Medical Malpractice
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The questions on this page were answered by our team of Virginia Beach & Norfolk personal injury attorneys. The questions are categorized by practice area such as car accidents, medical malpractice, wrongful death, etc. If you have specific questions about your situation, contact our firm to set up a free consultation with an actual attorney.

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  • I had a gynecologic surgery and during the surgery the doctor nicked my ureter. The doctor didn’t realize I was injured until I was very sick. Do I have a claim?

    Some common gynecologic surgeries include the use of a hysteroscope. Unfortunately, if a doctor does not exercise reasonable care during surgery he can cut, perforate, or even sever the ureter or other organs. Patients with a nicked ureter, perforated bowel, or perforated colon can become very sick or even die from the injury.  Correcting this dangerous condition requires additional surgery that can lead to steep medical bills and lost wages during recovery.

    Your doctor may have been negligent in damaging your ureter and failing to diagnose and treat the injury in a timely manner. Our medical malpractice attorneys have successfully litigated surgical error cases and obtained substantial settlements for our clients. For example, Jim Lewis negotiated a $400,000 settlement for a client with a ureter injury.

    The statute of limitations to file a medical malpractice claim is two years in Virginia and three years in North Carolina. Treatment, recovery, and an often slow return to normal life can take a long time. If you believe your doctor was careless during or after your surgery, and you are wondering whether you should file a lawsuit, don’t wait to contact a knowledgeable lawyer to help you evaluate your claim.

  • What is Charitable Immunity and Why Does It Matter in My Medical Malpractice Claim?

    Charitable immunity is a legal doctrine stating that if an organization is deemed to be a charity it might not be held liable for an injury caused by the negligence of an organization's employee. Charitable immunity may apply to some non-profit organizations such as churches and hospitals. 
    In medical malpractice cases, the charitable immunity doctrine is predicated on the concept that it would be against public policy to require a non-profit organization to expend its resources paying judgments, which would in turn decrease the charitable hospital’s ability to treat patients.
    An example in which the charitable immunity could be applied is, let's say, when a church-run hospital injures a patient by nicking or severing their bowel or ureter. The hospital could probably raise charitable immunity as a defense and be protected from a medical malpractice injury claim. Although extremely helpful for most nonprofit organizations, this doctrine does not protect against an action claiming an infringement of constitutional rights or a breach of contract. 
    However, some sates have imposed limitation on recovery from charitable organizations by capping damages or allowing damages only to the extent of the available insurance.
    In Virginia, the charitable immunity defense is alive and well. In a 2005 Virginia Supreme Court case, the justices declared that the charitable immunity doctrine is "firmly embedded in state jurisprudence and has become part of its general public policy."

  • If I am not satisfied with the results of my surgery or treatment, does that mean that I have a medical malpractice claim?

    There are no guarantees about medical outcomes in any surgery or treatment provided to a patient.  The question of whether there is medical malpractice is ultimately determined through evaluation by similar physicians or health care providers in the field at question.  In other words, if you believe there was medical malpractice during an open heart surgery, a thoracic surgeon would give an opinion as to whether the actions of the surgeon who performed that surgery were appropriate.


  • Who actually testifies at a medical malpractice trial?

    Typically, the parties to the case (the plaintiff and the defendant physician) will give their testimony (i.e., their side of the story as to what happened).  In addition, the great majority of medical malpractice cases require the testimony of expert witnesses.  These witnesses are physicians or other health care providers who will give testimony as to whether the health care provider being sued complied with what is known as the “standard of care.”  The standard of care essentially is defined as what a reasonably prudent practitioner would do in similar circumstances.  These expert witnesses are extremely critical in explaining to and educating a jury as to the medicine involved in the case and whether the defendant was negligent in providing the health care services at issue in the trial.


  • How long does it take for a medical malpractice case to come to trial?

    Generally speaking, it will take 1½ - 2 years for your case to come to trial, measured from the date that the complaint (the actual paper filed with the court to start the case) is filed with the court.  During that time period, the lawyers representing the plaintiff (the injured party) and the defendant(s) (the doctors/hospitals/or other healthcare providers) do discovery and prepare the case for trial.  The possibility during that time period always exists that the parties will agree to settle the matter, therefore, eliminating the need to proceed to trial.

    {Click here to find out just how serious medical malpractice can be, one man lost his leg to amputation}

  • I believe I've been the victim of medical malpractice. What can I do so an effective review of my potential case can be accomplished?

    We receive dozens of calls a day regarding potential medical malpractice cases.  Unfortunately, for the victims who suffered serious injuries, very few cases that are reviewed actually amount to malpractice, or into a case where we can obtain a recovery for the client that would justify the costs associated with litigating the case.  To be more specific, medical malpractice cases are extremely expensive and difficult to litigate.  As a general rule, they do not settle and require going to trial.  If you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice, there are several steps you can take to make sure your case is thoroughly reviewed.

    1. Obtain a complete copy of your medical record.  This would include your admission paperwork, any operative or surgical notes and your discharge summary.

    2. Make sure you have a narrative of everything that happened from the time you believe malpractice occurred until the time the issue was remedied.

    3. Make sure to send all of these documents to the attorney reviewing your case and expect to sit and wait for a little bit.

    What many people don't realize is that medical malpractice cases are based largely, if not entirely, on the medical record.  In that regard, the medical record tells the story.  Sometimes, the medical record can be thousands of pages.  If you must send that much documentation to a lawyer, you should understand that it might take some time before the lawyer can get you an answer.  It is best that you send the documentation as soon as possible so that a lawyer can evaluate your case in a timely manner.

  • What is a typical settlement in a medical malpractice case?

    A medical malpractice claim settlement of course varies from case to case. Typically, we calculate compensation for pain and suffering, payment of medical expenses for injuries suffered because by the act or acts of malpractice, and payment for any past, present or future financial losses that you have as a result of the malpractice, including medical bills. Also, some states have ceilings, or caps, on the amount of money you can recover in a medical malpractice case.  As examples, Virginia presently has a cap of just over $2 million dollars, and North Carolina passed a law in 2011 that limits damages to $500,000.  Further details can be obtained from our firm.

  • What expenses are involved in a medical malpractice claim?

    Medical malpractice case involved a variety of expenses, most notable the hiring of expert witnesses (other medical doctors) to evaluate you case and offer testimony at trial if the case goes to trial.  In addition, we will need to obtain medical records as well as pay filing fees in order to file the lawsuit.  Finally, at trial, we retain specialists to provide state of the art media presentations and medical illustration, as determined by the facts of each case, in order to maximize the chances of obtaining significant jury verdicts.

  • If I have cancer and suspect I was misdiagnosed or my doctor missed the diagnosis, what are my damages?

    Damages in misdiagnosis/missed diagnosis cases are often hard to prove with certainty because neither the judge, the jury nor the lawyers know what the future will hold for you or your loved one.  Again, expert testimony will give the jury the best educated projection of quality of life and duration of life once the patient has been diagnosed with  the cancer in question.

  • I was the victim of medical malpractice. What should I do first?

    It is essential to obtain as complete a medical record of the treatment in question as soon as you can.  You, as a patient or a family member, have the right to obtain from the hospital or doctor’s office the records addressing and involving the treatment in question.