Trusted Seattle Medical Malpractice Attorneys Ready To Help You
Seattle is home to many of the best medical facilities in the state of Washington – indeed, perhaps the best in the entire Pacific Northwest. Institutions such as the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the University of Washington Medical Center, the Virginia Mason Medical Center, and Evergreen Health Kirkland all provide top-tier medical care to residents and visitors alike.
Unfortunately, however, no hospital is completely malpractice-proof. Even the American Medical Association lists medical malpractice as one of the nation’s leading causes of death. In many cases, however, malpractice related deaths and injuries are not even recognized for what they are, because patients lack the expertise to pinpoint medical malpractice as the cause of a negative medical outcome.
Exactly What Is Medical Malpractice, Anyway?
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider’s diagnosis or treatment falls short of a professional standard of care. From a strictly legal perspective, you need to prove the following to win:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed between you and the defendant. This is normally obvious, but it might be difficult to prove if, say, the doctor rendered first aid to you as a passerby on the scene of an auto accident.
- Your healthcare provider failed to meet a professional duty standard of care. Expert medical witnesses are generally required to prove this.
- Your healthcare provider’s failure to meet the standard of care caused you verifiable physical harm. This element might not be met if, for example, your doctor failed to diagnose a condition that would have been just as severe no matter when the diagnosis was made.
- You will also have to prove all of the damages you are claiming through admissible evidence.
Any number of circumstances can ultimately give rise to a medical malpractice claim. While all of the foregoing elements must be proven for a medical malpractice claim to be successful, it goes without saying that the facts of each claim will be as unique as the patients involved. After all, we are all different and unique and have our personal medical history that is different from any other. Nevertheless, some more common situations give rise to medical malpractice claims. These include:
Misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or failure to diagnose
It is not at all uncommon for medical malpractice suits to stem from the misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or failure to diagnose a condition. Certainly, when a diagnosis error leads to incorrect treatment, delayed treatment, or even no treatment at all, a patient’s condition may significantly worsen or death may even occur. It is important to note that a misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or failure to diagnose is not evidence of negligence in and of itself. Indeed, there are certainly times that doctors can and do make diagnostic errors even when conforming to the standard of care. This means that, in a medical malpractice case based on diagnostic error, the patient must prove that another doctor, in a similar specialty and under similar circumstances, would not have misdiagnosed the patient’s illness or condition.
Any number of situations in a medical setting may give rise to what is commonly referred to as a “medication error” and can be caused by the negligence of the medical professional issuing the prescription or of the pharmacy filling it. Medication mistakes can be very serious as they may result in a patient being deprived of necessary medication. It may also put them at risk of having an adverse reaction to either the use of an unintended drug or to receive an incorrect dosage of a drug. Some examples of medication errors include doctors prescribing the incorrect medication, unintentionally giving a patient an incorrect dosage of a medication, failing to take or pay attention to the patient’s medical history of prescription drug use, failure to warn about all risks associated with the medication, and mixing different prescription drugs that should not be mixed, to name a few examples of many.
Certainly, surgery is not without risks. Some of those risks are simply part of the nature of the procedures themselves and cannot be avoided. In other cases, however, surgical errors can be considered medical malpractice if a surgeon’s negligent conduct falls below the accepted standard of care, thereby causing harm to the patient. Some surgical errors are the result of the physician’s incompetence, while others are the result of poor preoperative planning or of inadequate care provided by the physician’s assisting medical team. Examples of some common surgical errors include performing surgery at the wrong site, leaving surgical equipment inside a patient, incision errors, amputating the wrong body part, causing nerve damage through carelessness, and more.
Without question, anesthesia is essential to prevent patients from feeling pain during medical procedures. It is also without question that administering anesthesia is not without risk. Some amount of risk is assumed by the patient who chooses to undergo the procedure. In other circumstances, however, anesthesia errors occur as a result of the negligence of the medical providers administering the anesthesia. Some of the most common anesthesia errors include administering too much or too little anesthesia; failing to review a patient’s medical history to determine how the anesthesia might react with pre-existing conditions, allergies, or other drugs consumed by the patient; doctors administering the wrong type of anesthesia, and failure to properly monitor the patient while under anesthesia.
Giving birth to a child is typically one of the greatest experiences in life. However, as we all know, it is a medical procedure that sometimes can go wrong, resulting in harm to the mother, the baby, or both. And more often than not, what goes wrong during labor and delivery is something that should have been caught by the doctor, midwife, or nurse. And if it was avoidable and caused harm, you may have a case of medical malpractice. Mothers can suffer from potentially life-threatening preeclampsia and eclampsia, both of which should be caught by doctors and treated. For the infant, common birth injuries include, but are not limited to:
- Bone fractures, breaks, and bruises
- Subconjunctival Hemorrhage – bleeding that results from broken blood vessels in the baby’s eyes
- Injuries to the skin or skin irritations
- Failure to thrive
- Oxygen deprivation
- Caput Succedaneum – or swelling of the scalp
- Paralysis (which is typically temporary)
- Cephalohematoma – an accumulation of blood under the membrane that protects the baby’s skull
- Strep infections
- Shoulder dystocia
- Brain damage
- Cerebral palsy
- Erb’s palsy
- Bell’s palsy
- Brachial plexus palsy
Heart attacks and strokes are serious illnesses, and cardiologists have a high standard of care that they must abide by or they may be held liable for medical malpractice. In cardiology, negligent acts tend to fall in one of three categories: failure to diagnose an issue, making a wrong diagnosis, or improperly treating a cardiac issue.
Blood Transfusion Injuries
Blood transfusions save many lives, but the collection, storage, and delivery of transfusions present many opportunities for error. Mistakes in blood transfusion administration are extremely serious and can result in life-long injury and even death. Medical negligence can be involved, and when the following mistakes happen, it is best to seek out the advice of a lawyer.
- Mislabeling blood
- Use of expired blood
- Improper or inaccurate screening of donated blood
- Infusing the wrong type of blood
- Contamination of the blood. This contamination can happen at any step in the collection, storage, or administration of the blood.
- Hitting a nerve with a needle
- Infusing too much or not enough blood
- Delaying an infusion for too long
- Using a needle that is not sterilized or any tools during the transfusion that are improperly sterilized
- Using the wrong size needle
- Not properly monitoring the patient receiving the transfusion
- Missing the signs of a reaction to the donor blood
- Failing to treat a negative reaction
You May Have Only One Chance to Get It Right
While these are some of the more common situations in which medical malpractice errors are found to occur, medical malpractice claims are certainly not limited to these situations. If you believe that you have been the victim of medical malpractice, even if the circumstances in which your injury occurred are different than those mentioned above, you should contact a lawyer immediately. A knowledgeable and experienced attorney who understands medical malpractice law will be able to advise you as to whether or not you have a claim and to represent you if you do.
Additionally, many medical malpractice injuries result in expenses that continue for decades after a medical malpractice claim is resolved. Once you receive compensation, however, it will be impossible for you to go back and ask for more money if you run out later. That is why you must accurately calculate your future damages. Our legal team has extensive experience doing exactly that – and we can put our expertise to work for you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) and why does it matter?
MMI is the point at which your doctor determines that your condition has already improved as much as it is ever going to. This may mean you have made a full recovery, or it may mean that you retain a lingering disability. It is important because it is difficult to reliably calculate how much you should ask for compensation until you reach MMI.
Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit over medical malpractice?
Yes, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit over medical malpractice just as you would over a car crash. Medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuits tend to be more complex than car crash lawsuits, however.
What is the deadline for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit?
The deadline for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is usually three years after the malpractice occurred. Certain exceptions and conditions apply, however:
- If you don’t discover the malpractice until too late to meet the three-year deadline, and if your failure to discover the malpractice was reasonable (the doctor left a sponge in your body after surgery and your symptoms were delayed, for example), you can get another year to file a lawsuit.
- If you were a minor at the time of the malpractice, you have until your 19th birthday to file a lawsuit. Before you turn 18, however, your parents can file a lawsuit on your behalf.
- Under no circumstances will you be allowed to file a lawsuit more than eight years after the malpractice occurred, even if one of the above exceptions does apply.
What is mandatory mediation?
In Washington, you are required to attempt to mediate a medical malpractice claim before you file a lawsuit. You will need concrete evidence of malpractice to prevail, even in mediation. You may even need the assistance of an expert medical witness at this stage.
How are expert medical witnesses used in medical malpractice lawsuits?
At trial, expert medical witness testimony is used primarily to determine the standard of care that should have been observed in your treatment and to determine whether the defendant’s treatment met that standard. The witness might also testify concerning other issues such as your likely future damages or the amount of pain and suffering that you are likely to have endured.
Expert medical witnesses are also useful in settlement negotiations. This is important because the U.S. Bureau of Justice estimates that fewer than 10 percent of all medical malpractice claims are resolved through trial – private settlement is the preferred option.
What is a structured settlement?
A settlement can be paid in two ways. One is a lump sum payment (all at once). Another way is for the court to establish a fund that will payout at certain times (once a month, for example) or upon certain contingencies (unexpected medical needs arise, for example). The latter type of settlement is known as a structured settlement, and it is used mainly when the victim is expected to require long-term medical care.
What is a Functional Capacity Evaluation?
A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) is a way of objectively determining how much compensation you will need for lost earnings. If medical malpractice caused you permanent brain damage, for example, you might find yourself unable to return to your former career, yet still able to perform some kind of work. An FCE is designed to precisely measure the extent of your occupational disability so that you can accurately measure your lifetime lost earnings.
Phil suffers nausea and cramps and complains to his doctor about it. The doctor sends him to a lab for blood tests. When the blood tests return, the doctor misreads the results and therefore fails to diagnose Phil. In fact, Phil is suffering from an untreatable disease with a 100 percent fatality rate. The disease is expected to kill him within two years. Because of the doctor’s mistake, Phil does not learn of his condition until six months later.
Phil files a malpractice claim against the doctor. The claim ultimately fails because, even though the doctor was negligent for misreading the lab results since the disease is untreatable and 100 percent fatal, a timely diagnosis would not have changed Phil’s prognosis. Since the doctor’s failure to diagnose did not harm Phil in any tangible way, no malpractice claim against his doctor can succeed.
You see a doctor about a deep laceration that occurred during a rugby game. While examining your wound, the doctor is distracted and appears fatigued. He stitches up your wound, but he fails to use sterilized medical instruments. A few days later, your laceration develops a serious infection that requires a week’s hospitalization. If you can prove that the doctor used unsterilized instruments, your medical malpractice claim will be quite strong.
How We Can Help
Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC has been serving personal injury victims for nearly half a century now. After handling over 2,500 cases involving over 3,000 injury victims and bringing home over $100,000,000 for our clients, there is not much that can happen in a personal injury case that will surprise us – we have just about seen it all.
Other Types of Cases We Frequently Handle
A Seattle medical malpractice attorney at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC is experienced in resolving all kinds of personal injury and accident cases, including:
Wrongful death: What value can you place upon human life? Although any human life is priceless, all the legal system can do is award money damages. Washington state wrongful death law allows just that, and the amounts can be quite substantial.
Auto accidents: The aftermath of a serious accident can include pain and suffering, medical bills, lost earnings, and a host of other economic and non-economic losses. All of these losses can be compensated if liability can be proven, but this can be challenging for a non-lawyer in light of Washington’s arcane rules of evidence and civil procedure.
Motor vehicle accidents: The human body is fragile, and a motorcycle crash highlights this inherent fragility the way that almost nothing else can. Most motor vehicle accidents result from an inattentive motorist who simply isn’t looking out for motorcycles.
DUI Accidents: When you are injured by an intoxicated driver or your loved one is killed that way, criminal prosecution is a must. Unfortunately, however, a criminal prosecution might not result in you being compensated for your losses. A civil claim can make this happen, however, whether through a courtroom verdict or (more likely) a private settlement.
Commercial and semi-truck accidents: Every 15 minutes someone in the US is killed or seriously injured in a truck crash accident. With all of the Interstate highways serving the Seattle area, these kinds of accidents are inevitable. Winning your semi-truck accident claim is not inevitable, however, which is why you are probably going to need the assistance of a personal injury attorney in Seattle to make it happen.
Bicycle Accidents: Bicyclists enjoy no frame protection whatsoever, and they are not able to accelerate themselves out of trouble the way other vehicles can. Bicycle accidents are frequently the fault of the motorist, and injuries tend to be serious.
Pedestrian Accidents: Pedestrians generally have the right of way, but this right is not always respected. Thousands of pedestrian accidents occur every single day in Seattle and a significant portion of these results in the death of the pedestrian.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): A traumatic brain injury can drastically affect your lifestyle and your ability to earn a living, and it can be caused by anything from an auto accident to a gunshot wound. In some cases, symptoms might not show up for hours or even days after the accident that produced them.
Just about any type of injury can trigger a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. We also handle product liability, defective drugs, slip and fall accidents, and more.
Contact Us Today
If you suspect that you may have been victimized by medical malpractice, contact a skilled Seattle medical malpractice lawyer at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC for a free consultation, where we can explore your options and answer your questions. We can be reached by phone or online. We serve clients in Pioneer Square, Queen Anne, Redmond, and elsewhere in Seattle. And remember: If we don’t win your case, you will owe us nothing.