Medical malpractice, also known as medical negligence or preventable medical error, means a health care provider caused an injury or death to a patient by failing to follow the standard of care. According to a recent study of medical malpractice in the United States, medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in America, behind heart disease and cancer.
Every medical procedure carries an element of risk and a positive outcome cannot ever be guaranteed. But if you or your loved one suffered an unexpected outcome while receiving medical treatment, you will naturally want answers. You may suspect improper treatment, but your doctor and hospital are unlikely to admit to you that they made an error.
To find out what really happened, you will need an independent investigation of the medical care provided to you or your loved one. The lawyers of Leavitt Yamane & Soldner provide this legal assistance to residents of Hawaii who have questions about the medical care they have received.
You or a loved one may be one of the thousands of Americans each year who are harmed by a preventable error by a doctor or other health care professional.
The statistics surrounding medical malpractice in the United States are troubling:
• Data reported by the Journal of Patient Safety in 2013 indicated that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients suffer some type of preventable harm every year that contributes to their death when they go to the hospital for medical care.
• A survey of hospital attending doctors published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that 40 percent of physicians reported that their typical inpatient census exceeded safe levels, with 36 percent saying it happens more than once per week. More than 20 percent reported that their average workload likely contributed to patient transfers, disease, and even fatalities.
• A 2012 study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said the emergency department is the hospital location with the highest rate of negligent adverse events (52.6 percent).
• Diagnostic errors such as missed diagnoses or delayed diagnoses account for the largest portion of medical malpractice claims and the most severe patient harm, according to a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine review of 25 years in malpractice claims. Diagnostic errors result in death or disability almost twice as often as other types of errors and are most often due to missed diagnoses.
• The review also revealed that as many as 40,500 critically ill patients in hospital intensive care units (ICUs) in the country may die annually because clinicians fail to diagnose hidden life-threatening conditions such as stroke and heart attack.
• Incidents of instruments or materials being left in a patient’s body happen once in every 5,500 to 7,000 surgeries, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. A typical hospital has two of these incidents each year.
If you or a loved one were a patient who suffered because of a preventable error made by a physician, surgeon, nurse, physicians’ assistant, nursing assistant, lab technician, hospital, or ambulatory surgery center, how would you know? Some medical errors are obvious, such as a wrong-site surgery or an instrument accidentally left in a patient’s body that shows up on an x-ray. But many medical errors are not apparent unless you have medical training and know what should have been done in similar circumstances. How could you possibly know the hospital’s practice of understaffing and working physicians for overly-long shifts contributed to the medical error that harmed you?
If you are to ever know what really happened, you will need the assistance of an experienced Honolulu medical malpractice lawyer who can call upon independent medical experts to review your medical records and determine whether the treatment you received included a preventable medical error that amounts to malpractice.
Our medical malpractice attorneys at Leavitt Yamane & Soldner can assist you and your family if you suspect that someone you love may have been significantly harmed by medical error or negligence, including:
• Emergency room error
• Diagnostic error
• Surgical negligence
• Anesthesia malpractice
• Medication / Pharmaceutical error
• Birth injury
• Laboratory error
• Hospital malpractice (faulty policies or practices)
Our attorneys are also familiar with the Hawaii health care profession and insurance companies. In the event you have been the victim of medical negligence in Hawaii, it is important that you are aware of the protection that the law offers you and your loved ones, as well as its drawbacks.
Medical malpractice claims are technical cases that require a substantial amount of time and expertise to prepare. These cases are complicated by strict statutes of limitations, which is two years in Hawaii and begins to run the moment the person discovers or should have discovered the negligent act (or error), the damage (injury), and the causal connection between act and injury.
If you are to pursue a medical malpractice claim with the assistance of Leavitt Yamane & Soldner, or any reputable law firm, it will generally require these steps to move forward:
• Initial legal consultation – A lawyer experienced with medical malpractice lawsuits in Hawaii will review the circumstances of your case with you as well as your legal options and the steps to take. This is a free and confidential legal consultation.
• Obtain your medical records – This requires a formal, written request by you to the medical institution(s) where you were treated. Medical records are voluminous and your hospital, surgeon, and physician’s office may outsource storage, by compiling, copying, and shipping their medical records, so it may take weeks to obtain them.
• Analyze medical records – Once your attorney has your medical records, he or she can send copies to consulting medical experts for review and recommendation. They may be sent to a generalist at first and, if that doctor has cause to suspect medical error, sent for a more specific evaluation by one or more specialists.
• Determine appropriateness of a malpractice claim – Based on our medical experts’ opinions and our legal experience, we will advise you about the probability of a medical malpractice claim based on your case succeeding. It is unfortunate, but in some cases of what we believe is an identifiable medical error, pursuing a claim cannot be recommended. To move forward, the expected compensation to be derived from a lawsuit must be more than the anticipated costs of a claim and provide a payment to you to make the time and effort worthwhile.
• Prepare and file the lawsuit – If we decide together that your case can be successful and you are prepared to proceed, we will draft and file a lawsuit on your behalf. It will explain your complaint and the evidence of the health care provider’s negligence, and request compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses. Preparing the lawsuit will include obtaining depositions, which are sworn statements by you and all others connected to the case. Both your lawyers and the defendant’s attorneys will be allowed to depose each party to the lawsuit.
• Once a lawsuit is filed, we will negotiate with the defendant’s lawyers and insurers to settle. Most medical malpractice cases conclude in a negotiated settlement, which provides an immediate payment to the plaintiff and ends the case. We will advise you of any settlement offer we receive and whether we believe you should accept it, but the final decision is yours. A settlement may be made and accepted at any time before a jury returns a decision in the case.
If we cannot obtain a settlement that is agreeable to you, your case will go to court with the legal team of Leavitt Yamane & Soldner fighting hard for you.
If you have been the victim of medical negligence in Honolulu or elsewhere in the islands, we believe that the health care provider should be held accountable for the harm they have caused. Aside from the financial burdens that may result, the emotional strain on you and your loved ones cannot and should not be overlooked. You deserve compensation.
Our skilled and experienced Honolulu medical malpractice attorneys of Leavitt Yamane & Soldner successfully represent families wrongly injured by medical negligence. Contact us today for a compassionate and confidential discussion of your case and the legal options available to you and your family.