Medical malpractice is when a healthcare professional makes a mistake that results in the patient suffering an injury. Medical malpractice can be an act or omission. It usually involves deviating from the standard course of treatment. Examples include a surgeon leaving a sponge in a patient or operating on the wrong leg. Medical malpractice includes surgical mistakes, failure to diagnose, or misdiagnosis, failure to treat, or not treating a condition within the acceptable standard of care, birth injuries, and prescription drug errors, such as prescribing the wrong medication.
Alabama has a two year statute of limitations for medical malpractice. The clock starts on the date of the act giving rise to the claim. The two year statute of limitations applies to physicians, EMTs, surgeons, dentists, medical institutions, and other healthcare providers. It applies to actions based on a contract or tort, the latter being a wrong that one party commits against another.
If the cause of the action is not discovered and could not reasonably have been discovered within two years from the act, then the patient or their family may commence an action within six months from the date of the discovery of the injury. Alternatively, the patient or family may file within six months from the date of discovery of facts which would reasonably lead to a discovery of the injury, whichever is earlier. A plaintiff may not file a medical malpractice action more than four years after the act. The exception to this rule is that an error to cure giving rise to a claim that occurred before September 23, 1975 shall not be barred until the expiration of one year from that date.
A party filing a medical malpractice lawsuit will need to show why the healthcare professional’s act was a mistake, the injury that the act caused, and the damages that the patient or their family suffered. A hearing or trial may require hiring expert medical witnesses who explain the standard course of action to treat the patient’s condition. Such experts can also explain what route the healthcare professional should have taken.
Medical negligence is distinct from medical malpractice. Medical negligence involves a health care professional’s failure to meet the medical standard of care. Medical malpractice is treatment that causes a patient to suffer an injury.
A patient or family who wants to sue for medical malpractice should take the following steps:
1. Find an alternate health care professional to rectify the problem that the initial health care professional caused. Follow all steps in the recommended treatment.
2. Avoid posting any information about the patient’s injury, recovery, leisure, and professional activities on social media.
3. Gather documents that relate to the patient’s financial losses, including medical bills, transportation to and from health care centers, and missed work.
4. Consult a medical malpractice attorney about the potential for success or settlement in the case. Get an estimate of damages that the court could award.
5. Speak to the medical malpractice attorney about what duties the patient should be taking on at work to best facilitate a full recovery.
A personal injury attorney can help an injured party or their family determine what documents are needed to show damages. They can also discuss the likelihood of prevailing in a lawsuit, negotiate a settlement, and represent the injured party in court. Alabama does not have a cap on the amount of medical malpractice damages, including compensation for pain and suffering.
Alabama requires that a medical malpractice lawsuit include a detailed description of the act that makes a healthcare provider liable. The lawsuit must contain a statement of the location, date, and time of each act that caused the injury. Such a lawsuit must also show the medical standard of care that was appropriate in the circumstances under which the patient was treated and how the healthcare provider did not meet that standard. In addition, a medical malpractice lawsuit must prove that the healthcare provider’s treatment caused the patient to suffer an injury they would not have had otherwise.