Although many people understand the basics of medical malpractice, there are many different misconceptions out there surrounding the legal aspect. If you're struggling with a medical error and considering a malpractice suit, it's in your best interest to understand as much as you can about what medical malpractice is and how these cases work. Here are a few common misconceptions and the truth that you should know about them.
Medical Malpractice Doesn't Include Deaths
Actually, medical errors are listed within the top ten causes of death across America. This can include errors prescribing medications, mistakes with administration of medication, treatment errors, and even misdiagnosis.
Surgical Mistakes Are Rare
You might think that surgical mistakes don't really happen. After all, surgery is such a high-risk thing that you'd think all of the controls in place prevent those mistakes. The truth is that surgical mistakes do happen. In fact, mistakes referred to as "never events" happen every day. If you're not familiar with the term, a "never event" is a surgical mistake that should not ever happen. For example, leaving a foreign object behind during surgery is considered a "never event," as is performing the wrong procedure. Current estimates are that these events happen more than 4,000 times every year.
Hospital Error Reporting Is Accurate
It's easy to dismiss the risk of hospital errors as unlikely due to the actual reporting from your local hospital about their error frequency. Unfortunately, that reporting isn't always accurate. When it comes to hospital error reporting, many employees don't record specific errors simply because they don't clearly understand what is considered an actual medical error and what isn't. This lack of education and understanding leads to many actual errors being overlooked or not reported.
In other cases, errors aren't reported because hospital employees made the assumption that reporting it was someone else's responsibility. Sometimes employees view a mistake as either so minor, common, or unusual that it doesn't warrant reporting. For small errors, they may see them as inconsequential. In the case of mistakes that are common or unusual, staff may figure that they happen so often that those mistakes aren't a big deal or that they are so rare and unlikely to happen again that reporting isn't necessary.
Filing A Claim Against Your Doctor Puts Their Personal Assets In Jeopardy
Sometimes patients who are victims of medical mistakes opt not to file a claim because of their history and relationship with the physician in question. If you're worried that you're going to put your doctor's personal assets at risk, you may be surprised to know that even with a large benefit award, this is not a likely occurrence.
Even if you're awarded an amount that's beyond your doctor's malpractice insurance policy limits, it's still rare for the doctor's personal assets to be attached. In most cases, the balance of the payment still comes from insurers. The only time that your doctor would have to pay anything out of pocket is if they are either drastically underinsured or if they don't carry any malpractice insurance at all. Even then, there are options available to the physician to help settle those claims so their personal funds aren't often affected. Don't let your concern for your doctor's personal financial security keep you from filing a claim if you've been affected by a medical mistake.
As you can see, there are many misconceptions about medical malpractice due to physician errors. Understanding these misconceptions and the truth behind them can help you to better prepare for addressing this type of situation if you're ever affected. Talk with a medical malpractice attorney at a law firm like Bennett & Sharp PLLC right away if you believe that you might have a case—even if you're not sure that you'll actually file it. It's in your best interest to seek the legal insight from the beginning just in case you change your mind.