When we think of medical malpractice cases and who is likely to get sued for negligence and other causes of injury to their patients, we usually think of medical doctors, especially surgeons. But are doctors really the only healthcare professionals who can be held accountable for medical malpractice? As it turns out, the answer is no.
There is a range of healthcare professionals other than physicians that could be held responsible when a negative outcome occurs. They could be nurses, anesthesiologists, therapists, technicians, dentists, physicians’ assistants, pharmacists, and more. In fact, all medical care professionals can be held accountable.
But it doesn’t end there. Hospitals, clinics, and all kinds of other healthcare institutions and facilities can also be held accountable when something goes wrong due to negligence on their part, and a person is injured as a result.
Surgeons and physicians may have much more malpractice insurance than nurses and physical therapists, but that doesn’t mean that other healthcare professionals cannot or should not be held accountable. On the other hand, medical facilities and institutions likely carry far more insurance than even the physicians who work there.
You can find more details in the Delaware Code on healthcare medical negligence insurance and litigation. And you should absolutely talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney if you have been injured due to medical malpractice.
Malpractice Committed by Medical Professionals Other Than Doctors
If a medical professional, even if they are not a doctor, makes mistakes while they treat their patient, they can absolutely be held responsible. Whatever their area of expertise may be, they are held to the standards of their profession.
A nurse, for example, may not have met the accepted standards that can be expected from nursing care. If they injure you as a result of their negligence or faulty treatment, they will be liable for the damages.
The process of proving that their negligence or faulty actions were indeed responsible for your injuries is essentially the same as it would be if the doctor had been responsible. But there are also differences.
Many nurses don’t carry malpractice insurance, and even if they do, it likely won’t be enough to compensate you for your losses. However, the nurse would have been working under the supervision of a physician, so the physician could be held responsible as well.
In addition, nurses tend to work within or in association with a medical facility, such as a hospital, a clinic, a group practice, a doctor’s office, or as part of a mobile care facility where they are assigned to visit patients and care for them.
In those cases, the facility that employs the nurses can also be held responsible. After all, the nurse’s employer would be responsible for hiring and employing competent staff, and they generally have much more insurance coverage than their nurses.
A nurse has multiple responsibilities when it comes to patient care, from checking medical equipment to administering medication. To prove that a nurse was responsible for your injuries, you must show they made an error of negligence, such as that they failed to respond to an emergency, administered the wrong medication, or gave their patient the wrong dosage of their medication. They may also have failed to monitor or adjust equipment properly, or failed their patient in a range of other ways.
To have a valid case, you must meet the usual requirements: that there was a nurse/patient relationship, that the nurse made a mistake due to negligence, and that the mistake led to the patient’s injury and ensuing damages.
What Qualifies as a Medical Malpractice Case?
If you have been hurt by faulty or negligent medical care, and you believe you may have a medical malpractice case, you should first consult an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who can review your case and evaluate how strong it is.
Of course, medical malpractice suits can be very challenging. Not only are expert witnesses required, at least usually, but the lawyers of the defendants and their insurance companies are going to fight back hard since they stand to lose a great deal of money. In addition, there are several rules that must be followed.
The Statute of Limitations
You also have to act quickly. Among the many things that make malpractice cases challenging is the statute of limitations. This means the case must be filed within a certain timeline. Fortunately, Delaware has a longer statute of limitations than some other states. Still, the case must be filed within two years, although under certain circumstances, that timeline can be extended to three years.
The longer timeline applies if the injury could not have been discovered within the expected timeline by the affected person because the symptoms of the problem were delayed. This sort of thing can happen in situations where, for example, the surgeon left an object inside the patient’s body that didn’t cause identifiable symptoms until a later time.
In addition, there is an option to get an extra 90 days by sending a certified letter to the defendant, announcing to them your intention to investigate. Still, time is of the essence, and any delays can cause problems.
Affidavit of Merit
Delaware law also requires that the plaintiff file an affidavit of merit as part of the complaint at the beginning of the lawsuit. For this, a medical expert witness must provide sworn testimony that there are credible grounds to believe that the normal standard of care was not adhered to by the defendant and that this has likely caused the injuries that were inflicted on the plaintiff.
Are There Limits on How Much Can Be Awarded in Delaware Malpractice Cases?
Some states limit how much can be awarded in a malpractice suit. Delaware does not have such limits. However, if the plaintiff was partially at fault for the injury, the award may well be proportionately reduced.
As you can see, suing for malpractice is challenging, and you will need to work with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. To get the help you need, call or email us for a free case evaluation. We will be happy to assist you.