Do You Suspect Medical Malpractice? Here's Where You Should Start

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Sometimes when seeking medical treatment, patients experience negative medical outcomes which healthcare providers simply cannot control. But on the other hand, there are times when they suffer from mistakes that can be attributed to medical malpractice. How can you tell if the latter has happened to you or a loved one? That question can be better explained once you know exactly what medical malpractice is.

Simply defined, medical malpractice is negligence by a health care professional. Some of these can involve:

• Errors in prescribing, filling, or administering medication
• Problems which arise during a surgical procedure, and then are not handled properly
• Misdiagnosis
• Negligent or inadequate follow-up care.

It all boils down to this: A doctor or some other medical
professional may have committed malpractice by acting in a way which violated an accepted “standard of care,” which is defined as what another healthcare provider would have done given the same circumstances.

Have You Been a Victim of Malpractice?

Most of the time that query starts out slowly. You or a family member may not “feel right” after being treated. It’s an elusive sensation. And the first clue that something’s amiss may be when doctors or other medical professionals tell you that everything’s fine and the feelings will pass. Negative outcomes happen all the time that have nothing to do with a mistake made by a medical professional. There can be complications and side effects even when you’ve received the best medical care.

But rare are the times when those treating you admit to making a mistake that is responsible for your condition. So it falls to you to seek outside input – starting with a second-opinion – to determine whether something less than ordinary has happened.

Steps You Must Take in Deciding Whether to File a Malpractice Claim

The first thing you need to do is have a calm, frank conversation with your healthcare provider. Don’t accuse, but don’t play dumb either. Maybe you’ll better understand what happened and why you aren’t recovering like you hoped. If you are not satisfied with the answers you are given, or the doctor/medical professional doesn’t seem to be forthright, you should proceed with your quest for answers.

Maybe it’s time to get a second opinion. But before you do that, it might be a good idea to contact the medical or surgical board that licenses your healthcare professional (e.g. the Texas Medical Board, the Texas Dental Board).. Don’t expect them to do anything other than review your complaint and issue warnings to the healthcare provider, though they may discipline them. The boards might also be able to advise you how to proceed further.

If you’ve gotten this far, it’s a good bet the word “malpractice” is at least in the back of your mind. Keep this option to yourself for the time being, but start looking for a doctor who can give you a competent second opinion. The objective is to secure a certificate of merit. This is a crucial step if you decide to file a malpractice lawsuit, as it will form the foundation for your claim. You should be examined by a doctor who is part of a different practice. Ideally, this provider won’t know your doctor; or at least never have worked with him or her.

After your examination, it might take a bit of time for that second opinion doctor to get back with you. Most doctors are less than comfortable with the prospect of being involved in a malpractice lawsuit; which is what you’re essentially asking of them. So during these intervening days, it might be a good idea to begin vetting personal injury lawyers who specialize in medical malpractice. Ask questions just like you would if you were hiring an employee. Find out about their competence, certification, how many cases like yours they have handled, how much trial experience they have, how they plan to negotiate with the insurance companies, and descriptions of the investigations they perform to collect documented evidence.

It is also paramount to choose a medical malpractice attorney who makes you comfortable before signing the contract, which you should review very carefully before you sign.

Terry Bryant is a Board Certified personal injury attorney and former judge in Houston, TX. His firm, Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law, represents clients across Texas in all types of personal injury cases, including workplace injury claims.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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