It can be natural to wonder if grounds for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit exist when you or a family member gets worse instead of better after seeking health care. The question is not always easy to answer.
In fact, a series of related questions must be answered. Each case presents its own facts, but the standards for proving and succeeding with a medical malpractice claim in North Carolina do not change.
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First, you must establish that the doctor, surgeon, specialist, nurse, surgeon, pharmacist or dentist named as the defendant owed you a duty of care. The same is true if you name a hospital, clinic, medical practice or pharmacy as the defendant.
A duty of care exists when a person is a patient of a health care provider or health care facility and when the health care provider or facility provides services to the patient. Medical records, insurance statements and bills usually suffice to establish a provider-patient relationship.
Second, you must show that a specific mistake produced a specific harm. This can be easy, as when a wrong-site surgery results in removing a healthy limb or organ. Making a connection between an alleged error and a poor outcome can also be very difficult, as when the problem is a delayed diagnosis of cancer.
Medical malpractice attorneys hire experts who did not treat their client to review records and report on whether the client’s harm is directly related to a possible error. The expert is usually someone who treats the same types of patients and conditions as the defendant.
Third, you must present evidence that the alleged error constitutes negligence. In the context of a medical malpractice case, negligence means the defendant failed to meet the standard of care by making a mistake that a similarly trained, informed and equipped defendant would not have made. That is, given all the same circumstances, should the medical malpractice victim have experienced a better result? The expert’s opinion is very important here.
Last, the harm from the medical error must be severe. Did the mistake result in death or disability? Did the patient require hospitalization and corrective surgeries? Did the patient experience worsening symptoms when a correct diagnosis and course of treatment would have restored their health quickly?
Consulting with an experienced and empathetic North Carolina medical malpractice attorney will help victims of medical errors answer all the important questions.