Boston Medical Malpractice Lawyer
We rely on doctors and other medical professionals to help us when we are injured and sick. When we meet with a physician, we are especially vulnerable and often rely on their knowledge and expertise to recover from our illnesses and injuries. However, even medical professionals make mistakes, and those mistakes can come at a huge cost to patients. People who have been harmed by the malpractice of a medical professional may file a lawsuit to claim damages and compensation. To be successful, you will need to prove your doctor’s actions amounted to malpractice. You must also meet very specific deadlines.
Malpractice cases are not always easy to prove. Doctors and other medical professionals must be able to do what they believe is best for their patients without being distracted by the potential legal consequences. Sometimes, the treatment that a doctor thinks is the best course of action at the time turns out to be a mistake. These kinds of mistakes do not amount to malpractice. To be malpractice, the medical professional’s mistakes must amount to negligence.
If you believe you were injured as a result of a medical professional’s malpractice, you may want to consider filing a lawsuit to recover damages for your injuries. Contact our Boston medical malpractice lawyers for assistance. Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407 to schedule a free, confidential legal consultation about your case.
How to Prove Medical Malpractice in Boston
Under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 231 § 60B, whenever a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed, the plaintiff is tasked with presenting an “offer of proof” to a special tribunal within 15 days of the defendant’s filed response to the lawsuit.
This three-person panel is responsible for deciding whether the injured plaintiff’s evidence is sufficient to determine that the defendant’s health care provider was negligent in providing medical care to the plaintiff. Generally, the panel consists of:
- A justice of the Massachusetts superior court
- A licensed physician who practices medicine in the same field as the defendant
- A licensed attorney
In making the determination, the tribunal may consider all relevant medical records, statements, test results, and relevant medical information from qualified medical experts. If the tribunal finds sufficient evidence, the case can proceed to court like any other civil lawsuit.
On the other hand, if the tribunal discovers that the plaintiff has not established substantial evidence of liability, the lawsuit can only continue if the plaintiff files a predetermined bond with the court clerk to cover the legal fees of the defendant if the plaintiff’s lawsuit was not successful. If this bond is not posted within 30 days of the tribunal’s decision, the medical malpractice lawsuit may be dismissed.
Elements of a Medical Malpractice Case in Boston
If you can demonstrate to the tribunal that you have substantial evidence of liability, you may continue your lawsuit like any other civil case. Medical malpractice cases, however, involve more than simply proving your doctor or other medical professional made a mistake. Instead, you must prove the mistake was the result of your doctor’s negligence. Mistakes made from a medical professional’s best judgment are not usually grounds for a lawsuit. However, mistakes made from negligence are not shielded from liability.
A medical malpractice suit is based on negligence, and negligence involves four crucial elements. To prove negligence, a plaintiff must show that the defendant owed a duty of care, breached that duty of care, that the breach caused the plaintiff’s injuries, and the injuries are factual and not hypothetical. These elements sound somewhat simple, but proving them may be difficult. Medical malpractice cases can vary greatly from case to case depending on the plaintiff’s medical condition and the type of medical treatment they received.
Proving the first element means proving that you were owed a duty of care by the defendant. Medical professionals owe their patients a duty of care as part of their jobs; it is inherent to the medical profession. Proving that the defendant breached their duty is sometimes tricky. How duty is breached will depend on the treatment you received. For example, the duty of care owed during surgery is different than the duty owed during a routine physical exam.
Common examples of a breach of a duty of care by a medical professional might include leaving surgical equipment inside a patient’s body, prescribing the wrong medication or the wrong dosage, or failing to take any treatment actions when they are clearly needed.
For help assessing your injuries and filing your lawsuit, contact our Boston medical malpractice attorneys.
Who Can You Sue for Medical Malpractice in Boston?
When filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, one of the earliest decisions you will have to make is who your defendant is. There are numerous parties involved in a patient’s medical treatment, and responsibility for malpractice may lie with one or more of them. You could sue a single doctor in charge of your medical care, the entire hospital, or both. Our Boston medical malpractice attorneys can discuss your case with you and determine who the most appropriate defendants are in your case.
Obviously, a patient who suffered negligent medical care will want to sue the doctor who provided that negligent care. As the person in charge of overseeing your medical care, your doctor is probably the first defendant we should consider when filing a malpractice lawsuit. Your negligent medical care will have likely occurred either at your doctor’s hands or at least at their direction.
Depending on your case, it may be possible to sue nurses and other medical professionals who assisted with your medical treatment. This might be more appropriate in cases where a nurse acted independently of your doctor’s instructions or otherwise played a larger role in your negligent medical care. More often than not, nurses follow doctors’ orders and bear somewhat less responsibility when it comes to malpractice.
It is crucial that we include the hospital or doctor’s office in your lawsuit. First, the institution where you received medical treatment is responsible for hiring competent, qualified doctors and ensuring their patients receive adequate care. Second, the institution is likely more able to pay for your damages than an individual medical professional.
Consult with our Boston medical malpractice lawyers about your case. We can determine who should be named in your lawsuit and the overall extent of your damages and injuries.
What if I Am Partially Responsible for my Own Medical Injuries?
In some cases, a patient may be partially to blame for the extent of their own injuries, even though a medical professional’s malpractice caused the injury to begin with. In such cases, the defendant in a medical malpractice suit may argue a comparative negligence theory. If you are found comparatively negligent, your damages will be reduced in proportion to your own negligence.
According to Mass. Gen. Laws. Ch. 231 § 85, if a plaintiff is found to be at greater fault for their injuries than the defendant, they are barred from recovery. This means if you are more than 50% to blame for your injuries, you cannot sue for medical malpractice.
An example of a patient who is partially responsible for their own injuries would be a patient who did not follow aftercare instructions provided by their doctor. If a patient is instructed to stay on bed rest following a medical procedure, but instead goes on a strenuous hiking trip, they may be partially to blame for their injuries. If your own actions predominantly caused your injuries, you may not be able to recover any damages. Speak with our Boston medical malpractice attorneys for more information.
Injuries and Damages from Medical Malpractice in Boston
Your injuries obviously include how you were harmed from the defendant’s malpractice. Common injuries include physical impairments or damage and any pain and suffering. You may also include injuries that you did not physically suffer but were still affected by.
For example, if you were in so much pain that you could no longer work, you may include lost wages among your injuries. If you do not think you will ever be able to work again as a result of the malpractice, you could also include future lost earnings as part of your injuries. Speak with our Boston medical malpractice attorneys to determine the extent of your injuries for a lawsuit.
Your damages refer to the compensation you are seeking for your injuries. In most medical malpractice cases, damages are monetary. Damages may include compensatory damages for medical malpractice suits, but almost never punitive damages. There may also be limits on the amount of money you can be awarded if you win. General damages, like pain and suffering or embarrassment, are capped at $500,000 unless there is a significant permanent loss or disfigurement.
Punitive damages, or those designed to punish defendants, are not awarded in any cases that do not involve wrongful death. If you are suing for your own damages and injuries from medical malpractice, you will not be able to claim punitive damages. However, if you are suing for the wrongful death of a loved one as a result of medical malpractice, punitive damages may be on the table. Talk to our Boston medical malpractice attorneys about what kinds of damages are available in your case.
Examples of Medical Malpractice in Boston
Malpractice could occur in any kind of medical treatment. The key to distinguishing malpractice from other medical mistakes is that malpractice involves negligence. A negligent doctor is one who reasonably should have known better than to treat their patient in a particular way. A medical decision that later turns out to be a mistake is not necessarily malpractice.
Misdiagnosis is a common issue in medical malpractice cases. A misdiagnosis occurs when doctors believe that a patient’s medical condition is something that it is not. Confusing one disease or disorder for another is not that unusual and may amount to negligence if the doctor who diagnosed you should have known better. A misdiagnosis often means that a patient receives treatment for a condition they do not have while their real condition is left unchecked.
Another common example of medical malpractice is surgery gone wrong. Surgery is inherently risky, and doctors must make their patients aware of that fact. When surgery is performed incorrectly, the surgeon may be liable for malpractice. Even if the surgery is performed correctly, there may be other issues or mistakes. For example, if a doctor accidentally leaves medical tools inside a patient during a surgery, they may be liable for malpractice.
Doctors could also be liable for malpractice if they ignored the signs and symptoms of a patient’s illness. For example, suppose a patient continually complains of severe headaches but their doctor brushes it off as insignificant. In that case, that doctor could be liable for malpractice if the patient was actually suffering from a brain tumor the entire time. Similarly, providing medical care that is improper or inadequate could also lead to a malpractice case.
If you believe you suffered harm or injury because your doctor provided negligent medical care, call our offices for help. Our Boston medical malpractice attorneys can help you file a lawsuit to claim compensation for your pain and suffering.
What Is the Deadline for Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim in Boston?
Massachusetts has specific deadlines for filing medical malpractice claims. These deadlines are called statutes of limitations. The standard deadline for medical malpractice cases in Boston gives injured plaintiffs three years to file a lawsuit in civil court after the malpractice occurred. If no medical malpractice lawsuit has been filed after the three-year deadline, victims may lose the right to sue the healthcare provider.
However, in cases where the victim could not reasonably have learned that they had a medical malpractice case, the discovery rule may apply. The discovery rule states that if the injured person had no previous knowledge about the alleged malpractice, the lawsuit may be commenced three years from the date that the injured person “discovered” that medical malpractice may have been involved.
The statute of repose imposes a final deadline to medical malpractice lawsuits, regardless of when the victim discovered it. Under the statute of response established in Massachusetts, a medical malpractice lawsuit may not be filed more than seven years after the alleged malpractice, except in cases where a foreign object is found in the body.
How Long Does a Medical Malpractice Case Take to Settle?
The amount of time it takes to settle a medical malpractice lawsuit will vary from case to case. It will also depend on the outcome of any settlement negotiations. Especially complex cases involving severe injuries or that rely on multiple experts will undoubtedly take longer to settle. In the end, settlement negotiations may fall apart, and you will have to argue your case in a trial.
Settlement talks tend to happen rather quickly with medical malpractice lawsuits. Hospitals and other institutions of medicine tend to have deep pockets. If a settlement would be less costly than a trial, a defendant may be more inclined to settle quickly. However, expensive cases or those with frivolous claims may be more vigorously challenged by the defendant.
The time it takes to settle will also depend on your supporting evidence. If you have a strong case and evidence to back up your claims of malpractice, your defendant may want to settle instead of losing in court. A stronger case may result in a faster settlement, but a weak case may lead to drawn-out negotiations that could fall apart in the end.
To discuss the potential for a settlement agreement in your case, speak to our Boston medical malpractice attorneys as soon as possible.
Consult with a Boston Medical Malpractice Attorney Today
Medical malpractice cases can come in many forms from many different types of cases. If you were injured by a negligent medical professional, you may want to seek legal representation from a skilled Boston medical malpractice lawyer who could fight to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. To learn more, call the Boston personal injury lawyers at the Law Office at John J. Sheehan today at (617) 925-6407.