Did you know that hospital errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., falling behind only cancer and heart disease? According to recent research by the Leapfrog Group, up to 440,000 people die each year from hospital errors which are potentially preventable. Hundreds of thousands of additional patients are injured each year, often seriously. Of the 2,539 hospitals ranked on safety, over 1,000 scored only a "C" or worse—meaning about 40% are mediocre at best.
If you have been injured in a hospital, financial compensation might be available.Types of Hospital Errors
Many things can go wrong in a hospital, which might lead to your injury or the death of a loved one. For example, the following are common hospital errors.
- Unnecessary delay delivering treatment. People can die or become gravely sick when treatment is unreasonably denied or delayed.
- Failure to monitor. After surgery, medical staff should closely monitor your vital signs. They should also check in frequently to find out how you feel. Careless or overburdened medical staff might overlook this necessary monitoring, leading to injury.
- Leaving surgical implements in the body. Negligent surgeons have left sponges and other implements in a patient’s body.
- Failure to eliminate gas bubbles in the blood. This surgical error can cause a stroke or death because the bubble stops the flow of blood in the body.
- Medication errors. Doctors might prescribe the wrong medication, or staff might dispense the wrong medicine or the wrong dosage.
- Failure to diagnose. A doctor might have missed a diagnosis or made a wrong diagnosis, which prevents patients from receiving timely treatment.
- Wrongful discharge. A hospital might have wrongly discharged a patient too soon. This can sometimes happen with elderly patients, who then wander off and become injured.
- Anesthesia errors. Anesthesia helps block pain during surgery. However, an anesthesiologist can administer the wrong amount of anesthesia, especially if they have not adequately probed your medical history.
- Failure to properly sterilize tools. Patients can suffer devastating infections if tools are not sterilized.
The key to a Georgia medical malpractice case is to show that an error made by the hospital or the staff caused you injury. Generally, hospital staff owes all patients a duty to exercise proper care in the delivery of treatment. When they fall below this standard—and an injury results—they could be held legally responsible.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to show that an error has injured you because patients often go to the hospital when they are already ill. Doctors sometimes claim that your problems are the result of a pre-existing condition and not a mistake that they made. To fully understand whether you have a claim, contact a Georgia medical malpractice attorney for a case evaluation.Signs of Medical Malpractice
It is not unusual for a sick patient to suffer complications from surgery or other medical treatment. Not every complication is the result of medical error. Indeed, some cannot be avoided. For example, if you needed open-heart surgery, you should expect pain from the doctor breaking your rib cage, which is not avoidable.
Still, there are some common signs that you might have become the victim of a hospital error, which should cause you to investigate and meet with a Georgia medical malpractice lawyer. Look for the following:
- Your doctor is avoiding you. This might be a sign that the doctor has a guilty conscience because he or she knows they did something wrong.
- You feel pain in a different part of your body. For example, you might have gone in for foot surgery only to start feeling chest pains.
- A loved one dies in the hospital despite being young and in generally good health. This should certainly raise an eyebrow and warrants further investigation.
- Multiple people on your floor suffer an infection. This might be the sign of an outbreak in the hospital.
- You are not improving. This might be a sign the doctor did not treat you properly.
- Another doctor offers a contradictory diagnosis. Soon after discharge from the hospital, you meet with a second doctor, who diagnoses you with a problem your original doctor failed to detect.
Trust your instincts. If you feel that something is wrong, you should meet with a second doctor for another medical opinion and schedule a case evaluation with a medical malpractice lawyer in Georgia.Identifying who to Sue
When a medical mistake occurs in a hospital, your instinct might be to sue the hospital. However, your lawyer will need to carefully analyze who is responsible for your injuries; this could be a doctor, nurse, technician, etc. The identity of the person will determine whether you can sue the hospital.
Not all doctors are employed by hospitals, so it might not be appropriate to sue the hospital if the doctor was not an employee. Some doctors work as independent contractors, which means the hospital is not their employer and is not answerable for the doctor’s mistake. Other medical professionals, like nurses and technicians, usually are hospital employees.
In some situations, hospitals can still be legally responsible even if the doctor is an independent contractor. For example, the hospital might have known a doctor had a history of malpractice claims. Or the hospital might have failed to properly investigate a doctor's background before extending staff privileges. These actions could be determined negligent and could open the hospital up to liability even where doctors are not employees.
As an injured patient, you are not required to know who to sue. Instead, let your Georgia medical malpractice lawyer review the available evidence and make that determination for you. Remember that you can go ahead and sue doctor’s individually, even if they are not hospital employees.An Atlanta Medical Malpractice Lawyer can Help
Medical malpractice lawsuits are complicated and raise all kinds of difficult issues. To help build the best case possible, you should hire an experienced medical malpractice attorney in Georgia. Your lawyer can investigate the circumstances surrounding your injuries and consult with an appropriate expert witness, if necessary. If your case is legitimate, your lawyer can file a complaint in court and begin collecting evidence.
At Slappey & Sadd, our Georgia medical malpractice attorneys have fought for hundreds of patients to help them obtain the financial security they need to begin mending their lives. Reach out to us today online or by calling 404-255-6677 to schedule a free consultation.