Improper medical treatment generally refers to a situation in which a physician properly diagnoses a patient, but prescribes the wrong form of treatment to cure their medical condition. As a result of receiving improper medical treatment, the patient may sustain further injuries or it may cause their medical condition to worsen.
For instance, if a patient’s medical issue requires serious surgery and their physician only gives them painkillers to resolve the problem, then this may be considered an example of improper medical treatment.
From a legal standpoint, improper medical treatment can give rise to various medical malpractice claims. The reason as to why a patient may be able to sue for receiving improper medical treatment is because the concept involves a physician displaying an act of medical negligence, which happens to be the primary basis of medical malpractice lawsuits.
It is important to note that a patient will only be able to bring an action against their physician for improper medical treatment if they can prove they have suffered actual damages. They must also show that their injuries were caused by the physician’s negligent conduct in treating their medical condition.
Additionally, the patient will also have to show that the physician treated them in a manner that fell below the standard duty of care required of medical professionals according to the laws enacted in their specific jurisdiction.
Finally, as is evident from the above information, improper medical treatment cases can be difficult to resolve without the help of an attorney. Therefore, if you believe you have sustained injuries as a result of improper medical treatment, you may want to consult a local personal injury attorney for further legal guidance.
What are Some Examples of Improper Medical Treatment?
Some conduct that may constitute medical negligence and thus may enable a patient to sue their physician for medical malpractice includes:
- Prescribing the wrong medication or wrong dosage of a medication;
- Providing the correct medication and dosage, but giving the patient either improper or no instructions regarding how to properly take the drug;
- Delaying treatment, which causes the medical issue to become worse or untreatable;
- Failing to follow the mandatory health and safety standards set by the medical industry;
- Prescribing treatment that adversely interferes with other medications or solutions that a patient is currently taking;
- Failing to review a patient’s medical history for allergies or other vital information that a physician should be aware of before treating them; and/or
- Administering treatment too quickly before following proper protocols (e.g., getting informed consent from a patient prior to performing surgery).
Who can be Held Liable for Improper Treatment?
In many cases, a patient who receives improper treatment will most likely sue a doctor for their injuries. As briefly discussed above, the patient will typically do this by bringing a medical malpractice suit against the doctor who caused them harm.
However, a doctor is not the only individual that a plaintiff can sue. There are some improper treatment cases in which other parties can be held liable for damages. Depending on the facts of a case, a plaintiff can also potentially hold the following parties responsible for their injuries, such as:
- Medical specialists (e.g., orthopedists, therapists, etc.);
- Hospital or medical staff;
- Administrative personnel; and/or
- Various other individuals employed in the medical community that may be tied to the injury in question.
As an example, suppose a hospital’s administrative staff consistently inputs the wrong information into their patients’ medical charts. If due to their negligent behavior a patient ends up receiving improper treatment that causes them further harm, then the patient may be able to sue the doctor who treated them, the staffer who erroneously updated their medical records, and in some cases, the hospital organization itself.
What are the Legal Remedies for an Improper Treatment Claim?
Depending on the facts of a case and the laws of a particular state, a plaintiff may be able to recover the following types of legal remedies and damages for their injuries if they win their case:
- Economic damages: Economic damages, also known as special damages, refer to damages that pay for the out-of-pocket costs that the plaintiff incurred as a result of their injuries. This may include expenses, such as prescription costs, medical expenses, hospital or surgery bills, medical device costs, lost wages, and various other injury-related payments.
- Non-economic damages: In contrast to economic damages, non-economic or general damages are those damages that cannot be easily measured. For instance, things like pain and suffering, emotional distress or mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and so forth.
- Since they cannot be quantified and are less concrete than economic damages, states tend to place a damages cap or restriction on the amount that a plaintiff can receive.
- Punitive damages: Punitive damages are only awarded under certain circumstances and only in a handful of states. Also, states that do permit a plaintiff to collect punitive damages for a medical malpractice lawsuit typically limit the amount of damages that a plaintiff can receive. This amount is usually prescribed by a state statute.
- Other remedies: A court may order a medical facility to cease operations or to update their privacy, health, and safety policies. Additionally, a court may also revoke or suspend a medical practitioner’s license.
It should be noted, however, that legal remedies and the amount of damages that a plaintiff can receive will vary from state to state. Also, as mentioned, some states will limit the amount of damages that a plaintiff can receive for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Thus, it may be in a patient’s best interest to contact a local personal injury lawyer about their options for recovery.
Are There Any Legal Defenses for Improper Medical Treatment?
There are a number of legal defenses that a defendant may potentially be able to raise against a claim for improper medical treatment. Some of these defenses include:
- Expired statute of limitations: A statute of limitations is a law that tells a plaintiff how long they have to file a claim. Though many states impose a two-year statute of limitations for improper medical treatment lawsuits, this time limit will usually vary by state. Once the statute of limitations has expired, the plaintiff will be barred from bringing a lawsuit based on that claim.
- A defendant may then raise this as a defense to get the case against them dismissed.
- Contributory negligence: In general, there are three versions of negligence that states apply to medical malpractice lawsuits: contributory negligence, modified comparative negligence, and pure comparative negligence. In states that follow the rules for contributory negligence, a plaintiff can be barred from recovering damages if they are even 1% at fault for their injuries.
- On the other hand, if a state applies pure comparative negligence, then a plaintiff can still recover even if they are 99% at fault for their injuries. This defense can help a defendant reduce the damages that they owe. As for modified comparative negligence states, a plaintiff will not be able to recover if they are 51% or more at fault for their injuries.
- Assumed the risk: A defendant may also be able to assert that a plaintiff assumed the risk. Although this may not entirely get rid of a case, it can serve to reduce the amount of damages that a defendant may have to pay. For instance, if a plaintiff knew they were allergic to a certain medication, did not remind their doctor, and took it anyway, then their actions may act as a defense for the defendant if proven.
Similar to legal remedies, the types of legal defenses that may be available to a defendant will generally depend on the facts of a case and the laws of a particular state. As such, some of the defenses mentioned in the above list may not apply to a certain case. Therefore, defendants to improper medical treatment lawsuits should also consult a local personal injury lawyer to discuss what defenses they may be able to assert in their case.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with an Improper Treatment Lawsuit?
If you believe you have been injured as a result of improper medical treatment and would like to take legal action against your medical practitioner, you should contact a local personal injury attorney about the incident as soon as possible.
Your attorney will be able to apprise you of your legal rights as a patient, can explain how the laws in your area apply to your case, and can discuss what legal remedies you may be entitled to for your injuries.
Additionally, your attorney can answer any questions or concerns that you have throughout the course of your lawsuit, and can represent you in court on the matter. In the event that the opposing party decides to settle, your attorney can also assist you in negotiating a favorable settlement amount as well.