Phoenix Medical Negligence Lawyers
People go to their doctors or the hospital when they need treatment to get better. While most doctors and other health care professionals are very good at what they do, some fail to meet the standard of care in the type of care that they provide. Medical errors can cause devastating injuries. Some patients also die as a result of medical mistakes every year. Unfortunately, medical errors are fairly common. According to a recent study that was conducted by Johns Hopkins, medical errors result in the deaths of more than 250,000 people every year. Medical mistakes are the third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. and account for 10% of all of the deaths that occur.
If you believe that your injury was caused by your medical professional’s errors, you may be entitled to recover monetary compensation through a negligence claim. We and our co-counsel medical malpractice attorneys have years of experience fighting for the rights of people who have been injured by the negligence of others, and we may be able to help you to recover compensation.
What Is Medical Negligence?
Medical negligence is the theory of fault that is pleaded in a majority of malpractice claims. While the term is often used interchangeably with malpractice, it is only one of the elements that plaintiffs must prove in their claims. Doctors are expected to provide care that meets the standard of care of other reasonably competent doctors in the same practice area in the community. Negligence alone will not be sufficient to prevail in a malpractice claim, however. Instead, the plaintiffs must be able to prove all of the elements of the claims. death.
The Elements of a Malpractice Claim
Malpractice can take many forms in the medical profession and include surgical errors, medication errors, diagnostic errors, and others. While the types of claims vary, they normally require plaintiffs to prove the following elements:
- The health care professional owed the patient a duty of care;
- The health care professional beached his or her standard of care;
- The patient was injured;
- The breach was the proximate or direct cause of the patient’s injury; and
- The patient suffered harm as a result.
A doctor’s duty to a patient begins once he or she has established a doctor-patient relationship with the patient. This relationship is normally created when the doctor agrees to provide care to the patient. The doctor is expected to provide the type of care that would be provided by a reasonable doctor who provides the same type of medical treatment in the community. This is called the standard of care. When a doctor fails to meet the standard of care when he or she treats a patient, the patient will only be able to recover compensation when he or she was injured and the medical errors that occurred were the proximate or direct cause of his or her injuries. If the patient was not harmed, he or she will not have a right to recover compensation.
Common Types of Medical Errors
Doctors and other health care professionals can make serious mistakes because of negligence. Six of the most common types of medical errors that can result in injuries or deaths include the following:
- Delayed diagnosis
- Failure to treat
- Surgical errors
- Birth injuries
- Medication errors
Misdiagnosis is a very common type of malpractice. A doctor may fail to diagnose a patient’s condition or diagnose him or her with the wrong condition. A failure to diagnose can lead to a person’s condition worsening. When a person is diagnosed with the wrong condition, he or she may receive treatment that he or she does not need while not receiving the proper treatment for his or her condition.
A delayed diagnosis may sometimes follow a misdiagnosis. When a correct diagnosis is delayed, a patient’s condition may become worse. For example, a delayed diagnosis of cancer might mean that a person may not be able to recover when he or she might have recovered with an earlier diagnosis.
A failure to treat occurs when a doctor correctly diagnoses a patient but fails to adequately treat his or her condition because of the dereliction of his or her duties. This might occur when a doctor is simultaneously caring for too many people while failing to meet his or her standard of care. The dereliction might include releasing patients too early or failing to provide the type of treatment that the patient needs.
Many types of surgical errors can occur. Some of the mistakes that can lead to malpractice claims include using non-sterile instruments, performing surgery on the wrong patient, performing surgery on the wrong site, performing the wrong surgery, giving the wrong amount of anesthesia, and others.
Birth injuries are among the most devastating types of medical errors. These can happen while the mothers are giving birth and can leave babies with permanent disabilities.
Finally, medication errors are also common types of mistakes. These can occur when hospital staff read a doctor’s medical orders incorrectly and give the wrong drug or too much or too little of a prescribed medication to a patient.
Pure Comparative Fault in Arizona Malpractice Claims
Arizona follows the doctrine of pure comparative fault under A.R.S. § 12-2505. This rule applies when more than one party is at fault in causing a plaintiff’s injuries, including the patient himself or herself. However, this statute can be beneficial if you were partially to blame for causing your injuries. Instead of having your claim disallowed, you are still allowed to file a claim when you are partially at fault. A jury will determine the percentage of liability to assign to each party. If any fault is assigned to you, your award will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you were 20% at fault and are awarded $500,000, your net award will be reduced by 20% to $400,000.
FAQs: Malpractice Claims
Q: What compensation can you recover in a malpractice lawsuit?
A: If you prevail in your malpractice lawsuit, you will be entitled to recover compensation, which are monetary awards that compensate plaintiffs for the losses that they have suffered because of the acts or omissions of the defendants. In medical malpractice cases, monetary awards are divided into two main categories called special and general damages. Special damages include the pecuniary or economic losses that you suffered such as the following:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Rehabilitation costs
- Past and future income losses
- Funeral and burial expenses when the victim died as a result of the negligence
General damages are your noneconomic losses and might include the following:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
- Loss of your enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium for spouses
- Scarring and disfigurement
Punitive awards are the third type of monetary award that might be given in malpractice cases. These amounts are meant to punish defendants instead of to compensate plaintiffs. Under Arizona case law, you are only able to recover punitive awards when you can prove that the defendant acted with an “evil hand” and that his or her conduct was egregious by clear and convincing evidence. This means that they are rarely awarded.
Q: When must I file my malpractice claim?
A: Arizona has a statute of limitations for personal injury claims, including those involving allegations of medical errors. Under A.R.S. § 12-542, you must file your claim no later than two years after the date of your injury. However, the statute of limitations will not begin to run until you learn of your injury or should have known that you were injured because of the negligence. However, if the injured victim is a minor, the statute of limitations will not begin to run until the minor reaches age 18 under A.R.S. § 12-502. If you fail to file your lawsuit within the limitations period, your claim will be time-barred.
Q: Is there a cap on the recoverable amount in a malpractice lawsuit?
A: More than half of the states have placed limits on the amounts of money that people can recover in medical malpractice lawsuits to institute tort reform. Within the federal system, there are caps on the amount of punitive awards that people can recover after the U.S. Supreme Court limited them to no more than nine times the amount of compensatory awards that are awarded to a plaintiff in State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408 (2003).
While many other states have state caps on monetary awards in medical error and personal injury cases, Arizona does not. Under Ariz. Const. Art. 2, § 31, the state is not allowed to pass a law limiting the amount of money that can be awarded in a civil action for the death or injury of a person. This constitutional provision means that Arizona cannot pass statutory caps on medical malpractice awards.
Q: Is any party immune from a malpractice claim?
A: In 2004, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Aetna Health, Inc. v. Davila, 542 U.S. 200 (2004) that people cannot pursue claims for their noneconomic losses against health maintenance organizations in state court since HMOs are governed by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act or ERISA. Instead, people can only sue HMOs in federal court, and they are unable to recover money for their noneconomic losses in federal claims against HMOs under ERISA. During that year, Arizona similarly limited injured victims from filing malpractice lawsuits against HMOs.
Under A.R.S. § 36-3205, there are several circumstances in which a health care provider will be immune from liability for an injury to a patient, including the following:
- The medical professional did not follow a directive that violated his or her conscience when he or she promptly informed the patient and transferred the patient’s care to someone else who was willing to follow the directive; or
- The medical professional was relying on a court’s order regarding the patient; or
- The medical professional made a reasonable effort to contact a disabled or incapacitated patient’s guardian or agent but was unable to reach him or her; or
- An emergency existed that didn’t give the medical professional enough time to find and talk to the incapacitated patient’s guardian or agent.
Q: Does signing a consent form mean that you have waived your rights to sue?
A: Many people think that they are unable to sue their doctors because they signed consent forms for their medical care. Consent forms do not obviate the duty that your doctor owes to you. Typically, a consent form indicates that you have been advised of the risks and potential complications of a procedure or treatment. A consent form does not mean that your doctor is relieved from the standard of care to perform the procedure or treatment in an expected way.
Get experienced legal help from Lamber Goodnow
We and the experienced medical malpractice lawyers with whom we co-counsel can provide free case evaluations to see if we can help. We have successfully represented many people in Phoenix and across Arizona in their claims. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation by calling us at 602-274-9662.