Washington law may entitle you to sue your physician or a medical facility if they violated the standard of care and caused you harm.
When you or your family member’s medical care doesn’t go as planned and injuries have occurred, you may wonder if the doctor or the medical facility is to blame. Sometimes they are. You may be able to hold a doctor or nurse or hospital responsible for your injury, but only if your injury arose from provable medical malpractice.
Keep in mind, a medical error, complication, or poor outcome is not automatically a negligent act and actionable in court. There must be proof the medical professional or hospital failed to uphold the required standard of care.
Before pursuing a medical malpractice case, we recommend you contact our law firm at (206) 903-1818 for a free consultation. Matt Menzer of Menzer Law is a seasoned Seattle medical malpractice attorney. He will review your medical records, obtain the necessary expert reviews, and advise you of options.
Not All Medical Mistakes and Complications Are Negligence
The practice of medicine is challenging. Many things can go wrong without a doctor or facility being negligent. Just because you or a loved one suffered a poor outcome does not mean you have the right to sue under the law.
Various medical conditions and injuries have overlapping symptoms. Doctors should use their education, training, skills, and experience to interpret your symptoms and reach the correct diagnosis and provide you with appropriate treatment in a reasonable amount of time.
You may have a valid medical negligence claim if the doctor failed to perform the duties of “a reasonably prudent physician” under the circumstances and there was a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, which in turn led your condition to get worse or led you to suffer through unnecessary medical treatments.
Other common forms of medical malpractice include medication errors, surgical errors, patient falls, and healthcare-acquired infections.
When is a Healthcare Provider Negligent?
Whether or not you have a valid medical malpractice claim against a doctor or hospital depends on whether someone was negligent. Negligence is a breach of a standard of care that causes another person harm.
During a medical negligence claim, you must prove:
- Duty: You must prove you had a doctor-patient relationship with a physician, which would require that physician to uphold a certain standard of care.
- Breach: You must present evidence, including a medical expert’s testimony, that the physician violated the standard of care.
- Causation: You must show that the breach of the standard of care directly and proximately caused your injuries.
- Injury: You must show you suffered physical harm, such as a worsening condition or a new injury or condition.
Washington’s Standard of Care
Based on Washington pattern jury instructions, the negligence by a general healthcare provider is:
- A [Type of health care provider] owes to the patient a duty to comply with the standard of care for one of the profession or class to which they belong.
- A [Type of health care provider] has a duty to exercise the degree of skill, care, and learning expected of a reasonably prudent [health care provider] in the State of Washington acting in the same or similar circumstances at the time of the care or treatment in question.
- Failure to exercise such skill, care, and learning constitutes a breach of the standard of care and is negligence.
Did Your Doctor Fail to Get Informed Consent?
Another type of medical malpractice is a doctor failing to obtain informed consent from a patient. Informed consent means you have been told about the medical treatment, the potential risks and complications of the treatment, and have agreed to the treatment.
Informed consent is always required unless a physician must provide care as an emergency life-saving measure. If you were injured from medical care you did not consent to, then you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor.
Who Should You Name in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
After speaking with a medical malpractice attorney and retaining a medical expert, we all may agree there is evidence of medical negligence. The next step is determining who to hold liable.
The most obvious answer is the medical provider who directly caused your injuries, such as the surgeon who made a mistake during your procedure, the emergency room doctor who failed to properly diagnose your injury or the nurse who improperly administered a drug.
You also may be able to sue the medical professional’s employer. We may recommend you name the facility where you were examined, tested, or treated and suffered the injury in the lawsuit. However, this becomes more complicated if the professional is not a hospital employee and is, instead, an independent contractor.
Just because a doctor has staff privileges and can admit a patient to a hospital or perform certain aspects of care at the facility does not mean they are legally an employee of the hospital. If they are not an employee, the hospital may not be liable for the doctor’s conduct.
When we handle your case, we look closely at the medical provider’s background and employment situation. When possible, we will name the negligent doctor’s employer in the malpractice suit to increase the chances of a successful recovery.
How Long Has it Been Since You Were Injured?
Another important factor is how much time has passed since the alleged doctor or hospital negligence. Washington’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice is generally three years from the date of the negligent act or conduct.
Call Menzer Law for Help Today
You should speak with an experienced Seattle medical malpractice lawyer about whether you or a loved one experienced an unfortunate outcome or an injury resulting from medical negligence. Through a medical malpractice claim, you can demand compensation for your medical bills, past and future pain and suffering, and other damages.