We place a lot of trust in our doctors, nurses, and hospitals. When medical mistakes occur and lead to health complications and other bad outcomes, it’s understandable for the victims to feel angry, confused, and betrayed. But how can you know whether the mistake that injured you constitutes medical malpractice?
After all, doctors are just humans like the rest of us, and they’re charged with performing incredibly complex and demanding tasks. Even the best surgeons and specialists in the world can make errors that harm patients, despite trying their best. But sometimes patients suffer harm because doctors and nurses engage in unsafe and dangerous practices, and those mistakes may lead to valid medical malpractice claims.
In this article, we’ll do our best to explain the difference in everyday terms.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is different than unsuccessful medical treatment. Malpractice occurs when a medical provider, such as a doctor or nurse, engages in negligent behavior and harms a patient.
In Oklahoma, to prove that a healthcare provider was negligent, you must show three things:
- There was a provider-patient relationship
- The provider violated the appropriate standard of care
- This violation caused an injury and created damages
In general, if a reasonably skilled and careful doctor or medical provider would not have caused your injuries, you might have a viable medical malpractice claim.
However, medical malpractice claims are very complex. They require a deep understanding of both medicine and law, and a single mistake can result in lost compensation. At Atkins & Markoff, we help our clients by sifting through their medical records, consulting with expert witnesses, and building compelling cases that document negligence on the part of physicians, nurses, and hospitals.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice
Most people associate medical malpractice with dramatic and obvious errors, like amputating the wrong leg or giving chemotherapy to a patient who doesn’t need it. In reality, most medical malpractice cases involve errors that are much subtler: a harmful drug interaction that gets overlooked, ignored complaints that delay a diagnosis, or cross-contamination during a surgery that causes a serious infection.
While every claim involves its own unique set of facts and circumstances, medical malpractice claims often fall into one of the following broad categories.
When a late or missed diagnosis causes a patient serious harm, the physician or hospital that failed to deliver a prompt diagnosis may be liable for damages. Diagnostic errors might involve:
- Communication errors between facilities or providers
- Failing to order diagnostic or laboratory tests
- Misinterpreting test data
- Ignoring a patient’s medical history
- Lack of follow-up after diagnostic testing
- Refusing to refer a patient to a specialist
Diagnostic errors are the most common medical malpractice claims, making up more than a quarter of all cases.
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Improper Treatment Errors
Surgical and medical treatment errors are the second most common type of malpractice. These cases often involve:
- Communication errors between physicians
- Failing to treat surgical complications
- Inadequate training and experience
- Unnecessary surgical injuries, such as punctures, lacerations, and contusions
- Leaving surgical debris and materials in the patient’s body
- Operating while fatigued, ill, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Performing surgery at the incorrect site or on the wrong body part
- Taking inappropriate “shortcuts” during a procedure
- Administering unnecessary medical treatment
RELATED ARTICLE: New Study Highlights Seriousness of Medical Errors in Surgery
Injuries During Birth, Labor, or Delivery
Birth-related trauma and malpractice can have serious ramifications for both the mother and child. Obstetric malpractice may include:
- Anesthesia and epidural injection errors
- Failing to diagnose a serious birth defect
- Failing to identify or treat a serious maternal risk factor, such as pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes
- Injuries related to unreasonably long labor and delivery that resulted from physician error or neglect
- Inadequate postpartum care
- Placenta previa or placental abruption
- Injuries to infants, such as shoulder dystocia and cerebral palsy
- Surgical errors during a caesarean section
If your child suffered an injury during labor and delivery, you should contact a medical malpractice lawyer immediately. An experienced lawyer should be able to help you understand your rights and assess your family’s potential damages.
RELATED ARTICLE: Understanding Umbilical Cord Injuries and Medical Malpractice
Prescription Medication Errors
Roughly 50% of harmful medication errors are preventable. You might have a medication-related medical malpractice claim if there is evidence of any of the following behavior on the part of doctors, anesthesiologists, or pharmacists:
- Improperly administering anesthesia
- Providing you with the incorrect medication or dosage
- Failing to identify potential drug interactions
- Failing to warn you about serious medication side effects
- Ignoring your medical history or risk factors that increased your risk for negative side effects
Children and senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to medication errors.
RELATED ARTICLE: How Drugs Are Deemed Harmful
Many people associate medical neglect and abuse with older patients who are especially vulnerable. However, anyone can become a victim of medical neglect. Such neglect may include behaviors like:
- Improper sterilization and handwashing procedures that encourage hospital-acquired infections
- Failure to provide adequate post-operative care
- Failing to warn you about the risks associated with treatment options
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Other Considerations in Oklahoma Medical Malpractice Claims
Depending on your unique circumstances, you might have other considerations in your medical malpractice claim.
Statute of Limitations
Oklahoma imposes a two-year statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims. Typically, this means that you must file your lawsuit within two years of the medical event that harmed you. If you miss this deadline, you will automatically lose your right to compensation.
However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. If you have questions about the statute of limitations in your claim, you should immediately contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.
Oklahoma law imposes a $350,000 cap on non-economic damages for medical malpractice claims. This means that in our state, you cannot receive more than $350,000 in damages for your pain and suffering unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the doctor was grossly negligent, intentionally injured you, or acted with reckless disregard.
However, Oklahoma law does not impose a damage cap on your economic damages, which include lost income and medical bills.
Different Rules Apply to Federal and Tribal Facilities
Medical malpractice laws vary depending on the jurisdiction and facility where the harm occurred. If your injuries happened at a federal or tribal medical facility, Oklahoma law might not apply at all. Instead, you might have claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which involves different procedures. This is one more reason why it’s in your best interests to contact an experienced malpractice lawyer for help if you’ve suffered harm because of a medical professional’s mistake or neglect.
Atkins & Markoff: Aggressive Advocates for Medical Malpractice Victims in Oklahoma
Oklahoma medical malpractice claims demand experience, attention to detail, and cooperation with expert medical witnesses. At Atkins & Markoff, we handle the legal aspects of your case so you can focus on your recovery. If you’ve suffered injuries during medical treatment in Oklahoma and you need advice, contact the Atkins & Markoff team and schedule your free, no-risk case evaluation by filling out our online contact form or calling us at 405-607-8757.
Tehrani, A., Lee, H.W., Mathews, S., Shore, A., Makary, M., Pronovost, P., & Newman-Toker, D. (2013, April 22). 25-year summary of U.S. malpractice claims for diagnostic errors 1986–2010: An analysis from the National Practitioner Data Bank. BMJ Quality & Safety 22, 672-680. Retrieved from http://qualitysafety.bmj.com/content/22/8/672
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.