Phoenix Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Do You Need A Medical Malpractice Lawyer In Phoenix, Arizona?
Healthcare professionals are the cornerstone of our healthcare system in Arizona. They provide a vital service for keeping the population healthy. We trust and rely on their experience, knowledge, and education when we’re sick and want to get better. However, we never expect to suffer more injuries when we visit a doctor.
When a doctor doesn’t live up to their responsibility in delivering the proper standard of care, a patient may be irreparably harmed. For that reason, patients severely hurt by a medical professional or hospital’s negligence need a Phoenix medical malpractice lawyer.
There are different forms of medical malpractice, so whether you need a lawyer or have a case will depend on your situation. In the remainder of this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about medical malpractice in Arizona and when it’s time to contact a lawyer for help.
What Is Medical Malpractice In Arizona?
Medical malpractice is defined as when a doctor, hospital, or other healthcare professional injures or harms a patient by a negligent act or omission. A negligent act may result from an error in a patient’s diagnosis, treatment, or care.
Some examples of medical malpractice may include:
- Prescribing medication to a patient with a known allergy to the drug
- Misdiagnosing Lyme Disease as the flu
- Using nonsterile instruments during surgery
- Failing to monitor vital signs during invasive procedures
Common Forms Of Medical Malpractice
Patients may experience malpractice in various ways. Most malpractice lawsuits stem from the following:
Medical Malpractice Due To A Delay in Diagnosis
The main reason behind medical malpractice suits is delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis in an outpatient setting.
For a diagnosis delay to be considered malpractice, the injured patient must prove the doctor’s delay resulted in negligence, and you experienced added injury as a result. Your condition may have gotten worse, or the necessary treatment you could have had may no longer be available.
Negligence is gauged by looking at the approach another physician of similar experience and knowledge would take under a comparable situation.
For example, early detection is key to breast cancer treatment or any other type of cancer. The longer it takes to diagnose, the greater the chance that cancer can progress.
A delay in diagnosis doesn’t automatically mean the patient can pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit. Suppose you can prove that the doctor could’ve made a cancer diagnosis earlier but negligently fails to do so. In that case, a malpractice suit may be possible if the patient suffered irreparable harm, which could be the case if cancer spreads. It may also be possible if treatment would have been available if the cancer were detected sooner but is no longer a choice.
Medical Malpractice Due To A Physician’s Failure to Refer to a Specialist
A physician may offer general to specialized care. For example, a family doctor typically runs a general practice to diagnose and treat various common ailments.
However, when a general practitioner comes across a condition or symptom they don’t have the knowledge or experience to treat, they have a responsibility to refer the patient to another doctor that can provide that specialized care.
When a physician doesn’t refer a patient to a specialist, it can have devastating consequences:
- The condition could become worse or, in some cases, irreparable.
- Not referring to a specialist may lead to a misdiagnosis of a patient’s condition by the physician. This can have devastating results if the illness is severe and doesn’t get the care they need.
- The patient may not get the necessary lab or diagnostic work to treat their condition.
For example, suppose a physician notices an unusual mole or skin discoloration. In that case, they may refer the patient to a dermatologist as they have the requisite skills to treat skin conditions. However, if the general physician doesn’t do so, the patient may have skin cancer—or another ailment—left undiagnosed. Without the right advice and treatment, the condition could become far worse, even deadly.
A doctor’s responsibility for a patient’s care doesn’t end when they leave the office. The doctor’s failure to refer the patient to another provider when necessary deviates from the required standard of care.
Medical Malpractice When A Physician Fails To Run The Appropriate Tests
A doctor orders a diagnostic test to determine if a patient has a specific disease or rule it out. When a doctor doesn’t run proper tests when diagnosing a patient, they may miss something important.
For example, suppose a doctor notices a lump when conducting a breast examination but doesn’t order a mammogram to rule out the chance of breast cancer. In that case, a patient may be irreparably harmed.
There are multiple factors which may contribute to a physician’s failure to run tests, including:
- Error in judgment
- Lack of knowledge
- Not following through with ordering tests
- Handing off a patient to another doctor
Medical Malpractice Involving Misdiagnosis
When a doctor fails to identify and diagnose a patient’s medical condition properly, it can lead to significant injury or even death.
In a recent study, breast cancer was found to be one of the top five misdiagnosed cancers. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that 31% of breast cancer cases are misdiagnosed.
A misdiagnosis may happen if a doctor:
- Interprets a patient’s medical condition or test results incorrectly. Necessary treatment or further tests may not be ordered as the diagnosis does not call for them
- Doesn’t have the specialized knowledge to identify the condition, much less treat it
- Fails to order the proper diagnostic tests to find or rule out if a medical condition exists
For example, a doctor may rely on family history or risk factors when making a diagnosis. A breast lump may be diagnosed as a cyst or blocked milk duct, given a person’s age or the absence of a family history of breast cancer. However, without conducting the proper screening and tests, this could easily lead to a misdiagnosis.
A misdiagnosis can cause irreparable harm to a patient. They may be unaware that they have a debilitating disease or condition and not receive the treatment they need. Or they may be misdirected and undergo testing and treatment for a condition that they do not have.
Medical Malpractice With Surgical Errors
Most surgical errors aren’t as extreme as removing the wrong organ or body part. However, given the invasive nature of surgery, mistakes can cause significant harm to patients. Negligence is usually attributed to the failure to complete a surgical procedure correctly.
Examples of surgical errors include:
- Not considering the impact a pre-existing condition may have on the procedure, especially if it requires particular care
- Lack of proper care before the procedure
- Not following established procedures or protocols when conducting the surgery
- Lack of protection around the surgical site from infection
- Not supplying adequate post-operative treatment instructions to the patient
- Not conducting post-operative procedures
Anesthesia Errors Leading To Medical Malpractice
The use of general and local anesthesia requires the physician to be alert and exact in their treatment. Anesthesiologists look at their patient’s age, weight, gender, allergies, and medical history when determining the type of medication and dosage to administer.
Suppose they don’t pay special attention to these factors. In that case, they can make errors when determining the amount of anesthesia to administer, resulting in serious complications—even death—for the patient.
Common anesthesia errors can occur when:
- An incorrect dosage is administered
- There’s a delay in administering the anesthesia
- The equipment used to administer the dosage is defective
- The technician fails to monitor the patient while under
- Technicians ignore complications
- There’s prolonged sedation
Before the surgery, the anesthesiologist should provide thorough instructions to the patient about what steps they should take before being sedated. During the procedure, the anesthesiologist should pay close attention to their patient and respond quickly to any complications.
Mishandled, Faulty, or Broken Medical Equipment Causing Medical Malpractice
As technology advances, the use of medical equipment is on the rise. Doctors, hospitals, and other medical professionals rely on equipment for testing and offering treatment for their patients.
But when there are hardware, software, or mechanical glitches, the medical equipment they rely on can injure patients. When a machine doesn’t work correctly, it can lose vital data, make dosage errors, or fail to alert a medical professional to a problem while monitoring a patient.
There are many types of equipment that can fail.
These machines are typically used to diagnose medical conditions. X-rays, CT scanners, MRI equipment, and ultrasound machines are common forms of diagnostic equipment. When they break or malfunction, they may produce faulty results.
Given the nature of the medical conditions this equipment is used to detect, this can be devastating to a patient’s health. Some diseases, such as cancer, may be treated successfully when caught early.
However, if the machine yields the wrong results, the patient may not get the treatment they need. Even if the condition is detected later, the time delay may cause considerable damage or impact the patient’s ability to survive.
These machines are often used in emergencies to send a jolt of electricity to a patient’s heart if they experience cardiac arrest. A patient’s survival is at stake if the defibrillator malfunctions or puts out the wrong level of electricity.
A pacemaker sends electrical impulses to help heart muscles contract. This equipment is used for long-term care for patients. When a pacemaker malfunctions, it may send out the wrong electricity levels, leading to long-term damage. If the pacemaker stops, it can result in a patient’s death.
Hospitals use monitors to track a patient’s vitals, such as their heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen level. Information about hospital patients may be displayed on monitors for nurses sitting out in the hospital floor’s shared areas.
If a patient is critically ill, a malfunctioning monitor may not detect dangerous changes in their vital signs. A malfunction such as this can lead to further injuries, such as organ damage or even death. Plus, if the alarm is not functioning correctly, it may not alert the patient, nurse station, or the staff walking by that there’s a problem.
Whether it’s a hospital, doctor, or medical laboratory, the staff should take steps to ensure machines used to diagnose, treat, and monitor patients are in good working order. Equipment should be regularly maintained and safely stored when not in use. Also, staff using the machines should be well-trained in setting up and running the equipment and reading and understanding their results.
Medical Malpractice When A Physician Prescribes The Wrong Medicine or Dosage
If the wrong medication is prescribed, it may be ineffective in treating an illness. The wrong medication may also have serious side effects if the patient is allergic to it. In other cases, a doctor may prescribe medication that causes a bad reaction with other medicine the patient is taking.
For example, patients on oral chemotherapy medication may have a bad reaction to prescribed antidepressants, antacids, certain blood thinners, and anti-nausea drugs. Reactions may range from vomiting, blood clots, or even death.
Patients may also be seriously hurt if the medication dosage is not correct. Too much medication may result in people getting sick or overdosing; too little medication may make your treatment ineffective. If your medical condition is serious, taking the wrong dosage can prolong your illness.
Additionally, it’s critical to remember that medication and dosage errors aren’t limited to doctors.
- The drug company that manufactured the medication may have mislabeled the dosage or used a sub-standard medication mix
- A nurse may administer the wrong dosage or pull the wrong medication while you’re undergoing treatment in the hospital
- When you drop off your prescription at your local pharmacy, they may fill it with the wrong medicine or dosage
- Suppose you’re not given directions on properly taking the medication or are given the wrong ones. In that case, this may also lead to damage.
Released From Care Too Soon Leading To Medical Malpractice
Suppose a doctor or hospital releases a patient under their care before it’s medically safe. In that case, they may be found negligent in their responsibility.
However, just because you were released early doesn’t necessarily mean malpractice occurred. Even if you end up going back to the doctor or hospital for treatment, this might be the case if no considerable damage happened between the time you were released to when you returned.
The test for deciding if there was a violation of your standard of care is to compare how other medical professionals would’ve handled your discharge. If a doctor with similar skills and experience would make the same decision, you may not have a case. However, if the medical professional would not reach that conclusion, you may have a claim.
This is precisely why you should contact us for a free consultation. We’ll do a thorough analysis of your situation and determine whether you have a case or not. Call us today at 999-999-9999 or click here to book your free consultation.
Should You File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit In Arizona?
To decide whether you should file a medical malpractice lawsuit, you should consider the situation with your doctor or the hospital:
- Did the doctor diagnose your illness correctly?
- Were you given the correct tests to diagnose your condition?
- Did your healthcare professional have the proper experience and knowledge to treat your condition? If not, did they refer you to another physician who could help you?
Given the complexity of these cases, you should also seek the advice of a Phoenix medical malpractice lawyer. Again, we’ll need to do an in-depth legal analysis of your situation. We’ll also consult the expertise of a medical professional for the specifics of your case.
We’ll begin by reviewing the basics of your case, such as the doctor-patient relationship, the standard of care, and the injuries you have incurred, to determine if you have a case. From there, we’ll let you know what legal options you may have in pursuing a medical malpractice claim.
How Long Do You Have to File a Medical Malpractice Suit In Arizona?
In Arizona, a patient has two years from the injury date to file a medical malpractice suit.
Under the “discovery rule,” the two-year limitation starts when the condition was discovered or when it should’ve been discovered. For patients who are minors, the two-year statute of limitations to file suit begins when they turn 18 years old.
If the medical malpractice led to the patient’s death, immediate family members or the decedent’s estate have the right to file a wrongful death claim. The same two-year statute of limitations applies.
How Do You Prove Medical Malpractice In Phoenix, Arizona?
A medical malpractice case has many complexities. The fact you may have been harmed by a doctor, hospital, or healthcare professional isn’t enough to be considered malpractice.
For an injury to be considered medical malpractice, a patient must prove the following:
- Doctor-Patient Relationship: When a doctor agrees to treat a patient, they must supply the proper treatment and care level. For a malpractice suit, a relationship must exist between the doctor and the patient.
- Standard of Care: This is a legal term used to describe when a medical professional doesn’t provide the accepted standard of care when treating their patient. If the doctor, hospital, or healthcare professional failed to act in a way that others in their situation would have, they might be considered negligent.
- The Injury Resulted from Negligence: Here, you’d need to prove you were hurt as the result of your medical professional’s breach of the standard of care.
- The Injury Caused Significant Damages: In a medical malpractice case, your injuries must be extensive. This may be the case if the injury has left you disabled, resulted in an extreme loss of income, or your condition requires substantial long-term care and future treatment.
What Damages Can I Recover in a Medical Malpractice Suit?
When patients and their families are hurt because of medical malpractice, their injuries are typically extensive and life-altering. In some cases, it may have ended in death. Patients aren’t just dealing with the physical impact of their injuries; they are often financially and emotionally devasted as well.
Victims harmed by medical malpractice may be entitled to recover the following damages:
Economic Damages In Medical Malpractice Cases
Economic damages have a monetary value assigned to them. They include:
- Medical Bills: These can include the cost of your hospital stay and bills, surgery, doctor visits, medication, emergency room services, medications, and use of medical equipment. It may also include transportation costs to get to and from your doctor’s office.
- Lost Income: If you can’t go to work during your recovery, you may be reimbursed for lost wages. If your injuries are so extensive they affect your future ability to earn a living; you could receive damages for your lost earning potential.
Non-Economic Damages In Medical Malpractice Cases
If you’re harmed as the result of medical malpractice, you may be awarded non-economic damages. These damages aren’t quantifiable; non-economic damages are based on the injury’s impact on your life quality.
You may be awarded non-economic damages to compensate you for:
- Pain and Suffering: This may result from the pain of physical trauma to your body, such as from surgery or medical treatment. It may also include emotional and mental anguish resulting from your injury.
- Loss of Function: If your injury results in permanent impairment or the loss of a part of your body’s function, you may be awarded damages. Loss of function or impairment may affect your ability to walk, drive, or carry a young child.
- Disfigurement: Scarring or permanent damage to a person’s appearance can impact a person’s life quality.
- Loss of Enjoyment: If your injuries interfere with your ability to enjoy life, you may be awarded non-economic damages. This may be the case for a person who actively enjoyed skiing or hiking but can no longer continue these activities due to their injury.
- Loss of Consortium: When the injured party can no longer perform household duties, this is considered a loss of consortium, including relationship intimacy and parenting responsibilities. Loss of consortium is often a remedy the injured party’s close family members would pursue.
Punitive Damages In Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Punitive damages are intended to punish situations where the doctor, hospital, or healthcare provider acted recklessly or were grossly negligent. They’re designed to prevent this type of negligence from other medical professionals.
What is the Cap for Medical Malpractice Awards in Arizona?
Arizona is one of few states that doesn’t place a cap on awarded compensation under a medical malpractice suit. Limiting damages in civil cases, such as medical malpractice claims, is expressly prohibited in Arizona’s state constitution.
Similarly, Arizona doesn’t have a law that limits attorney compensation for representing their client. However, either party in the case may ask the court to assess the reasonableness of a party’s legal fees. If this request is made, the court has 20 days to complete its determination.
What If I’m Partially At-Fault in a Phoenix Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
In some cases, a jury may find the patient holds some responsibility for their injury. This may happen if the patient didn’t follow the doctor’s instructions, didn’t fully show their medical history, or engaged in an activity that aggravated the injury.
Even if you’re found to share responsibility in a medical malpractice suit, you may still recover damages.
Under the rule of comparative negligence, the patient may be assigned a percentage of fault if their actions contributed to the injury. If the plaintiff is awarded damages in a medical malpractice suit, it would be reduced by the percentage of fault they were assigned.
As an example: a patient is found to be 10% at-fault for their injury. If a jury awards them damages of $100,000, the amount would be reduced by $10,000.
Procedural Rule for Medical Malpractice Suits in Arizona
Unlike many other states, Arizona requires the injured party to include a preliminary expert opinion when filing their complaint against a healthcare provider.
This attached opinion should supply the factual basis for which the claim is being filed and the areas where a violation of the medical standard of care occurred. This step is required by the state to filter out frivolous lawsuits.
This preliminary document is required if a medical expert’s opinion is necessary to prove your case. If you don’t file this in time or at all—your case may be thrown out.
Suppose you claim a medical expert’s opinion is not necessary for you to prove your case. In that case, you may not have to file this document. However, the defendant medical professional may ask the court to require you to get this preliminary document.
Final Thoughts On Medical Malpractice In Phoenix, Arizona
We visit healthcare professionals when we’re sick and want to get better. We put our faith in doctors and trust we’ll receive the proper standard of care. We focus on their knowledge and expertise when diagnosing why we’re sick and their treatment recommendations.
However, when medical professionals don’t provide this level of care when diagnosing and treating our ailments, we may be harmed. Some errors may be nothing more than minor inconveniences. Yet a misdiagnosis or lack of testing can mask a serious illness that, if left untreated, could become severe and even fatal.
If you live in the Phoenix area or anywhere in Arizona and believe a healthcare professional or hospital has harmed you due to negligence or some other form of malpractice, contact us today for a free consultation.
You may be owed compensation, and we’ll work hard to recover the maximum settlement possible for you.
What Will It Cost To Hire A Phoenix Medical Malpractice Lawyer?
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Bradley J. Myers
Personal Injury Attorney
As an Arizona Bar member, Brad Myers has been aiding injured clients since 2004. One of the many characteristics that separate Brad from other personal injury attorneys is the individual consideration he gives to his clients and their unique circumstances. When Brad isn’t occupied with fighting for his clients, he enjoys spending time with his wife, his parents, his sister, and his niece and nephew, all living in the Scottsdale area.
Personal Injury Lawyer
As an owner/partner of Kane, Temple, & Myers, PLLC, Jefferson is dedicated to rendering the best possible customer service to all of his clients. No matter the range of injuries his clients have sustained, he does whatever it takes to ensure they receive the maximum possible settlement for their injuries, pain, and suffering.
Personal Injury Attorney
As an owner/partner of Kane, Temple, & Myers, PLLC, Michael prides himself in rendering the most leading standard of legal representation to his injury clients. Using his previous background as a defense attorney, he understands how to handle all aspects of a personal injury case. This includes taking a case to trial to obtain the full compensation his clients deserve.
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