Doctors and other health care providers do not always treat patients professionally. The result for the injured patient in an accident can be severe, including significant medical complications or even death. At the offices of Purcell Law, we represent people who are injured as the result of such medical malpractice, including negligent treatment by doctors, dentists, psychiatrists, chiropractors, nurses and other health care providers.
Medical negligence or "malpractice" occurs when a physician or other health care provider fails to adhere to established medical standards, leading to personal injury or death. If you've been a victim of this negligence, you need to contact an Orange County medical malpractice lawyer immediately.
While a simple accident is not always enough to constitute malpractice, a death or personal injury caused by the failure to provide reasonably appropriate care or the failure to diagnose detectable illnesses may be malpractice.
We aggressively investigate and pursue claims for catastrophic injuries and death arising out of:
- Birth trauma related to premature birth or pregnancy complications
- Failure to diagnose or the misdiagnosis of cancer and other diseases
- Surgical errors, including inappropriate or negligently performed surgery
- Inappropriate or dangerous treatment practices
- Doctors practicing out of their specialty
- Psychiatric/mental health counseling negligence
- Lack of informed consent by the patient to medical procedures
Doctors must undergo years of training to do their jobs properly. Unfortunately, in the current health care crisis, many hospitals and medical clinics are hiring doctors who are not qualified for their jobs. Obstetricians must be extremely well-trained and alert in dealing with complications in pregnancy and delivery. Accidents in these areas can result in severe brain and nerve damage, causing cerebral palsy or other nervous system problems for the newborn.
In California, it seems some doctors are trying to do things beyond their expertise, with very negative results. We have been seeing a rash of cases involving complications with Botox treatments and serious mistakes in Lasik eye surgery.
Lasik eye surgery to correct vision problems is an exacting art and requires a doctor's steady hand. If your Lasik eye surgery made your vision problems worse, it may be time to talk to an Orange County medical malpractice lawyer. Similarly, a dermatologist attempting plastic surgery can leave an unlucky patient horribly disfigured.
Medical malpractice is misconduct by medical professionals in relation to the evaluation, care and treatment of patients, and for the most part, it is grounded in negligence law. To recover on a claim of action for medical malpractice, the plaintiff must establish the following:
- The physician's duty to the plaintiff (usually a "physician-patient relationship")
- A violation of the applicable standard of care
- An injury or compensable damage
- A connection between the violation of the standard of care and the injury (causation)
The plaintiff must establish through the testimony of experts in the same field of medicine as the defendant that the defendant failed to provide care and treatment comparable to the standard of care required for professionals in that field, and that said failure on the part of the defendant thereby caused the injuries to plaintiff. The mere fact that a negative result occurs from care and treatment does not in itself prove malpractice.
Defendant health care professionals will assert any number of arguments in defense of malpractice claims, which can create significant obstacles for a plaintiff. Some of these arguments include informed consent of patient, inherent risk of the care or treatment provided, human error as reasonable expectation, or that the medical records fail to show any error and do not support a claim of malpractice. It is rare that physicians' medical records will clearly indicate a mistake made by the physician. Fortunately, circumstantial evidence is a legitimate way to prove medical negligence.
Failure To Diagnose
As in negligence law, a plaintiff must prove that the damages he/she has suffered were proximately caused by the malpractice of the defendant doctor. Because most plaintiffs are already sick or injured when they come to the doctor for treatment and care, the plaintiff, through the testimony of his/her expert(s), must differentiate the damages that would have resulted even if the plaintiff had received appropriate medical care from the damages that actually resulted from the malpractice. It is sometimes difficult for a plaintiff with serious pre-existing medical problems to prove that the malpractice worsened or failed to prevent a worsening of his/her medical condition. Causation must be proved to a reasonable degree of medical probability, and mere "possibility" is generally not sufficient to provide that proof. If all the evidence and testimony fails to show that it is "probable" that a given outcome could have been avoided by a particular treatment, then there exists insufficient proof.
In relation to the issue of informed consent, the plaintiff need not show that the health care provider was negligent in failing to obtain his/her consent to treatment. The law provides that a conscious patient has the right to choose whether to obtain medical treatment and requires that a health care practitioner clearly indicate to the patient what the diagnosis is, the nature of the proposed treatment, any risks associated with the treatment, alternatives to that treatment along with their associated risks, and the risk of no treatment. Failure to provide such is a violation of the patient's rights. Informed consent does not involve a question of the standard of care within a particular medical field, and there is no requirement that a plaintiff provide expert testimony that reasonably prudent health care providers within that field provide that information to their patients. However, expert testimony may be required to show the nature of the risks and the alternatives to treatment.
It is important to distinguish between the consent form signed by many patients, the doctrine of informed consent and the concept of medical malpractice. The fact that a consent form was signed is evidence of informed consent, but it is not conclusive. Evidence may be introduced as to the contents of the form and the time and circumstances of the signing. Furthermore, the fact that a consent form mentions a particular risk or the fact that a physician advises the patient of a particular risk does not mean that the patient has consented to the physician committing medical malpractice in bringing about the personal injury or damage of which the patient was warned. For instance, the fact that a patient was advised that there is a danger of nerves or vessels being severed during a surgical procedure does not relieve the physician of the obligation to perform the procedure in a medically appropriate manner. The consent of the patient operates only for those injuries that were not avoidable even with the exercise of appropriate care. In such a case, the patient would be permitted to show negligence in the performance of the procedure, despite the fact that he or she was warned of the danger.
Because there is often a "code of silence" among physicians, the number of physicians willing to testify on behalf of plaintiffs is limited and the costs for their testimony can be very high. Defendant physicians often have any number of expert witnesses available, including their own colleagues in the community, even when the malpractice is relatively clear. Insurance companies, bolstered by a medical profession that believes it should be immune from civil suits, are often willing to fight to the finish on malpractice claims. Settlements, if they occur, rarely occur before trial is imminent.
The result is that medical malpractice claims are expensive and difficult. Proving the claim requires expertise, resources and a willingness to take a claim to trial.
Our Orange County medical malpractice lawyers can help. We have the resources to conduct a thorough investigation of medical mistakes and surgical errors and the ability to utilize experts who can help establish the legal liability of health care providers. We prepare each case as if it were going to trial. If we do not receive a settlement offer acceptable to you, we are ready to proceed to trial to get the justice you deserve.
The plain truth is doctors and others involved in health care can, and do, make mistakes that result in injury and death. Our malpractice lawyers also represent wrongful death claims stemming from medical negligence.
If you believe you have been the victim of medical/health care malpractice, contact an Orange County medical malpractice lawyer to evaluate your case as quickly as possible. Your initial consultation is free and we charge no fee unless we recover damages for you. We have the experience and expertise necessary to maximize a settlement or verdict for malpractice cases.
It costs you nothing to learn if we can help you. All consultations are free. I represent victims on a contingency basis. You'll pay no attorney fees unless damages are recovered.