By: Kelley J. Johnson, Attorney
A medical malpractice can occur when a doctor’s or hospital’s or other medical professional’s treatment provided to you falls below the accepted standard of practice in the medical community and causes harm to you. The treatment can be an action taken by a doctor or can be something the doctor failed to do. In either case, that action or omission must have caused injury or death. If you find yourself or a loved one in this situation, it can be a very scary and stressful time. Whether you plan to file a lawsuit or not, here are some suggested actions you can take to protect yourself or your loved one during this difficult time.
Document, document, document. Because this is a scary and stressful time, you will forget details that may be important. Document dates, times, names of doctors and nurses, dosages, etc. Be descriptive in your notes and try to document as things are happening, if possible. Even if you are not contemplating a law suit, documenting the details can help you during this stressful time.
Ask questions. While it may be intimidating, don’t be afraid to ask the doctor or nurse questions such as: What is going on? Why did this happen? How is this going to be fixed? You may have to be persistent and direct with the nurse or doctor, but you have a right to know what is going on with your health and body. Be persistent until you get an answer to your question.
Request a copy of your medical records. You are entitled to a copy of your own medical records, including any x-rays. Do not and you should not explain why you want a copy of them. Do not tell anyone you are requesting your records because you want to file a lawsuit or contact a lawyer. Once you have your records, review them to make sure they are complete. You may have to go to different locations to get a complete set. For example, you may need to request records from both a doctor’s office and from a hospital. You may also be required to fill out a written request. Do not take “no” for an answer. In Indiana, if you make a written request for your own records or if you are authorized to request another’s records, the provider is required to copy the records for you at a reasonable cost.
Call an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice. Finally, call an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice. If you don’t know a medical malpractice attorney, call an attorney who you trust for a referral. Medical malpractice is a highly specialized area of law. Each state has different medical malpractice laws that may affect your ability to bring your case. In Indiana, the legal process to bring a medical malpractice case is complicated, lengthy and expensive. A medical malpractice attorney may be able to tell you not only whether you may have a case, but whether your case is worth bringing a lawsuit. Most medical malpractice attorneys will provide you with a free consultation to learn about your claim and provide some initial advice. If the attorney believes you have a case and you choose to file a lawsuit it’s important to know that most medical malpractice attorneys work on a contingency basis. Thismeans the attorney does not recover any money unless she or he wins your case.
It’s also important to know that even if you contact an attorney and discuss a potential medical malpractice lawsuit, you are not obligated to proceed with any legal action. The decision is entirely up to you and your family regarding as to when, or even if, to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
I speak to people nearly every day regarding potential medical malpractice claims involving everything from injuries related to foreign objects left inside patients after surgery to injuries patients have suffered from a doctor’s failure to diagnose an illness. For more information about the types of medical malpractice claims my firm handles click here.