Few things are more distressing than when a medical procedure or operation, which you expected to improve your health, actually makes things worse. While the majority of medical professionals (a term which includes physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, and more) are both skilled and conscientious, they do sometimes make mistakes. If you or someone you love has suffered because of a mistaken diagnosis or treatment, you might be wondering if this qualifies as medical malpractice.
Mistakes vs. Medical Malpractice
It’s important to note that a “bad outcome” – a treatment or surgery that did not produce the desired results – does not automatically equal “malpractice.” According to the legal definition, medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider performs an act or an act of omission that deviates from the accepted norms of care (called a “standard of care”) which then causes injury or damage to the patient.
Unfortunately, these incidents are more common than we’d like to think. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), medical negligence ranks third in the leading causes of death in the United States, following heart disease and cancer. And in 2012, more than $3 billion was spent in payouts for victims of medical malpractice.
Key Factors in Proving Malpractice
In order to bring a malpractice lawsuit, you must be able to prove several elements of your case:
A doctor-patient relationship existed between the plaintiff and the defendant.
The “standard of care” fell below accepted standards or deviated from the norm. In other words, the healthcare provider did not do what a reasonable person would have in that situation. This would be considered “medical negligence,” which is a big factor in the case.
The provider’s actions or lack of action is directly connected to the injury or damage the patient suffered.
The patient suffered “quantifiable harm” as a result of the provider’s negligence.
Bringing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Because a case must meet stringent criteria in order to be classified as medical malpractice, these cases are often complicated from the very beginning. Some cases can take months, even years, to conclude. Considering the fact that medical malpractice can seriously disrupt and significantly reduce your quality of life, however, it’s often worth it. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine whether your case is a solid one worth pursuing.
Arkansas Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice
Each state has specific deadlines for filing lawsuits. In Arkansas, the standard deadline states that you must file a medical malpractice suit within two years of when the alleged malpractice occurred. Beyond two years, you have no legal rights to file a suit against the healthcare provider.
There is an exception to this standard deadline, however, which is called the discovery rule. This would apply if a foreign object was left in a patient’s body, for example. If the object was discovered more than two years after the incident, and it is determined that the patient could not have reasonably have discovered it sooner, then the deadline for filing is one year after the date that the object was discovered.