight tirelessly to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. If we do not win your case, you will not pay any fees. This is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.