Aggressive Bellingham Medical Malpractice Attorneys Ready To Fight For You
Bellingham and Whatcom County are home to some of the region’s finest medical institutions, such as Peacehealth, St. Joseph’s Medical Center, and Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, among others. No place is immune to the dangers of medical malpractice errors, however. In fact, the American Medical Association itself lists medical malpractice as the nation’s third leading cause of death.
A medical malpractice claim arises when you are injured because your doctor or other health care provider harmed you in some way by failing to meet the professional standard of care in your diagnosis and treatment. Typically, to qualify as a medical malpractice claim under the law, the claim must meet each of the following characteristics:
- Violation of the standard of care: Certain medical standards are universally recognized by the medical profession as constituting “acceptable” medical treatment. The law acknowledges these standards. And under the law, these acceptable methods of treatment are generally called the “standard of care.” As a patient, you have the right to expect that the health care professionals who are treating you will provide care that is consistent with those acceptable medical standards. While not all accidents are the result of a violation of the standard of care, many are. Proving that the standard of care has not been met and that the medical professional providing treatment was negligent, is a key element of a medical malpractice claim.
- The negligence caused an injury: To legally make an argument that medical malpractice occurred, in addition to establishing negligence and a violation of the standard of care, the patient must also be able to prove that he or she sustained an injury that would not have occurred but for the negligence. The patient must, in essence, prove that that negligence caused the injury at issue.
- Significant damages resulted from the injury: For the expense and time invested in a case to be worth it, the patient must ultimately be able to show that significant damages were incurred as a result of the injury. These damages can include extensive medical bills, pain and suffering, loss of wages, loss of future earning capacity, and more. But to justify the cost and expense of a suit, damages must be connected to and caused by the injury itself.
Medical malpractice claims can take many forms, and there are many ways in which the standard of care can be violated by medical providers. Some of the more common examples of medical negligence that might lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit include, but are certainly not limited to:
- Failure to diagnose or making a misdiagnosis;
- Failing to order proper and necessary tests;
- Performing a surgery that is ultimately unnecessary;
- Surgical errors or surgery performed on the wrong site;
- Discharging a patient from the hospital too early, leading to further health complications;
- Prescribing improper medication or prescribing an incorrect dosage;
- Negligence in medical follow-up or aftercare;
- Disregarding or not taking an appropriate patient history;
- Either misreading, failing to notice, or ignoring important lab results;
- Failure to recognize key symptoms;
- And more.
If you have had one of these experiences or another medical experience that you believe may constitute medical malpractice, you should consult a skilled Bellingham medical malpractice attorney immediately. Certainly, not every negative medical outcome constitutes malpractice, and not every medical mistake amounts to malpractice. On the other hand, many experiences do. An attorney who understands the law will be able to listen to your circumstances and help you understand what compensation you may potentially be entitled to. The standard of care is determined by medical experts who may testify on your behalf if your case goes to trial. A Bellingham medical malpractice lawyer from Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC will fight for you, and will passionately pursue your right to compensation if you have suffered an injury at the hands of a medical provider you trusted. Pursuing justice on your behalf is not only our profession – it’s our passion.
Some of the Nuts and Bolts of Washington Medical Malpractice Law
The following is only a brief sample. Washington medical malpractice law is complex and arcane.
The Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations sets the deadline by which you must either file a lawsuit with a court or forever hold your peace. The basic medical malpractice statute of limitations in Washington is three years from the date of the act – or failure to act – that resulted in harm to the victim. Certain exceptions apply, however:
- The discovery rule: In some cases, you might not even realize that medical error has occurred until years after it is committed. Suppose the doctor left a medical instrument inside your body after surgery, and you didn’t discover it until three years later? The discovery rule will give you one more year to file a lawsuit, starting with the date that you discovered (or should have discovered) the malpractice.
- The victim was a minor (under 18): Special rules apply if the victim was a minor under the age of 18. One of the reasons why is that no one under the age of 18 is permitted to file a lawsuit in Washington. If a child was victimized by medical malpractice at the age of 12 but cannot file a lawsuit until he turns 18, it would not be fair to allow the doctor to have the lawsuit dismissed because the statute of limitations had already expired. Instead, the child’s parent or legal guardian parents or guardians can file a lawsuit on behalf of their child, or the child can file a lawsuit in his name any time between his 18th birthday and his 19th birthday.
- Wrongful death: If the patient dies from medical malpractice, the deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is three years after the victim’s date of death, rather than three years after the malpractice occurred.
Find a knowledgable Bellingham medical malpractice lawyer who can help you answer all your questions.
Under Washington state law, any healthcare-related claim, including medical malpractice claims, must be mediated before they can be resolved in court. Mediation is like negotiation, except there is a third party involved – a trained mediator who will try to facilitate an agreement. Mediation can suspend the statute of limitations by up to one year. If mediation fails, however, either party can file a lawsuit.
Expert Witness Requirements
Washington usually – but not always – requires a medical negligence victim to prove his case using an expert medical witness. An exception can be made when the malpractice is obvious (the doctor removed your left kidney instead of your right kidney, for example).
Unlike many states, Washington imposes no upper limit on non-economic damages (pain and suffering, etc.). Instead, the court has discretion concerning the amount of damages to be awarded.
You Don’t Need Any Money to Retain Us
At Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC, we win 97 percent of our clients’ accident and injury cases. As such, we’re sure you’ll understand why we maintain a “no win, no pay” policy – we either win your case or you pay us nothing. Your bill will not come due until your compensation arrives. Even then, it will be calculated as a percentage of whatever amount you recover. We’re interested in the quality of your claim, not the contents of your wallet.
We Will Take Care of Everything So You Can Concentrate on Recovery
We know you are suffering, and this has got to be one of the worst times in your life for you to have to rise and fight for your rights. That’s OK because we will take care of everything for you with the exception of major decisions in your case, such as whether to accept a settlement offer, which is yours alone to make. Among other services, we will:
- Make sure you get the best medical care
- Help you get your medical bills paid
- Negotiate on your behalf with insurance companies or other defendants
- Make sure you are compensated for all of your loses, both tangible and intangible
Our Practice Areas
Our legal team is experienced in handling a wide variety of personal injury cases, including but not limited to:
- Wrongful death
- Auto accidents
- Motor vehicle accidents
- DUI accidents
- Commercial truck accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Sexual abuse
- Products liability
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How will a court calculate “pain and suffering” damages?
Pain and suffering damages are awarded to compensate you for your physical pain and suffering (other types of damages may be available if you suffered emotional trauma as well). Pain and suffering damages often far exceed the amount awarded for medical expenses. When determining the amount, a court will consider:
- Your own testimony
- The testimony of expert witnesses (your doctor, for example)
- Any tangible physical evidence (X-rays, for example)
Is a nursing home abuse claim considered a medical malpractice claim?
Not in most cases. In most cases, the perpetrator of nursing home abuse is an employee of the nursing home and not a doctor or other licensed medical professional. If your injury or illness was caused by nursing home abuse, however, you can still pursue an ordinary personal injury claim.
Is my case likely to be resolved in court?
According to U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, fewer than one in ten medical malpractice claims are resolved through trial. Instead, your claim will likely be resolved through private settlement. The best way to avoid a trial, however, is to prepare well for one – since a defendant is more likely to offer a fair settlement if he fears to lose at trial.
How are lost earnings determined?
One of the most common ways is by submitting to a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE). An FCE measures the extent of any occupational disability that may have resulted from your condition. This can be important evidence if you are claiming lost future earnings.
Louise undergoes surgery to repair a damaged colon – part of her colon is removed and the remainder is stitched back together. Late that night, she experiences excruciating pain. Since the doctor is not present, the nurse wakes a sleeping intern who, without examining Louise, assures the nurse that Louise’s pain is “normal.” The doctor is not informed of the incident, and it isn’t until three days later that he discovers that her colon had ruptured.
Consequently, Louise contracts sepsis, a life-threatening condition, and her stay in the hospital is extended for two months. Later Louise files a medical malpractice lawsuit against the intern, the doctor, and the hospital, alleging that the intern’s failure to examine her allowed her sepsis to proceed unchecked for three days – allowing the sepsis to take hold and thereby greatly worsening her condition.
The court agrees with Louise’s claim. The intern is held liable for the malpractice, and both the doctor and the hospital are also held liable on a theory of vicarious liability. Since the intern’s negligence did not cause the sepsis in the first place, the measure of the defendants’ liability is the extent to which Louise’s condition worsened during the three days that the diagnosis was inappropriately delayed.
Contact Us Today
Medical malpractice is a lot more common than most people realize, if for no other reason than the fact that most people fail to attribute their symptoms to malpractice on the part of their doctor. Medical malpractice cases can get complex – in fact, most cases require the use of expert medical witnesses to establish liability.
If you have a malady that you suspect may have been caused or worsened by medical malpractice, contact Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC today and speak with an experienced Bellingham medical malpractice attorney. Call, or fill out our online contact form, so that we can contact you to schedule a free consultation and evaluate your options. We take cases from South Hill, Sunnyland, Roosevelt, and elsewhere in Bellingham.