How Do I Sue a Hospital for Medical Negligence?

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Two surgeous are performing an operation on a patient in a hospital.

Medical mistakes are more common than most people think. One study from Johns Hopkins even suggests they might be the third leading cause of death after cancer and heart disease, causing more than 250,000 deaths per year nationwide. But a medical mistake does not always mean medical malpractice occurred under North Carolina law.

If you believe that you’ve been the victim of medical negligence, please consult a Raleigh medical malpractice attorney immediately. They can help you determine if you have a strong case and lay out the next steps if you wish to proceed with a lawsuit.

What Can I Sue a Hospital for?

The first thing your lawyer will do is review your medical records to learn if your situation meets the criteria for medical malpractice in North Carolina. In order to win or settle a malpractice case, your attorney will need to demonstrate the following:

  • The doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider breached the “standard of care” for treating your particular condition. This generally means that other providers in the same specialty as your doctor would not have made the same decision when presented with your case. Because the average person can’t speak to what a pediatrician or neurologist would do in a specific situation, North Carolina requires expert testimony from at least one provider in the same specialty when you file a medical malpractice suit. In other words, you’ll need an expert in the same field as your doctor to state that they would not have treated your condition in the same way.
  • Your doctor was negligent in how they handled your care. They did not simply make an error or a bad judgment call but acted in a negligent or careless manner.
  • This negligence caused your injury. It’s not enough to prove that you went to the hospital, had treatment, and your condition worsened. Even if your lawyer can demonstrate that a provider was negligent, they will still have to show exactly how the provider’s negligence caused your worsening condition. For this part, your attorney may need to interview multiple witnesses and experts and put together a timeline of how your condition declined after treatment.
  • You suffered significant injuries or impairment due to this injury.

What Are Some Examples of Medical Malpractice?

A wide variety of situations may result in medical malpractice, and you should always check with an attorney if you think a healthcare provider was negligent in your care, but here are some common types of malpractice claims:

  • Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a serious condition in a reasonable time frame. Often these cases involve cancer but may include any life-threatening illness that would have been easier to treat if caught earlier.
  • Errors in interpreting lab results or ignoring them. Sometimes this overlaps with misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.
  • Unnecessary or incorrect surgery. You may have heard of some high-profile cases where a surgeon amputated the wrong limb or performed a surgery unrelated to what the patient needed. In other situations, the doctor may recommend surgery that is not indicated for the patient’s condition.
  • Medication errors. These are very common, and there are several kinds. Sometimes a doctor prescribes the wrong medication or the wrong dose. In other cases, the wrong drug or dose is administered even though the doctor prescribed it correctly. Many hospitals have spent considerable time and money developing new procedures to avoid these mistakes, but unfortunately, they still sometimes happen.
  • Being discharged too early. Sometimes clients tell us that they knew they weren’t doing better and were not ready to go home, but the hospital insisted on discharging them anyway. If the patient is correct, they may suffer permanent health damage due to this early discharge.
  • Not taking a thorough patient history. In some cases, errors could have been avoided if the healthcare provider had asked all the appropriate screening questions before beginning treatment.
  • Failing to recognize symptoms or order diagnostic tests based on the patient’s symptoms. It can be very frustrating when your doctor ignores your symptoms, even though you know something is wrong. Worse, some patients suffer serious, life-threatening, or permanent health problems as a result of being ignored.
  • Birth injuries. When an obstetrician makes a mistake during delivery, both you and your baby could suffer damage as a result. One of the most common birth injuries is hypoxic brain injury in the infant, which occurs because the baby doesn’t get enough oxygen to the brain at a crucial time.
  • Premises liability. Although this is not a type of medical negligence, it is a common reason for lawsuits against hospitals. Many people suffer injuries in hospitals because they slip and fall or are not properly monitored when they are at risk of falling. If you were injured because the hospital failed to address a dangerous situation in a timely manner, you may be able to sue the hospital for negligence even if a doctor or healthcare practitioner was not at fault.

What Evidence Do You Need When Suing a Hospital for Negligence?

The first thing your lawyer will ask for is your medical records. Requesting all records pertaining to the incident is a step you can take right now to get started. Most hospitals can get these records to you within 24 hours, although they may charge a small fee for copying. If the hospital gives you the runaround or makes excuses about why they can’t produce your records, let your lawyer know immediately.

As discussed above, you’ll need a medical expert to testify about the malpractice in order to file suit. An experienced medical negligence lawyer should know a variety of medical experts in different fields, and they will ask an expert to review your case. If the expert agrees to testify that you suffered medical negligence, your attorney will move on to gathering other types of evidence, such as additional records or pictures of your injuries.

After filing the lawsuit, your lawyer can also request to depose, or interview under oath, various witnesses. These may include other healthcare staff who were involved with your care at the hospital, family members who were there with you, etc.

How Long Does a Medical Negligence Case Take?

This can be hard to predict. Some cases are more complicated than others and require more time spent on depositions or consulting with experts. The hospital’s willingness to settle the case is also a factor. Most hospitals have malpractice insurance or require their physicians to carry it, so cases usually end when we reach a fair settlement with the insurance company. However, we won’t advise you to take a settlement that doesn’t cover all your damages, so negotiations could take time. Additionally, there are a few cases where the other party simply won’t agree to a fair settlement, and it’s necessary to go to trial. A trial case may last as long as 2-3 years from the filing of the lawsuit until the trial ends.

Contact Tatum & Atkinson for Help with Your Medical Negligence Case

The Heavy Hitters at Tatum & Atkinson have recovered more than $100 million in compensation for our clients. If you have concerns about the medical care you received, please contact our office at 800-LAW-0804 for a free, confidential consultation to learn your options for seeking compensation.