In the context of the doctor-patient relationship, proving the necessary elements of an emotional distress claim can be difficult. Plaintiffs may need medical evidence, from psychologists or orthopedists, of emotional or physical injuries -- the more intense the mental anguish and the longer the suffering, the more likely you'll be able to prove emotional distress. And the more extreme or outrageous the underlying conduct, the more likely you'll be able to link your distress to that conduct.
Medical negligence occurs when a doctor or other medical professional breaches the standard of care. In general, a standard of care is the accepted methods of treatment applied by other medical professionals in the area to patients with identical or similar conditions. A standard of care will vary depending on a number of factors, including geographic area, the age of the patient, and the medical condition.
Negligence is not always the cause of a misdiagnosis. Mistakes and misjudgments typically occur in medical diagnosis because many medical conditions do not consistently exhibit the same symptoms in every individual. For example, women are much more likely to be misdiagnosed with a heart attack as they do not experience hallmark symptoms that precede a heart attack such as chest pains. Instead, women may experience discomfort in their neck, jaw, back, shoulder, arm or stomach, nausea, vomiting or heart burn.
Plaintiffs can also sue for the negligent infliction of severe emotional distress that they experienced because of someone else’s injury. This types of suit occur sometimes when a person has to witness the injury or death of a loved one caused by another person’s negligence. However, to succeed on such a claim one must be able to prove that their distress was an immediate and foreseeable result of the defendant’s behavior. In addition, the plaintiff generally must physically witness the accident in order to be able to recover for this type of claim.
There are rare occasions where doctors or other medical service providers will admit they have made a mistake and will seek to come to some kind of settlement with an injured party. Tread lightly in these situations, as you may be trading a quick resolution for a substantially lower amount of compensation. However, in cases that are not particularly serious -- specifically, cases worth $20,000 or less -- you may find that settling directly with a doctor is possible.
Bringing a medical malpractice claim is not a thing to be taken lightly. Malpractice lawsuits are expensive, time consuming, and can open you up to public inspection. And, unlike most other types of personal injury claims, case trends show a tendency toward favoring doctors and other care providers, not injured plaintiffs. Settlement, too, is far more difficult in a malpractice case due to a doctor’s ability to refuse to settle, regardless of whether his or her insurance company wants to pay. Simply put, even the most winnable malpractice case is still an uphill battle with little or no guarantee of success. Should you sue your doctor for malpractice? Perhaps, but consider what follows before you do.