Most doctors are good doctors who care about their patients. Unfortunately, in spite of that fact, 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, you may be able to recover damages for your injuries. Our Phoenix medical malpractice lawyers can talk to you about what occurred and can help you get the information you need to make the right choices about moving forward with a lawsuit. Cullan & Cullan has four lawyers who are also doctors. With our medical and legal experience, we are uniquely equipped to offer sound guidance.
To learn more, call (602) 900-9483 for a free case evaluation with one of our skilled Arizona medical injury attorneys.
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 fatty tissue. The lump grows over time, and 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 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 entered into a professional relationship with the doctor or other healthcare provider. 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.
- Negligence was responsible for your injuries. You must prove that your provider’s actions directly lead to your damages. Since doctors often deal with those who are already sick or injured, proving this requires the help of a skilled attorney.
- You suffered quantifiable injuries. 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
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 give consent.
Healthcare 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 Phoenix medical malpractice attorneys are also doctors. We provide highly skilled counsel in medical malpractice cases in Phoenix and surrounding areas.
Liability & 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, in certain circumstances, can have vicarious liability for the actions of some others 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.
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.
Healthcare 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 part, 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. 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 Phoenix medical injury attorneys can help you determine if a medical professional’s failure warrants a malpractice claim.
Why Our Phoenix Medical Malpractice Lawyers Are Different
Medical malpractice cases are much different from other types of personal injury claims because they require 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 & Cullan, we’re doctors and lawyers, so we know medical malpractice better than many other firms. 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 at (602) 900-9483 to schedule your free initial consultation today.
Medical Malpractice FAQs
How long do I have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Phoenix?
The statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Arizona is typically "two years after the cause of action accrues.” However, because every case depends on the specific circumstances of the incident, it is advisable to consult with an attorney as there are limited circumstances that could extend the timeframe.
What damages can be claimed in a medical malpractice case?
In a medical malpractice case, various types of damages can be claimed, including economic damages (such as medical expenses, lost wages, and future medical costs), non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life), and in some cases, punitive damages.
Who can be held liable in a medical malpractice claim?
Several parties can potentially be held liable in a medical malpractice claim, including the healthcare professional directly involved in the alleged negligence (such as a doctor or nurse), the healthcare facility or hospital where the malpractice occurred, and in certain cases, pharmaceutical companies or medical device manufacturers.
What steps should I take if I believe I am a victim of medical malpractice?
If you believe you are a victim of medical malpractice, it is important to take the following steps:
- Gather and preserve any evidence related to the incident
- Seek medical attention to address your health concerns
- Document any injuries or damages
- Consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to discuss the specifics of your case, and adhere to any legal deadlines.
What should I look for when choosing a medical malpractice attorney?
When choosing a medical malpractice attorney, it is advisable to consider:
- Their experience and track record in handling medical malpractice cases
- Their knowledge of medical procedures and terminology
- Their ability to conduct thorough investigations
- Their willingness to take your case to trial if necessary
- And their reputation for achieving favorable outcomes for their clients.
Additionally, a good attorney should be attentive, communicative, and compassionate throughout the legal process.