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Medical malpractice is another type of personal injury case that most of us have heard of, and many people have been given a negative idea about these cases. Yes, there are risks to just about every medical procedure and sometimes everything is done right and things still go wrong for the patient. But there are other times when a patient gets hurt because her healthcare provider made a mistake. Sometimes, a healthcare provider injures a patient because he or she failed to follow the accepted professional standards expected of any reasonable and prudent healthcare provider. When that happens, the law deems that to be “medical malpractice” and the injured patient is entitled to compensation. This area of law applies to doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, hospital staff, nursing home staff, and the healthcare facilities themselves. Like most other personal injury cases, medical malpractice cases have a 2-year statute of limitations. That means you must bring a civil lawsuit within two years of the date you knew (or should have known) that you were injured by a doctor’s negligence.

Medical malpractice happens much more often than you would think. Recent studies indicate that anywhere from 100,000 to 250,000 people die each year as the result of medical errors. This makes medical malpractice one of the leading causes of death in the United States, right behind heart disease and cancer. Most of these deaths would be legitimate medical malpractice lawsuits, but the number of medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuits filed each year doesn’t even come close. A study from 2013 found that only 3,046 medical malpractice payments were made for wrongful death claims. Essentially, this means that medical malpractice payments are only being made to about 5% of the families who lost a loved one as the result of medical negligence. The reason is simple – most people choose not to sue or make a claim against the medical professional who killed their loved one. Healthcare professionals are a valuable part of our society, but that doesn’t mean they are perfect. And it doesn’t mean they be excused when they make a mistake that causes serious harm or death.

Medical malpractice can take many different forms, including:

Misdiagnosis – Healthcare professionals are trained to evaluate and diagnose serious medical conditions, and they have a litany of expensive machines and testing equipment at their disposal. However, sometimes they miss a diagnosis because they carelessly ignored symptoms, failed to order tests, or arrived at a hasty conclusion. The failure to properly diagnose a serious medical condition can have life-threatening consequences.

Surgical errors – Surgery has risks, but many risks can be mitigated or eliminated when highly-trained medical professionals act carefully. And sometimes, doctors and nurses make inexcusable mistakes that drastically increase the normal risks of surgery.

Birth injuries – Healthcare professionals provide important care for mothers and babies before, during, and immediately after child birth. A medical error made during this critical time can jeopardize the life of both mother and baby. Sometimes, mother and baby both survive but the family will now have to care for a child that has been severely disabled as the result of a medical mistake.

Delayed or ineffective treatment – When diagnosing and treating certain serious medical conditions, every hour and every minute counts. A mistake which leads to a delay in proper treatment can cause significant harm to the patient.