Unreported Medical MalpracticeTexas Injury Lawyers Representing Clients throughout Texas and Nationwide These shocking statistics are based on reported medical malpractice, but the fact is that many medical malpractice incidents go unreported. “Reporting Medical Errors to Improve Patient Safety“, an article based on a survey done by Dr. Lauris C. Kaldjian, MD, PhD and five other professionals with medical degrees disclosed these facts about the failure of doctors and nurses to report medical mistakes: “Responses were received from 338 participants (response rate, 74.0%). Most respondents agreed that reporting errors improves the quality of care for future patients (84.3%) and would likely report a hypothetical error resulting in minor (73%) or major (92%) harm to a patient. However, only 17.8% of respondents had reported an actual minor error (resulting in prolonged treatment or discomfort), and only 3.8% had reported an actual major error (resulting in disability or death). Moreover, 16.9% acknowledged not reporting an actual minor error, and 3.8% acknowledged not reporting an actual major error. Only 54.8% of respondents knew how to report errors, and only 39.5% knew what kind of errors to report.” This study indicates:
- Health care practitioners almost never report medical mistakes.
- The more serious the injury from a medical mistake, the less likely it is to be reported by a doctor or nurse.
- Almost all doctors and nurses agreed that reporting medical mistakes improves the quality of care for future patients.
- Almost half of practitioners surveyed did not know how or which medical mistakes to report.
Fixing the Problem of Medical MistakesPartly in response to these studies and others, the national accrediting organization for hospitals (the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, commonly known as JCAHO) created a series of specific National Patient Safety Goal requirements on which it required all hospitals to keep records and report compliance statistics annually. Of the 22 quality-related measures tracked by these Joint Commission standards, a 90% compliance rating was achieved for only 4 (and, remember that 90% compliance means the goal is not met 1 out of 10 times, meaning the mistake rate than be as high as 10%). In general, these Joint Commission Patient Safety Goals are pretty simple, like:
- Use at least two ways to identify patients.
- Make sure that the correct patient gets the correct blood when they get a blood transfusion.
- Get important test results to the right staff person on time.
- Make sure the correct surgery is done on the correct patient and at the correct place on the patient’s body.
- Mark the correct place on the patient’s body where the surgery is to be done.
- Pause before the surgery to make sure that a mistake is not being made.
- Find out what medicines each patient is taking. Make sure that is OK for the patient to take any new medicines with their current medicines.
- Give a list of the patient’s medicines to their next caregiver. Give the list to the patient’s regular doctor before the patient goes home.
- Use the hand cleaning guidelines from the CDC or the World Health Organization. Set goals for improving hand cleaning. Use the goals to improve hand cleaning.
- Use proven guidelines to prevent infections that are difficult to treat.
- Use proven guidelines to prevent infection of the blood from central lines.
- Use proven guidelines to prevent infection after surgery.
- Objects accidentally left in after surgery
- Air embolisms
- Blood incompatibility
- Catheter associated urinary tract infections
- Pressure ulcers (decubitus ulcers or bed sores)
- Vascular catheter associated infections
- Surgical site infections–Mediastinitis (infection in the chest) after coronary artery bypass graft surgery
- Surgical site infections following certain elective procedures, including certain orthopedic surgeries and bariatric surgery for obesity
- Certain types of hospital falls and traumas
- Certain manifestations of poor control of blood sugar levels
The Rights of Medical Malpractice VictimsIn a perfect world, medical mistakes would be promptly reported to patients by doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators and the results of the mistakes would be taken care of by those who made the mistakes so that injured patients or the families of deceased patients were fully compensated for their injuries, losses and damages. This does not happen in the real world of today’s health care. In fact, it is much more likely that medical mistakes will be hidden from patients, as was discovered in the study discussed under the previous section on Unreported Medical Malpractice. This is why it is important to promptly consult a qualified medical malpractice lawyer when a serious injury or death to a patient is thought to be the result of a medical mistake. The medical malpractice lawyers at Bush Lewis are experienced at reviewing cases to determine if the disastrous medical outcome is actually the result a medical mistake. Our experience at Bush Lewis has been that many people are reluctant to contact a lawyer about a possible medical mistake. Often families are busy dealing with the results and aftermath of a devastating outcome of poor medical care and just do not have time or often never even think about contacting a lawyer. Some people think it would be disloyal to their doctors and nurses to complain. Of course, some medical procedures involve risk and we are asked to fill out and sign consent forms warning us of possible complications or perils inherent with the procedure. Both our Beaumont medical malpractice lawyers and our Orange medical malpractice lawyers at Bush Lewis often encounter patients who wonder whether they have signed away their legal rights. The fact is that no waiver or consent form ever gives health care professionals the right to commit malpractice. Every doctor, nurse, dentist, and hospital is required to follow the standards of care that apply to their profession at the time and the place where they care for a patient and no consent form relieves them of the responsibility to be competent. Almost never will a doctor or hospital resolve any medical malpractice claim without the involvement of a competent medical malpractice lawyer. Bush Lewis’ managing lawyer and lead Beaumont medical malpractice lawyer Ken Lewis says: “I have been a trial lawyer since 1977. I am sure that there must have been some fair settlements to patients who were the victims of medical mistakes who did not have lawyers. However, I am not aware of any of them. Even the clearest medical negligence cases are disputed and hard fought by health care providers.” Lead Orange medical malpractice lawyer Chris Smith affirms: “I have not been practicing as long as Ken Lewis, but I know of no medical malpractice cases that have settled without the patient having a lawyer.”
What Is Medical Malpractice?Not all bad medical results are caused by medical mistakes and not all medical mistakes cause a bad medical outcome. Almost every state has special laws that apply to claims against doctors, hospitals and other heath care providers. Texas has a complicated special statute called the Medical Liability Act that defines the requirements of medical malpractice claims, which it calls health care liability claims. These include all claims against a physician or health care provider, including:
- Medical doctors
- Osteopathic doctors
- Registered nurses
- Pharmacists (but not pharmacies)
- Physician assistants
- Nurse practitioners
- Licensed professional counselors (but not psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, HMOs, or blood banks)
- Pathology laboratories
- Drug and alcohol treatment centers
- Health care institutions
- Nursing homes
- Rehabilitation centers
- Hospital systems
- End-stage renal disease facilities
- Home and community support services agencies
- Emergency medical services providers
- Ambulatory surgery centers
- Health service districts
- Assisted living facilities
- The claim is actually one for health care liability against a health care provider;
- The health care provider actually owed a duty to the patient;
- The health care provider violated its duty by not meeting the required standard of care; and
- The health care provider’s breach of the required standard of care actually caused the patient’s injury.
- Assisted living care counseling
- Necessary aids and devices
- Home and vehicle modifications to deal with disabilities
- Non-economic damages such as—
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Physical impairment
- In death cases, grief and loss of the family relationship with the deceased patient
Medical Malpractice Cases Are Very DifficultNot all law firms have the means, resources or high level skills necessary to handle medical malpractice cases. These cases are very technical because they involve health care, medical standards, and complex medical causes, requiring access to expert witnesses who can evaluate and testify to medical malpractice and the financial wherewithal and time commitment to see the cases through to a conclusion. This requires lawyers with the right commitment, experience and integrity. The degree of difficulty in handling medical malpractice cases is evident in the statistics reported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS): The majority of malpractice claims in a study of seven states (which included Texas) were closed without any payment of compensation to those claiming medical injury. Among persons receiving compensation, insurance payouts were highest for claimants who suffered lifelong major or grave permanent injuries. Clearly, patients claiming injuries receive little or no payments for minor injuries. The overall win rate for medical malpractice plaintiffs (27 percent) was about half of that found among plaintiffs in all tort trials (52 percent). Another BJS report indicated that—
- During 2005 an estimated 2,449 medical malpractice cases were disposed of by trial in state courts of general jurisdiction throughout the country, with 99% of those being jury trials.
- Plaintiffs prevailed in less than 25% of medical malpractice trials.
- Successful medical malpractice jury trials garnered relatively high median damage awards. The average awards in medical malpractice jury trials ($400,000) were 17 times greater than the overall median awards in tort jury trials in the 7 state area. These high award amounts may be partially explained by the fact that allegations of wrongful death were asserted in 40% of medical malpractice jury trials with plaintiff winners.
- Before a lawyer can take a health care provider’s deposition in a Texas malpractice case for a victim of a medical mistake, the lawyer must file expert reports showing violations of the appropriate standards that caused the bad medical outcome. These expert reports must be filed no later than 120 days after filing a lawsuit.
- Claims against emergency room personnel must show not only that the provider failed to do what a prudent emergency room provider would have done in the situation but that the provider was grossly negligent (meaning that the provider knew it was the wrong thing to do or not do and would probably cause serious injury or death but did it any way, like a criminal). No other state allows emergency room medicine to be practiced to such a low standard without legal responsibility.
- Non-economic damages in Texas medical malpractice cases are limited to a maximum of $250,000. This means that in many horrible injury and death cases of the elderly and children who have no earning capacity the most that could ever be recovered would be $250,000. Those kind of non-economic damages are never awarded in minor injury cases, so this is essentially a cap on the most serious medical negligence cases and an intentional devaluing of elderly and children patients.
Types of Medical Malpractice
Doctor or Physician Liability for
- Failure to properly diagnose
- Failing to properly monitor a patient’s known condition
- Choosing inappropriate care, procedure, surgery or medication
- Leaving a foreign body or surgical implement in a patient’s body
- Performing unnecessary or wrong surgery
- Operating on the wrong body part
- Abandoning a patient
- Disclosing confidential information
- Anesthesia errors
- Not obtaining proper informed consent for treatment or procedure
- Improperly executing a surgery, procedure or plan of care
- Improperly selecting or supervising specific details of a surgical staff or team
Nurse Liability for
- Failing to or inadequately observing, assessing, intervening, evaluating, rehabilitating, caring for, counseling, or providing health education to patients who are ill, injured or infirm
- Failing to or improperly administering medications or treatments ordered by a physician
- Failing to or improperly administering, supervising, or evaluating nursing practices, policies, and procedures
- Failing to or improperly developing a nursing care plan for a patient
- Failing to provide appropriate nursing care
- Failing to stabilize a patient’s condition
- Failing to prevent further physical or mental harm to a patient
- Failing to appropriately chart or document a patient’s condition
- Failing to appropriately report patient changes
- Failing to procure needed medical intervention for a patient
Hospital Liability for
- Not providing patients with appropriate and usable medical equipment
- Failing to use reasonable care in formulating policies and procedures
- Negligently selecting and credentialing staff
- Negligently supervising staff
- Not keeping premises safe
- Failure to adopt and enforce policies and procedures to prevent infections
- Failure to appropriately enforce policies and procedures
Nursing Home Liability for
- Patient neglect
- Patient abuse
- Patient exploitation
- Inadequate supervision and nursing services
- Inadequate selection and maintenance of medical staff
- Failure to adequately protect patients
Legal Help from Texas Medical Malpractice LawyersOur board certified personal injury lawyers at Bush Lewis are devoted to handling medical malpractice cases throughout Southeast Texas. We bring decades of litigation experience along with our strong commitment to achieve the best results possible for medical malpractice victims and their families. When we take your medical malpractice case, we put our commitment, integrity and experience on the line for you. If you suffer serious injury and suspect medical malpractice is the cause, contact our Beaumont medical malpractice attorneys today for a free initial consultation. Call Beaumont Medical Malpractice Lawyer, Ken Lewis at 409-835-3521. We proudly serve the areas of Beaumont, Orange, Jasper, Anahuac, and Port Arthur, Texas, as well as other areas of Texas. We also accept select medical malpractice cases in other states, where we work with lawyers licensed in those states.
Know This Before An Accident
No one plans to have an accident and no one expects to sustain a serious injury or lose a loved one to death from someone else's actions or mistake. It helps to at least have heard what experienced lawyers say you can do to ease the situation. At Bush Lewis, we think there are some helpful guidelines that we recommend to you. Our lawyers suggest: Learn more.