When it comes to determining the extent of physical pain, there are no computer programs to rely on. Each of us experiences pain differently. Even with today’s advanced medical technology, the best method doctors have for measuring a patient’s pain is a self-rated pain scale. This is when a doctor asks, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your pain?”
How is emotional distress defined in the eyes of the law? In most cases, you can only sue for emotional damages if the incident in question physically harmed you. Emotional distress suits are trickier than other types of lawsuits. It’s important to have a solid understanding of the types of emotional distress claims before you attempt to file a lawsuit.
Significantly, your attorney can only use these examples of loss to illustrate your injuries if you provide it to him or her. If your case is in litigation you will most likely sit for a deposition (your testimony given under oath before a court reporter who is taking down questions directed to you by the defense attorney and your responses). In preparing for your deposition, your attorney may ask you to explain how this accident has affected your life. Be ready to give real life examples so that your attorney can best advocate on your behalf.
Like any profession or job doctors and other medical professionals can make errors of judgement or neglect to carry out their duties to the required standard. Usually this is not the case and the vast majority of medical practitioners do excellent work every day in our hospitals and clinics. When they do occur, however, incidents of hospital negligence and medical errors are often due to the pressure (and fatigue) of working long hours in what is undoubtedly a stressful environment.
As this article suggests, there is not really a simple answer to whether someone can sue a doctor for misdiagnosis. There are many variables in the world of healthcare, and every situation is unique. With that said, as a patient, you do have certain legal rights when it comes to the care that you receive. Further, you do not have to simply accept that an error occurred without asking questions or learning more about protecting yourself.
If you believe that you have suffered injuries as a result of a misdiagnosis, it’s important to move quickly to take legal action. California law states that plaintiffs must file a lawsuit within one year after they discover or should have discovered the injury or within three years after the date of the injury, whichever comes first. This may seem like a significant amount of time, but it will pass by very quickly if you are attempting to recover from your injuries. Therefore, it’s strongly recommended that you get in touch with an attorney right away to discuss your case.
One of the most common reasons that a physician may be accused of medical malpractice is due to the failure to diagnose. This is premised on the idea that the patient needlessly suffered for an extended period of time because the doctor failed to properly evaluate tests or run tests that should have reasonably notified him or her of the potential diagnosis. Other examples of medical malpractice include misdiagnosing a medical condition, failing to provide appropriate treatment, causing an unreasonable delay in treating a diagnosed condition, violating HIPAA laws, performing wrong-site surgery and performing surgery on the wrong patient.
Whether the doctor lived up to the standard of care will likely require an expert opinion. One of the issues the expert will examine is the defendant doctor's differential diagnosis method. When trying to diagnose a patient, a doctor makes a list of diagnoses in order of probability and tests them by asking the patient questions, making further observations of the patient, or ordering tests. The goal is to rule out diagnoses until there is only one diagnosis remaining. However, in many instances, a doctor learns more information that requires him or her to supplement the list with other potential diagnoses.
Causation can be the most challenging element for plaintiffs to prove in a failure to diagnose cases. A plaintiff must prove that the misdiagnosis caused the injury to worsen more than it would have had a correct diagnosis been made. This means, for example, that a plaintiff will need to show that a delayed cancer diagnosis resulted in the patient's wrongful death, whereas the patient would have lived longer if it had been caught at the right time by the defendant.
Damages from pain and suffering are, therefore, subjective. There is no formula and certainly no standardized calculation for pain and suffering. It is the job of the jury (or the judge if there is no jury) to determine what is fair and reasonable, which they will often do based on their own life experiences. The jury will consider whether the plaintiff is credible and sympathetic. This subjectivity means that damages from pain and suffering can vary tremendously from case to case -- even if the underlying injury is the same.
Medical malpractice cases almost always require medical experts to testify about the proper standard of care that should have been provided under the circumstances. These are often physicians who practice within the same type of medicine that the physician defendant practices in. These individuals are usually tasked with the responsibility of explaining that the defendant deviated from the standard of care and that this deviation resulted in the patient suffering the harm alleged in the complaint.
How can you tell the difference between appropriate, but unsuccessful care and medical malpractice? Ask. Ask your doctor. Get second opinions if possible. Talk to lawyers, who may have medically trained staff that can give an informed opinion, or who may have dealt with the exact same issue (or doctor) you are dealing with. Do whatever you can to attempt to allay any misgivings you have about your care. But take any opinions with a grain of salt. Some doctors simply won’t accuse a “brother physician” of making a mistake. Some malpractice attorneys will exaggerate the potential of your claim in an attempt to make money. Use your best discretion when seeking opinions on your treatment, but be diligent in the pursuit of information. Until you file a lawsuit, you are your own best advocate and investigator.