Every day, Americans trust their lives to medical professionals; and most of the time, their faith is rewarded. However, doctors, nurses, surgeons and health care providers are only human, and sometimes they make medical mistakes. These mistakes can lead to injury, illness — or worse. As reported in Forbes, as many as 200,000 Americans die annually from substandard medical care. If you suspect that you or a family member is a victim of medical malpractice, protect your rights by following this step-by-step guide.
1. Act Fast
It’s better to act on your suspicions immediately and be wrong, then to let suspected malpractice go unaddressed and lose important legal rights. In Florida, the statute of limitations for bringing a medical malpractice claims is two years from when you knew or, should have known about the negligence, so the sooner you act the better. If possible, investigate your options by consulting with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer within weeks, or even days, of the suspected negligence to allow that person adequate time to gather all information necessary to investigate and evaluate the matter.
2. Make a List
Make a list of every visit to a medical professional in the past two years, recording details about what medical professionals told you or your loved one at that time, as well as what treatment, procedures and tests were performed. If pursuing a claim on behalf of a loved one, search through medical bills for dates and types of treatment and write down recollections of treatment and diagnoses for which you were aware of or were present.
3. Gather Potential Witnesses
Contact witnesses such as family members or friends who may have knowledge of the medical care provided and ask them write down what they recall. Have their statements and contact information on hand. Do not try to “bait” their statements by explaining your view of the situation. Simply let them know you are worried about substandard care and that you are trying to determine what took place and who may be responsible. Do not contact anyone associated with the medical office or hospital. In fact, if ongoing care and treatment is needed, stop seeing the medical professional you suspect of malpractice and find a new doctor to get a second opinion.
4. Consult an Attorney
Either before or after you have prepared your notes, speak to an attorney who specializes in medical negligence cases. Your preparation will help the attorney decide whether there is a case to pursue, but try not to “rush to judgment.” A competent lawyer will be able to advise you whether the facts indicate medical negligence or simply an unfortunate result. You should not do anything beyond preparing your notes without consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer. If you work fast, the attorney may be able to recommend a “second opinion” doctor for continuing treatment.
Your consultation does not have to be about your own medical treatment. If you suspect wrongful death in the case of a loved one, meet with an experienced medical negligence attorney as soon as possible. In your time of suffering and grief, it can be easy to put off seeking justice. However, if you or your loved one is truly a victim of medical malpractice, your early actions will ensure your legal right to obtain full compensation for your injuries and may protect future patients from becoming victims in the first place.
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