Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind only heart disease and cancer. Errors made by healthcare providers cause over 250,000 deaths per year, which is roughly 10% of annual deaths in the U.S. These errors also cause tens of thousands of non-fatal injuries as well. Based on these statistics, it is clear that medical malpractice is a serious problem.
Victims of medical malpractice have the right to file a claim against the negligent healthcare providers that caused them harm. However, compensation is never a guarantee in medical malpractice cases. A number of factors can affect whether or not you are awarded compensation, and if so, how much you are awarded. Is the victim’s age one of the factors that could impact the case? Here’s what you should know:
Types of Medical Malpractice
There are several different types of medical malpractice that could affect people of all ages. The most common type is misdiagnosis, which is also referred to as failure to diagnose. This occurs when a healthcare provider fails to properly diagnose a patient. Misdiagnosis can happen anywhere, but it is especially common in emergency rooms since doctors are forced to rush from patient to patient, leaving little time for them to think clearly.
Medication errors are another type of medical malpractice. This occurs when a healthcare provider prescribes or administers the wrong medication or the incorrect dosage. It can also occur when a healthcare provider prescribes or administers a medication that the patient is allergic to or is not supposed to take for another legitimate reason.
Surgical errors, which are errors made during surgical procedures, are also common. Some examples of these errors include failing to sterilize the surgical equipment, operating on the wrong part of the body or the wrong person, or leaving a surgical tool inside the patient.
These are just a few of the many different types of medical malpractice cases. It’s important to note that any type of healthcare provider can be held accountable for making these mistakes, including doctors, nurses, surgeons, and dentists.
What Needs to Be Proven in Medical Malpractice Cases
There are three elements of medical malpractice that must be proven in order to recover compensation. First, the victim must be able to prove that the healthcare provider was negligent. This means proving that the healthcare provider acted in a way that another competent doctor in the same situation would not have acted. For example, let’s say a doctor fails to diagnose your heart condition because they do not order the appropriate tests. If a reasonable doctor would have known to order these tests based on your symptoms, your doctor was negligent.
Next, the victim needs to prove that the healthcare provider’s negligence directly led to their injuries. Consider the example mentioned above one more time. If you were correctly diagnosed by another doctor before the heart condition became any worse, you may not have suffered any harm as a result of the first doctor’s diagnosis. Therefore, this is not malpractice since the doctor’s negligence did not cause you harm. However, if you suffered a heart attack that could have been prevented if you had only been correctly diagnosed the first time, then you would have a reason to file a medical malpractice claim. In this case, the doctor’s failure to diagnose your condition directly caused your injury.
Finally, the victim needs to prove that the injury led to specific damages. The term damages can refer to medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering that is directly related to the injury. If the healthcare provider’s negligence was responsible for your injury and the injury led to specific damages, then the healthcare provider is therefore responsible for the damages.
How Age Can Affect Medical Malpractice Cases
A person’s age may affect their medical malpractice case in one of two ways. First, it could affect the amount of compensation they are awarded. Why? Lost wages often account for a significant portion of a medical malpractice award. This is compensation awarded to the victim to make up for income they already lost and income they expect to lose in the future as a result of their injuries.
Many older adults are retired, which means their income will not be affected by an injury. Even if an older adult is not retired yet, their future earning potential is limited since they do not have many working years left. This means older adults are typically not awarded as much compensation for their current and future lost wages as young adults.
Second, the age of the victim could also be used to defend the healthcare provider in a medical malpractice case. How? In general, a person’s health starts to decline as they grow older. This means older adults are more likely to experience health problems and suffer complications during surgical procedures. Therefore, the healthcare provider might claim that the victim’s injury was not their fault because it occurred as a result of the victim’s age. It is up to the victim’s attorney to prove that the healthcare provider’s negligence, and not the victim’s declining health, is the cause of the victim’s injuries.
It’s true that age can affect medical malpractice claims, but this does not mean that recovering compensation is impossible for older adults. It simply means that older adults must rely on experienced attorneys to recover the compensation they deserve.
People of all ages can be seriously injured as a result of a healthcare provider’s negligence. If you are a victim of medical malpractice, contact Trial Lawyers for Justice today to schedule a consultation regarding your case. Our team of experienced personal injury attorneys will work tirelessly to hold the negligent healthcare provider accountable.