Phoenix Medical Malpractice Attorney
Medical malpractice is a pervasive problem here in Arizona. We often hear horrible stories, from devastating surgical errors to birth injuries. But we often don’t give them a second thought—until it happens to our family.
The consequences of medical malpractice can follow you for a lifetime. If you’ve been a victim of medical malpractice, you may be able to recover damages for your injuries. For more information, visit our Medical Malpractice Frequently Asked Questions page.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
The term “medical malpractice” refers broadly to a health professional who fails in his or her duty to provide reasonable care to a patient. Doctors aren’t the only ones capable of committing malpractice; any member of a healthcare team, from a pharmacist to a nurse, can be guilty of negligence.
Medical malpractice claims hinge on proving that a medical professional failed in fulfilling his or her obligation to provide reasonable care. In the legal realm, the term “reasonable care” refers to a situation in which a similar professional would have acted with more care given the same circumstances.
For example, imagine you’re a patient who felt a lump under your skin. You see your primary care physician, who dismisses it as a swollen lymph node. The lump grows over time, and months later you’re diagnosed with cancer. In this situation, most other doctors would have ordered tests to rule out the possibility of cancer, so your doctor acted negligently.
Proving Medical Malpractice: Four Essential Elements
Providing sufficient evidence for medical malpractice requires these basic elements:
- You must prove that a doctor/patient relationship existed. You must have hired a doctor in a formal capacity to qualify for a settlement. In other words, a casual conversation at a cocktail party is not sufficient grounds for a suit.
- That doctor was negligent in your care. Medical malpractice claims, like most personal injury claims, rely on the idea that your provider committed negligence (or failed in his or her duty of care). Being unhappy with the quality of your treatment isn’t enough to recover damages.
- Provider negligence was responsible for your injuries. You must prove that your provider’s actions directly lead to your predicament. Since doctors often deal with those who are already sick or injured, proving this requires the help of a skilled attorney.
- That injury led to damages. You must provide specific evidence of damages as a result of your care. For example, your injury may lead to economic damages, like medical bills and lost wages due to missed work. You may also suffer general damages, which cover intangible losses like emotional suffering and physical pain.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice in Arizona
There are countless varieties of medical malpractice, since each case is unique. These are some of the most common:
- Failure to diagnose refers to a situation in which another doctor would have discovered a disease or condition in the same or similar circumstances.
- Improper treatment is any circumstance in which another healthcare professional would have provided a more effective course of care.
- Failure to appropriately warn about the risks refers to a situation in which a physician neglects to outline a procedure or inform you of possible negative outcomes before you consent to it.
Health care professionals are responsible for providing a certain standard of care when they treat patients. When those professionals fail to act in a way any other similarly skilled professional would have under the circumstances, they are liable for the pain, suffering, and losses a patient endures. At Cullan & Cullan, our attorneys are also licensed doctors. We specialize in medical malpractice cases in Phoenix and surrounding areas.
Medical malpractice is a serious issue in Phoenix. Many recent cases center on the local VA Medical Center, but acts of malpractice can take place in any medical setting. Improper pharmacy dosing, dangerous medications, defective medical products, surgical errors, and other mistakes can all give rise to a valid malpractice claim.
One of the most frightening forms of medical malpractice occurs in the operating room. Errors during surgery can easily kill, maim, or critically injure the patient. There is no such thing as a “minor mistake” during a life-changing surgery. Surgeons, support nurses, anesthesiologists, and other staff members in the operating room must work with the utmost care and caution. Here are a few common types of surgical errors that may arise due to negligence:
- Poor pre- or post-operative care. Undergoing a surgery takes a major toll on the body. It is up to the medical staff to properly prepare the patient prior to the surgery, as well as to care for the incision site afterward. Negligence can result in surgical complications, infections, and other adverse situations.
- Too much or too little anesthesia. Too much can cause brain damage, while too little can cause anesthesia awareness – a traumatic experience in which the patient is aware of the surgery but cannot move or speak.
- Mistakes during surgery. An incompetent, distracted, intoxicated, or otherwise unfit surgeon can make mistakes that seriously harm or even kill the patient. If the surgeon does something that a reasonable and prudent professional would not have in the same situation, resulting in patient harm, he or she may be guilty of malpractice.
Accidentally nicking an artery can lead to bleeding or preventable health complications. Failing to property maintain a sterile environment can cause fatal infections. Leaving a cotton swab inside the body cavity can cause serious problems months or years later. If you or a loved one sustained injury, illness, or died after a surgery and you suspect malpractice, seek help from Cullan and Cullan right away.
Frequently Asked Questions About Med Mal Claims
How common is medical malpractice? More common than most patients would like to believe. “Never events” like wrong-site, wrong-patient, wrong-procedure operations occur in about one in 112,000 surgeries. Operating on the wrong side of the patient is the most common never event at 59%. More minor medical mistakes occur more often. The State of Arizona saw 2,577 medical malpractice payment reports in a single year.
Why should I choose Cullan and Cullan? We are lawyers who are also educated and licensed physicians. That puts us in a unique position to take on medical malpractice cases – we have inside experience from both sides. Our team knows how complex these claims can be. We can consult with expert witnesses and take other steps to help prove your case to a judge or jury. Talk to us today to experience the difference for yourself.
Has your firm won medical malpractice claims in the past? Absolutely. On our results page you’ll see just some of the verdicts and settlements we’ve helped our clients bring home due to medical malpractice in Arizona. We secured $17 million for a client after the negligence of the hospital staff caused infant brain injury, a $11.5 million jury verdict for a couple in Omaha whose baby suffered major injuries during delivery, and $4.1 million for a client’s wrongful death in failure to diagnose colon cancer.
Arizona Statute of Limitations in Medical Malpractice Claims
To pursue a malpractice case in Arizona, patients must file a claim within the state’s statute of limitations. Individuals generally have two years from the date the injury/illness first occurred to file a suit. In some cases, the state will not start the clock until the date someone discovered a malpractice-related illness or injury. For example, a birth injury may not cause noticeable symptoms for years. If the parents discover a developmental issue likely associated with the birthing process, they may have the option of filing a claim long after the birth.
Other exceptions to the statute of limitations exist, so we encourage anyone who suspects malpractice to contact our team for a case evaluation. We can help you determine if you have a case and if the statute of limitations will prevent you from filing.
Liability and Medical Malpractice
One of the first steps in pursuing a medical malpractice claim is determining liability. Physicians can face liability for their own actions and vicarious liability for the actions of all professionals who act under their guidance. A malpractice lawsuit may also name pharmacists, nurses, physician’s assistants, and other medical providers for their roles in the case. Hospitals can be primarily and vicariously liable for acts of malpractice if their employees’ failures contribute to a patient’s harmful outcome. Pharmaceutical companies are responsible for failing to warn health care professionals of a product’s side effects.
Medical records, witness statements, and expert testimony often play a role in proving liability. Some cases involve the doctrine res ipsa loquitur or “the thing speaks for itself” – if an injury or illness could only result from an act of negligence, the injury itself may prove liability. In cases involving res ipsa loquitur, the burden of proof lies with the defendant instead of the plaintiff.
Health care professionals are liable for many different acts of malpractice including:
- Diagnosis mistakes. The failure to reasonably interpret symptoms, perform recommended tests, or accurately interpret test results can lead to an improper diagnosis or the failure to diagnose.
- Treatment errors. When doctors, anesthetists, surgeons, and others make unreasonable mistakes during the course of work, they can cause significant harm. Dosing errors, operating on the wrong body party, recommending the wrong treatment based on a patient’s history, and leaving implements in a patient’s body are just a few examples of treatment errors that can result in liability claims.
- Consent and advisory failures. Treating physicians are responsible for explaining conditions, treatment protocols, and associated risks. They must receive informed consent from a patient before moving forward. When physicians fail to warn chemotherapy patients of the possible risks and side effects of treatment, for example, they are liable for the harm that results from a patient’s lack of knowledge.
These examples of liability issues only scratch the surface of medical malpractice cases in the U.S. Many nuanced statutes and case precedents determine if a specific act does or does not constitute malpractice. Our attorneys can help you determine if a medical professional’s failure warrants a malpractice claim in Arizona.
To learn more about medical malpractice claims, reach out to our attorneys today.
Your Medical Malpractice Lawyers in Arizona—And Why We’re Different
Medical malpractice cases are a little different from other types of personal injury claims because they rely on expert testimony. Juries may decide on fault based on the evidence presented to them at face value—hence, medical cases require that professionals explain what they would have done differently.
At Cullan and Cullan we’re doctors and lawyers, so we know medical malpractice better than other firms out there. We have the medical expertise to know when another professional has committed malpractice and the legal experience to hold him or her responsible for those actions. Contact us to schedule your free initial consultation today.