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Colburn Law

Seattle Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you were harmed by a negligent doctor, hospital, nurse or physician — contact a Seattle medical malpractice attorney at Colburn Law today.  Medical errors are one of the leading causes of accidental death in the United States, and it’s crucial for everyone to know how to identify medical malpractice. Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals all have a duty to do no harm to their patients and use acceptable, proven methods. When healthcare professionals violate this duty of care to their patients and cause injuries, this is medical malpractice. Medical negligence leading to patient injury or a medical professional’s failure to competently perform a procedure can also constitute medical malpractice.

Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyers in Seattle

Medical malpractice is a very complicated area of law, and it’s essential to find an attorney with extensive experience in medical malpractice claims. Contact the Colburn Law Offices today to schedule a consultation about your medical malpractice claim in Seattle with one of our attorneys. After we review the details of your situation, we can let you know what to expect from the legal process.

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Compensation For Medical Malpractice Claims

Seattle Med Mal Lawyer

Medical malpractice lawsuits work very similarly to personal injury lawsuits with a few notable exceptions. First, your Seattle medical malpractice claim will likely require approval from the appropriate medical review board. This could be the board that oversees the doctor or professional who injured you or the establishment where he or she works. Once the board reviews your claim and determines you have grounds for a lawsuit, you and your attorney may proceed with filing a complaint against the defendant in your case.

There are several steps for proving negligence in a medical malpractice case in Seattle. First, the plaintiff must show the court that an official doctor-patient relationship existed between the defendant and plaintiff. This means there must be some kind of record indicating that the defendant agreed to treat the plaintiff and the plaintiff agreed to the defendant’s treatment. If a doctor makes a joke at a party that eating raw chicken cures baldness and a guest takes the joke seriously and gets sick, the guest couldn’t file a medical malpractice claim because it wasn’t official advice given in a medical setting with an official doctor-patient relationship. Speak to a medical malpractice lawyer for more information regarding your specific case.

Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Claims in Washington

The statute of limitations is a law that restricts how long a medical malpractice victim has to bring a claim against the defendant. The point of the statute is to promote prompt filing, for a more just legal system. Otherwise, a plaintiff could wait too long and compromise the defendant’s ability to defend the charge. Statutes of limitations vary by state and by practice area. The courts take statutes of limitations very seriously, and generally will not agree to hear a claim if the plaintiff has missed the deadline to file. Know your time limit before you file.

In the state of Washington, a patient has three years from the act of negligence that caused the injury to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. This is a basic time limit that can change according to the situation. If the patient does not discover his or her injuries until after the date of alleged negligence, he or she has three years from the date of injury discovery. For example, the clock would start ticking the date a patient discovers a foreign object left inside the body canal in a surgical error case, rather than the date upon which the surgeon left the item.

Minors get an exception when it comes to Washington’s statute of limitations. In 1995, Gilbert v. Sacred Heart Medical Center established a precedent when a minor is the injured victim of medical malpractice. In this case, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the statute of limitations will extend until the minor reaches age 18. Thus, parents or guardians can either file a lawsuit on the child’s behalf within three years of the injury or discovery, or the child can wait until he or she turns 18 to file. Wrongful death medical malpractice lawsuits must come within three years of the deceased person’s death.

Who May Be Responsible for Medical Malpractice Injuries in WA?

Medical malpractice cases center on the legal doctrine of negligence. It is a plaintiff’s job to prove the defendant’s negligence, and thus to establish the defendant’s legal responsibility for the injuries in question. Proving negligence takes showing the existence of a duty of care, a breach of duty, and a link between the breach of duty and the injury. Anyone involved in negligently causing the injury could be responsible for damages.

  • A healthcare practitioner. A physician, surgeon, or other practitioner could be individually responsible for injuries if he or she is an independent contractor and not an employee of the hospital. This might be the case if the physician did something a prudent doctor would not have in the same circumstance. If the staff member was an employee, the employer (hospital, healthcare center, etc.) could be vicariously liable.
  • A facility. A hospital or other healthcare center could be liable for damages if it committed an act or omission, such as poorly training employees, lacking communication, discriminating against patients, or failing to keep the premises safe and clean for patients. It could also be vicariously liable for the actions of its employees, including nurses, assistants, and maintenance members.
  • A manufacturer. A medical device or drug manufacturer could be responsible for medical malpractice injuries if an item contained a defect, and if this defect caused the injury. Manufacturers have a duty to ensure the reasonable safety of their products prior to release. Failure to do so, resulting in patient injury or death, is negligence.

Many medical malpractice claims in Seattle involve more than one defendant. This could increase the plaintiff’s odds of securing compensation, as multiple insurance companies could cover the costs of a settlement or judgment award. Identifying the responsible party and obtaining evidence against the person or entity is easier with help from an attorney. A lawyer can investigate your case and determine the at-fault party if you are unsure who is responsible.

Tips for Handling a Medical Malpractice Claim in Seattle

Once you have identified the most likely defendant and filed your claim against that entity within the state’s deadline, it is time to negotiate your case. Unfortunately, insurance companies often try to take advantage of injured patients. An insurer may try to convince you to settle for much less than your case is worth. Do not say yes to the first settlement offer. Instead, call a lawyer and request assistance.

Going up against a major medical insurance provider is easier with help from an attorney. A lawyer will have experience navigating complex medical malpractice laws and fighting for fair compensation. Do not agree to allow an insurance claims adjuster to record a statement. The adjuster could use what you say against you later. Politely answer questions using the facts. Then, seek help from a lawyer before settling your case.

How Common is Medical Malpractice?

Unfortunately, not all patients will enjoy positive health outcomes – or even fair chances of recovery – after visiting a doctor or hospital. Negligence, recklessness, and carelessness can compromise the prognosis of a patient. Medical malpractice may seem like a fluke if this is your first encounter, but in reality doctors and hospitals make preventable errors every day. Medical malpractice is relatively common, in Seattle and around the world.

In 2016, United States courts recorded 8,500 successful medical malpractice claims. New York has the highest percentage of medical malpractice lawsuits, followed by New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Washington falls lower on the list, in 25th place. Washington’s annual per capital medical malpractice costs were an average of $9.18 per person from 2012 to 2016.

You may never expect to become the victim of medical malpractice until it happens to you. Since malpractice a relatively common occurrence in the U.S, it is important to understand your rights and protect them with help from an attorney. Contact a lawyer as soon as you suspect medical malpractice as the cause of your injuries or a loved one’s unexpected death.

2018 Medical Malpractice Statistics

Tracking medical malpractice statistics can help officials understand how and why it happens. It can also spread greater awareness to patients of the potential dangers of negligent and incompetent physicians. National medical malpractice statistics have decreased overall. The number of medical malpractice claims has dropped by almost 50% in the last 16 years. The most recent data nationwide and in the state of Washington still show a significant risk to patients, however.

  • National statistics estimate around 250,000 patients die because of medical malpractice per year. This would place it as the third leading cause of death in the country
  • The most common types of medical malpractice in the U.S. are misdiagnosis, medication mistakes, poor patient care, lack of informed consent, and surgical errors.
  • From 2013 to 2017, insurance companies paid $31 million to plaintiffs of medical malpractice settlements and judgments in the state of Washington.
  • The total number of medical malpractice lawsuits in Washington is higher than the number of claims won. Insurance companies reported 152 claims resolved in their favor in 2017.
  • Insurers and self-insurers in Washington spent around $70.6 million defending medical error lawsuits in 2017.
  • Attorneys reported a total compensation about of $304.5 million across 226 claims from 2013 to 2017.

Medical Facilities and Claim Numbers in Washington (2012-2017)

 

Seattle medical malpractice attorney

 

The different types of medical malpractice that could apply in your case include:

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.

    • Doctors use a process of elimination based on a patient’s symptoms to reach an accurate diagnosis. While honest mistakes are possible, a misdiagnosis can constitute a medical malpractice claim if the doctor did not follow an appropriate diagnostic process or overlooked critical information on the patient’s chart.
  • Improper treatment.

    • Doctors must adhere to the medical community’s standards for treatment. The medical community reaches consensus regarding different ailments and their acceptable treatments, and doctors may only act outside of these boundaries in extreme circumstances with explicit permission from the patient, such as an experimental procedure for a terminal condition.
  • Medication errors.

    • Doctors must take patients’ medical histories and drug allergies into account before writing prescriptions. Different medications can interact dangerously with a patient’s existing prescriptions or preexisting condition.
  • Failure to warn.

    • Patients have the right to make informed decisions about their healthcare. This means doctors have an obligation to fully disclose any risks or potential side effects of any suggested course of treatment. If a doctor suggests a procedure but fails to mention that it could result in paraplegia, the patient could file a medical malpractice lawsuit if paraplegia results from the procedure. In this case, the patient would have likely rejected the procedure had he or she known all of the risks.
  • Surgical errors.

    • Errors during surgery can include slicing a patient’s artery, damaging the tissues around the surgical site, or leaving surgical instruments inside of a patient before suturing their incisions closed.
  • Gross negligence.

    • In extreme cases of reckless disregard for patient welfare, doctors and other medical professionals found guilty of grossly negligent behavior face severe civil penalties from medical malpractice claims, and possibly lose their licenses to practice medicine.

Medical malpractice is a serious issue in Washington and around the world. As the victim of medical malpractice, you are not alone. Thousands of patients have also suffered preventable injuries, illnesses, health complications, and wrongful death at the hands of negligent physicians and hospitals. Speak to an attorney at Colburn Law for more information about your case and the potential for compensation.