Atlanta Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Whenever a doctor fails to meet the professional standard of care, they can be held liable for their actions. This can include a doctor who makes an error during surgery or fails to properly diagnose a condition.
An Atlanta medical malpractice lawyer can help you hold negligent doctors for their actions. With the help of a dedicated injury attorney, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries and get justice for your injuries.
Understanding Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice is the failure to provide medical care in accordance with the standard of care or what is ordinarily accepted in the field under similar circumstances. In order to prove that malpractice occurred, a lawyer must be able to prove that a healthcare professional had a duty of care they owed to their patient, they breached that duty, and that the breach of duty resulted in an injury and damages.
Some of the most common instances of malpractice that result in claims are failures to diagnose a condition, surgical errors, or sepsis are common types of medical malpractice cases. As long as there was a mistake or error in violation of the standard of care, a person may have a viable claim.
Who Is Liable for Malpractice?
Any medical provider who breached the standard of care can be held liable for their actions. In addition, the employer of the medical provider can also be held liable. However, proving liability in a medical malpractice claim can be complicated due to the unpredictability of medicine and the necessity of using experts to prove a claim.
Consent Forms and Liability
Signing a consent form prior to medical treatment does not bar a person’s medical malpractice case, though it may lay out potential risks that could occur and thus be a document the defense relies on in contending the person was aware of the known risk of the procedure. However, just because the risk is a known risk does not mean malpractice did not occur. If the resulting injury is not something that was consented to or the injury is the result of the provider’s failure to act in accordance with the applicable standard of care, a doctor can still be sued regardless of whether there was a consent form.
Common Atlanta Medical Malpractice
Birth injuries, misdiagnoses, and emergency room errors are some of the most common types of medical malpractice in Atlanta. When someone is injured because of the negligent actions of a healthcare professional, a compassionate medical malpractice attorney can bring a claim for compensation on your behalf.
Injuries During Birth
A birth injury is any injury that occurs in the course of labor or delivery when a doctor fails to properly manage and execute the delivery process. The most common types of birth injuries are shoulder dystocia or anoxic injuries.
Parents can generally tell if their child suffered a birth injury based on their physical appearance and if there are any mental or medical deficits. However, it is important to note that these injuries often do not become apparent until lawyer.
If they believe their child suffered a birth injury due to the negligence of a doctor or nurse, the parents can pursue a claim on the child’s behalf for medical malpractice and recover the consequent damages. For the typical birth injury case, the claim can be brought any time before the child turns seven. However, if the birth injury results in death the claim must be brought within two years of the date of death. Birth injury cases are often complex and require detailed analysis with expert input. It is important to have the aid of experienced lawyers and qualified experts in assessing these types of cases.
Misdiagnosis Medical Malpractice
A misdiagnosis is a failure to properly diagnose the condition the patient has. The key is whether the efforts made by the doctor to properly diagnose the condition were in accordance with the general standard of care.
If an attorney believes medical malpractice occurred, they will examine the medical records both before and after the diagnosis. An experienced lawyer can review the pertinent records and consult with an expert.
Emergency Room Errors in Atlanta
The standard in the case of rendering emergency medical care is higher. It is a gross negligence standard. This means acting unreasonably is not enough, the provider must be acting recklessly. Often the information available to an emergency room provider is limited. In addition, there can be time constraints and exigent circumstances that impact the ability to render medical care.
The failure to promptly identify and address critical medical conditions is the most common example of malpractice in an emergency setting. This often involves the failure to promptly request and review lab work that would provide helpful information.
If someone is the victim of medical malpractice from an ER, they should seek appropriate medical care and then contact a lawyer. The involvement of a lawyer early on is critical to preserving evidence and evaluating a case. Once they are on the case, an attorney can collect critical records and obtain qualified expert review.
Medical Malpractice Case Process & Filing Claims
The Atlanta medical malpractice case process is unique from other injury cases. Therefore, it is important to work with an experienced Atlanta medical malpractice case process & filing claims lawyer when bringing a case. A skilled lawyer can guide you through the process to give your claim the greatest chance of success.
Medical Malpractice Case Process
An expert affidavit identifying at least one breach of the standard of care must be obtained. Once the affidavit is in hand it is filed and served on the defendant along with the Complaint setting forth the general allegations and initiating the case. Once the case is filed, written discovery begins where an attorney will uncover all available evidence and build a claim. The medical records are often the most critical evidence. However, simply reviewing the records often will not tell determine whether malpractice occurred. A review of the records by a qualified expert is typically necessary in order to determine whether malpractice has occurred.
Discovery is followed by depositions. If the case does not resolve following discovery, then it proceeds to trial. It is important that a case is investigated as promptly as possible so that all relevant evidence is available, and all applicable statutes of limitations are met.
While in obvious cases of malpractice pre-suit settlement is possible, that is very unusual in the medical malpractice context. Typically, a medical malpractice case must be filed and litigated before there is much chance of resolution.
Collecting Evidence in Atlanta
As stated above, before filing a claim, an Atlanta medical malpractice attorney will generally collect all available medical records. This generally includes collecting office records, hospital records, imaging studies, and lab results.
A medical authorization will allow the attorney to collect all applicable records. Once a suit is filed the attorney will be able to collect additional documents from the potentially at-fault providers including policies and procedures. In general, the statutory discovery period, or the period an attorney has for collecting evidence is six months. However, in most medical malpractice cases this will be extended to a year or more.
After collecting evidence and taking deposition the attorney must assess what evidence is necessary to prove a breach of the standard of care, causation, and damages and then must ensure the evidence is organized and presented in a fashion that will be understandable and compelling to a lay jury. The general rule is the more information the attorney has the better. It is critical to inform the attorney of all potentially relevant information.
Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
The Statute of Limitations is the deadline for filing a medical malpractice case. While there are exceptions that may apply, the general statute of limitations is two years from the date of the injury. However, if the injury is not discovered or if the injured person is a child then the statute of limitations may be longer than it would be otherwise. With medical malpractice for a child under five, they will have two years from their fifth birthday to file a case.
The statute of limitations must be strictly adhered to. Therefore, it is important to promptly contact an experienced lawyer so a claim can be filed within the necessary time limit.
Medical Malpractice Case Settlement & Compensation
The process for settling an Atlanta medical malpractice case depends on the unique circumstances. To better understand the circumstances that could impact your case, it is important to consult a knowledgeable Atlanta medical malpractice case settlement & compensation lawyer who can explain the process.
The Process of Settling a Medical Malpractice Case
A case can be settled at any time. However, with medical malpractice, an early settlement is unusual. The most common time for settlement is after discovery and before trial. The client is ultimately the decision-maker who determines when the case should settle. It is the lawyer’s responsibility to empower the client with the information necessary to make an informed decision.
It is important to note that the outcome of a trial is uncertain. Therefore, reasonable offers should be considered. However, if the defendant is unreasonable, a trial provides a client with the opportunity to obtain a fair and full award.
Settlement can involve informal negotiations, a formal demand, or the utilization of a third-party mediator. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can advise a client as to the reasonableness of the defendant’s position and the risks and benefits of taking a case to trial.
Determining the Value of a Settlement in Atlanta
A settlement is most often calculated as a meeting of the minds between the parties. The most one side is willing to pay and the least the other side is willing to accept. The client decides whether or not to settle a certain claim. However, the available insurance may ultimately place constraints on the amount of the settlement.
Typically the jury is not involved in calculating the settlement. However, the parties could agree to parameters for settlement that are dependent on the verdict returned by the jury.
If the injured party was negligent, the settlement is likely to be reduced. The reason for this is that the negligence of the injured party creates means they may have partially contributed to their injury.
An experienced lawyer can help identify all available insurance and the strengths and weaknesses of a case and project what a likely jury verdict is. These are the most common factors that drive settlement value.
Length of the Process
Typically 30 days from the settlement agreement to receive the settlement. However, while it varies by insurance company, payment quicker than 30 days is often achievable.
Probate approval and medical liens are two common issues that can occur in negotiating a settlement. Probate approval often takes months and requires multiple filings and the approval of a judge. The enforceability of medical liens varies based on the context. However, they must be considered and negotiated before funds can be disbursed.
Economic, Noneconomic, and Punitive Damages
There are three types of damages that may be available in a medical malpractice claim. The most common are economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are damages for which a specific economic number is connected. Economic damages are calculated based on past and future medical expenses and wages. This involves collecting all past bills and then assessing how long into the future the issues will continue and identifying what expenses are likely to be incurred in the future.
Noneconomic damages is compensation for pain and suffering. There is no specific formula to calculate them, though an experienced attorney can help identify the factors that must be considered in arriving at an appropriate number. For example, the extent and duration of the pain and suffering must be considered. The jury is ultimately tasked with determining what to award for noneconomic damages, but it is for the lawyer to suggest what is appropriate.
Punitive damages are damages meant to punish the at-fault party. If the defendant acted recklessly, with conscious indifference to consequences, or intentionally these damages may apply. Punitive damages are not common in medical malpractice cases.
It is important to identify all potentially recoverable damages. This includes punitive damages. An experienced lawyer will be able to help an individual identify and pursue the damages that are available.
Economic, noneconomic, punitive all may be available in a medical malpractice case. Economic damages include medical expenses and lost wages while noneconomic damages include compensation for pain and suffering. Punitive damages are damages meant to punish the responsible party for egregious behavior and are therefore only available in extreme cases. It is also important to note that there is no cap on damages in medical malpractice cases in Georgia, other than the general $250,000 cap on punitive damages.
Calculating damages can be difficult. The recoverable medical expenses are the value of any medical bills resulting from the malpractice. For lost income, the calculation is based on establishing an interrupted pattern of income. For example, if someone is unable to work. The extent and duration of the pain and suffering the person experienced is also compensable in a comprehensive claim. Ultimately, the jury will be tasked with calculating the damages to award.
The Litigation Process
Litigation in medical malpractice cases begins with fact discovery followed by expert discovery. This is followed by dispositive motions. There are generally then efforts at resolution. If all the efforts to resolve the case fail, there is then a trial.
At the trial, both sides present opening statements. The plaintiff then presents their case and evidence to establish a breach of the standard of care, causation, and damages. After the plaintiff presents their case, the defense presents their case. Once both sides present their case, both sides will present their closing statements. If there are multiple defendants, the claims against each defendant will need to filed and researched. However, typically there is an overlap between the claims and the trial is coordinated.
It typically takes a year for discovery in a medical malpractice case and the trial can last one to two weeks. However, the nature of the allegations, the number of parties, and scheduling issues for counsel and the court may all influence the length of the case.
Most medical malpractice cases are jury trials. However, should neither party request a jury trial, the case could be tried as a bench trial. Jury trials are stressful and uncertain; however, they are often necessary to obtain justice. A person should ensure their lawyer has the experience necessary to take a case to trial and verdict.
Expert Witnesses in Medical Malpractice Cases
An expert witness in an Atlanta medical malpractice case needs to have experience with the relevant procedure or care for three of the five years preceding the act at issue. The expert witness can be one of the medical professionals who treated the plaintiff but is not on trial, though typically treating physicians will be reluctant to serve as an expert against one of their colleagues.
A plaintiff is required to present at trial the testimony of a qualified expert to support the claim that the standard of care was breached. However, the weight given to the testimony varies based on the credibility of the witness and the reliability and relevance of their opinions.
Appealing a Case in Atlanta
If a medical malpractice case is dismissed or if the verdict was not optimal, the plaintiff appeal the case to the court of appeals. An appeal will not typically affect the amount of damages recoverable.
The typical length of time it takes for a case to go from notice of appeal to a decision by the court of appeals is one year. The case cannot be transmitted up to the court of appeals until the trial court record is complete. In the case of a large records and a busy trial court, this alone can result in months of delay in the appellate process.
If the appeal is lost at the court of appeals the party can seek review by the Georgia Supreme Court. However, such review is not typically granted. An experienced lawyer can help ensure the right to appeal is not waived and that the appellate argument is presented in the best light possible.
Reach Out to an Atlanta Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Medical malpractice cases have very specific legal requirements that must be met and timing is critical. An experienced attorney can help an individual preserve, investigate, and pursue a potential medical malpractice case. To learn more about how an Atlanta medical malpractice attorney can help you, call today for a free consultation.