Proving Medical Malpractice

woman patient injured by medical malpractice

Hundreds of Thousands Killed by Medical Malpractice

Study after study–by the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine, the National Institute of Health, major medical schools and others, have concluded that hundreds of thousands of people die every year in this country because of medical malpractice.  Hundreds of thousands, probably millions, more Americans are injured due to medical negligenceBut knowing that malpractice happens and proving medical malpractice are two very different things.

Very few of the people hurt (or the families of those killed) actually file a malpractice suit against a doctor.  This is mainly because they have no idea that medical malpractice has occurred.  When a loved father dies during surgery, or a daughter has to spend two weeks in the hospital when it should have been a day, there is no way that someone who is not a medical professional and hasn’t seen the records can know what happened.  The doctors and nurses who made the mistakes aren’t about to tell you, for obvious reasons.

Most Medical Malpractice Isn’t Obvious

And supposing you suspect that something was done wrong:  what do you do about it?  The only realistic option is to get the records and have somebody who knows what they are looking at examine them.  You won’t know, for example, whether a tourniquet was left on too long during knee surgery, or whether too much morphine was given.  Questions like that can only be answered by people who know what to look for in medical records—and what the information means when they find it.

Often people get the records and try to figure these things out themselves, or they take it to a friend who likewise doesn’t really know what they are looking at.  We take a lot of cases that were rejected by other lawyers who didn’t know how to read medical records and therefore missed the evidence of malpractice in the records.

Making matters worse is the new emphasis on “electronic” records.  Nurses and doctors now make notes in computers, often using checklists and form language, instead of writing or typing notes specifically for the patient.  A nurse can thus fill in “normal” for 20 questions by hitting one or two keys—and the records will make it look like the patient was doing fine and the nurse was watching, when in fact the nurse never checked on the patient at all.

Medical Malpractice Cases Need Medical Malpractice Lawyers

The bottom line is that medical malpractice cases are very difficult to prove, and finding the evidence to even get started is getting harder all the time.  If you think that you or a loved one has been hurt by medical malpractice, you absolutely must have your case reviewed by someone who really knows what they are doing.  A lawyer who doesn’t understand medicine or medical records can neither recognize nor prove medical malpractice.

I’m not saying that you have to bring your medical malpractice case to my firm.  There are three or four other very good medical malpractice attorneys in Arkansas with good experience and skill.  But I am saying that you must choose one of those medical malpractice firms—not a neighbor, not a divorce lawyer or a friend from church—but someone who really knows what they are looking at when they look at medical records, and someone who knows what to do with the evidence when they find it.

And please be careful:  most firms that say they handle medical malpractice cases really don’t.  If a law firm claims it does everything and handles all kinds of cases, they don’t do anything really well.   Make sure the lawyer you hire has handled a lot of medical malpractice cases and has worked on one like yours.  There is no substitute for experience.

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