We’re inclined to trust doctors and medical professionals. Their entire job is to treat us for things that ail us, and protect us from further harm. But even under the best conditions, with the most experienced medical professionals, it’s possible for you to be harmed, or for your condition to be worsened because of a person’s advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you find yourself in this position, it’s important that you know what to do next—so you can maximize your chances of getting compensated for the additional injuries or conditions.
What You Should Know About Medical Negligence
First, it’s important to understand the basics of medical negligence. Medical negligence occurs when a doctor, dentist, pharmacist, nurse, or other medical professional fails to provide reasonable care to a patient. In some cases, this means committing an error during treatment, such as making a surgical mistake. In other cases, it means giving a wrongful diagnosis, or bad medical advice.
In any case, if the medical professional’s decisions or actions directly cause some further harm to you, or prevent you from getting better, it means they’ve committed medical negligence (in many developed countries). And even if you only suspect that medical negligence has occurred, it’s worth taking action.
What You Should Do If You Believe You’ve Been Injured
If you think you’ve been harmed by a medical professional, there are a few steps you should take as soon as possible:
- Contact a lawyer. Your first step should be to contact a lawyer who specializes in medical negligence. It’s hard to give general advice that applies to all cases, because every case is different. On top of that, your actions immediately following the incident of negligence may have a massive impact on whether or not you can win the legal case. Only a lawyer with experience in medical negligence will be able to give you adequate advice to move forward. In many cases, you can get a free (or inexpensive) consultation to learn more about your case and your odds of success, so there’s no reason not to reach out.
- Request your medical records. In many cases, you’re legally allowed to request your medical records at any time. If you feel you’ve been injured, it’s usually a good idea to request those records so you can have a hard copy of them for your future case. While talking over the phone or coordinating with the practice via email, avoid disclosing that you suspect medical negligence. Instead, simply request your records for your own review.
- Document whatever you can. While you’re at it, try to document whatever you can regarding your case. If you have any physical injuries, take high-resolution images of them, with timestamps so you can prove when they were taken. Write down whatever you remember happening with your previous appointments, and keep a journal so you can keep track of all your symptoms. The more physical evidence you have, and the more details are at your disposal, the better.
- Talk to another doctor. Your lawyer may have a different recommendation depending on the nature of your case, but if you’re not sure medical negligence has occurred, it’s often a good idea to seek a second opinion from another medical professional. Another professional should be able to confirm whether the initial doctor acted in accordance with best practices, and what the nature of their mistakes may have been (if any). This can be valuable evidence in your case.
- Avoid confronting the offending doctor (or practice). Finally, avoid discussing the open case, or that you suspect medical negligence has occurred with your primary practice, or the offending doctor. This can weaken your case, or allow the practice to take countermeasures to ensure they’re well-protected. It’s much better to withhold your intentions to pursue legal action until absolutely necessary to reveal them. Your lawyer can provide more specific instruction.
Like most people, you’re probably hoping that you’ll never be the victim of medical negligence. And in all likelihood, you won’t be. But just as it’s a good idea to have basic first aid knowledge in case you experience an injury, it’s a good idea to know what to do if you become the victim of medical negligence. The moment you suspect something has gone wrong in your diagnosis or treatment, start documenting everything you can and contact a lawyer for further advice.
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