Few injuries are as complicated or upsetting as those caused by medical malpractice or hospital neglect. Patients who are admitted into the Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Anne Arundel Medical Center or any other Maryland medical facility have a right to expect an acceptable standard of care that won’t cause additional harm.
However, on occasions mistakes are made by doctors, surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and other medical professionals. Medical malpractice is upsetting for patients because they trust these professionals. They do not want to believe a doctor cut corners or failed to do his or her job properly.
On rare occasions, doctors and nurses have intentionally harmed patients. When you are hurt or sickened at a hospital, it will often be covered up. Doctors may tell you the complications you suffered could not be prevented. While this is true in some cases, it’s important to talk to a hospital neglect attorney to find out if you have a case.
How Many People Die from Hospital Neglect?
An alarming study in 2016 by Johns Hopkins University found medical neglect and malpractice is a major cause of injuries and deaths. The study suggested medical malpractice is the third leading cause of deaths in the United States.
Johns Hopkins University researchers looked at eight years of U.S. data and concluded that more than 250,000 people died every year due to medical errors.
The study suggested hospital neglect is a far more significant cause of deaths than previously believed. It indicated medical errors are the third leading cause of death among Americans.
Before the release of the study, respiratory disease, which kills about 150,000 people a year, was listed as the third leading cause of death by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Official figures may be under-reporting deaths caused by hospital negligence because the CDC’s data collection method fails to classify medical errors separately on a death certificate, according to the study authors, who backed changes to the criteria.
The researchers considered four separate studies that considered medical death rate data from 2000 to 2008, including two that used data from federal agencies.
The Maryland-based medical malpractice research suggested of more than 35 million hospitalizations, over 251,000 deaths stemmed from a medical error. The study authors said this translates to 9.5 percent of all U.S. deaths each year.
How Many People Have Been Hurt by Hospital Neglect?
There is a lack of research into injuries from hospital neglect. However, pointers suggest the issue may be considerably more serious than previously believed. A Heartland Health Research Institute survey in Iowa into the prevalence of medical errors revealed that of around 1,000 Iowans polled almost 1 in 5 (19 percent) experienced some type of medical error.
The survey results involved 1,000 randomly selected adults across the state of Iowa. Hospital neglect attorneys in Maryland also get many calls about medical mistakes and injuries.
When Are Hospitals Liable for the Actions of Workers?
If you are harmed by an employee of a hospital, the medical facility is usually held responsible if the employee hurts a patient by acting negligently and incompetently. If the employee is negligent, careless or fails to follow proper procedures the hospital will usually be held liable for any resulting injuries to the patient.
Hospitals are fast-moving environments with complicated procedures and equipment. Not every mistake made at a hospital constitutes medical malpractice. If a mistake or the failure to follow procedures does not harm a patient, there are no grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
What Are the Main Types of Neglect at Maryland Hospitals?
Hospitals can fail patients in many different ways. Some types of medical malpractice such as leaving a surgical sponge in a patient may be obvious evidence of mistakes once they come to light. Others are less apparent. Here are some common types of hospital neglect and malpractice.
1 Mistakes During Surgery
Often mistakes made during surgery can be horrific. Surgical sponges and instruments have been left in patients. Incisions are made in the wrong places. In some cases, the wrong patient has been operated on.
A surgical error can result in major complications from a routine surgery. If the bladder or colon were cut by mistake, excessive bleeding can cause life-threatening blood clots in the patient’s legs.
An error such as a perforation of the bowel during a routine colonoscopy can cause sepsis and peritonitis which may infect vital internal organs such as the liver, lungs, or kidneys. According to WebMD, more than 4,000 surgical mistakes occur every year in the United States.
Misdiagnosis is a common type of medical malpractice seen by a Maryland hospital neglect attorney. These cases can be very harrowing. Often wrongful death lawsuits are brought against doctors and hospitals who failed to diagnose cancer or heart conditions until it was too late to save a patient.
An incorrect diagnosis alone is not sufficient cause for a lawsuit. For example, if you are wrongly diagnosed with a heart condition and the treatment given, albeit wrong, does not harm you, there are no grounds for legal action.
However, when a doctor’s misdiagnosis leads to incorrect treatment, delayed treatment, or no treatment at all, and a patient’s condition becomes worse due to the misdiagnosis, grounds exist to file a lawsuit.
3 Failure to Treat a Condition
Medical negligence through failure to treat a condition occurs when a doctor diagnoses a condition but then fails to treat it in accordance with the correct standards of care for that condition. This issue is often seen in busy hospitals when one doctor makes a diagnosis but other doctors or nurses fail to read the notes and do not treat the patient in accordance with the diagnosis.
4 Anesthesia Errors
Anesthesiologists have one of the most responsible jobs at a hospital. When a patient undergoes surgery, he or she relies on the anesthesiologist for their oxygen supply and to monitor their vital signs. When an anesthesiologist’s error is not caught and corrected a patient can suffer a catastrophic injury like brain damage or even death in a matter of minutes.
5 Prescription Drug Errors
There are many ways a hospital can be held liable for prescription drugs errors that harm a patient in its care. These include administering the patient the wrong medication or the wrong dosage. An overdose may have potentially catastrophic effects while too little medication may fail to treat a condition.
Labels on medications may be incorrect or a patient is prescribed a medicine that he or she is allergic to because hospital staff failed to read medical notes. In some cases, patients are prescribed a drug that interacts negatively with other medications the patient is taking. A doctor also has a duty to inform a patient of common effects of a medication.
6 Birth Injuries
Giving birth is a high-risk procedure. Recently, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed 700 mothers die every year during childbirth in American hospitals. The United States is the most dangerous place to give birth in the developed world.
What Are The Main Types of Birth Injury Caused By Hospital Neglect?
- Cerebral palsy – a permanent birth injury that affects a child’s motor functions because of weak or overdeveloped muscles.
- Brachial Plexus Injuries – the brachial plexus is a network of nerves that control the baby’s shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands. On occasions, injuries can cause a permanent disability in the child’s arm.
- Paralysis of the Face – An infant can suffer facial paralysis when his or her face is exposed to high levels of pressure during delivery such as from the improper use of forceps or vacuum suction. When an infant is unable to close his or her eye on one side of the face, or there is a lack of movement, it may be the result of facial paralysis.
- Birth asphyxia – When a baby’s brain or other organs fail to receive enough oxygen before, during or after the birth, asphyxia may result. This is a very serious condition that can deprive the baby’s brain of oxygen and cause permanent brain damage.
Should a Lawsuit Be Brought Against a Doctor or a Hospital?
In some cases in which an individual doctor has made a mistake you may not be able to sue a hospital. If the doctor is an independent contractor and not an employee of the hospital, the medical malpractice action should be brought against the doctor only.
It’s not always easy to know if a doctor was an employee. You might assume he was an employee because he was wearing a white coat and working in the hospital. Hospitals should make it clear that the doctor is an independent contractor. A Maryland medical malpractice lawyer can help you with this complex area.
Is a Doctor an Employee of a Hospital?
More and more doctors are independent contractors. This means they are not employees of the hospital but have an agreement with the hospital to use the medical facilities. The pay structure of independent contractors is totally different from that of employees.
When the doctor is an independent contractor as opposed to an employee, you likely will not be able to bring a medical malpractice suit against the hospital you were treated at if the neglect was the fault of the doctor alone. In that case, only the doctor will be liable for any medical malpractice committed. Most doctors who are independent contractors carry their own insurance policy.
When Can Hospitals Be Liable for the Actions of Non-Employees?
In certain situations, a hospital can be held liable for the actions of a doctor who is not an employee. If the hospital fails to make it clear from the outset to a patient that the doctor is not an employee, the patient can sue the hospital for the doctor’s actions or inaction. Hospitals seek to circumvent this problem by informing patients on the admission forms that the doctor does not work for the hospital.
Often, a hospital lacks the opportunity to inform emergency room patients that a doctor is not an employee of the hospital. ER patients are often too badly injured to realize who is treating them and can sue the hospital for a doctor’s medical malpractice.
Another situation in which a hospital may be liable for the actions of an independent contractor medical professional is when the doctor is known to be incompetent but was allowed to continue working at the medical establishment.
Is Doctor Burn-Out a Cause of Hospital Neglect?
More and more doctors are experiencing burn out which is linked to hospital neglect. A CBS story revealed American doctors are often burned out. The story was based on Mayo Clinic research that found these physicians are more likely to make medical mistakes.
A poll surveyed almost nearly 6,700 clinic and hospital physicians. It looked at issues such as suicidal thoughts, burnout at hospitals, doctor mistakes and depression in the medical profession.
Alarmingly, more than 10 percent of doctors said they committed at least one significant medical error in the three months leading up to the survey. Doctors suffering from burnout were twice as likely to be a cause of hospital neglect.
Is There a Cap on Hospital Neglect Claims in Maryland?
Many states place a limit on what you can claim in hospital neglect cases and Maryland is no exception. The General Assembly created a lower cap for medical malpractice cases than for other negligence actions like car accidents or slip-and-falls. The cap is on non-economic damages, in other words, pain and suffering.
The cap on non-economic damages in Maryland medical malpractice cases is $800,000 in 2018. The cap increases to $1 million in wrongful death cases brought by two or more surviving family members. Maryland imposes no cap on economic damages.
What Damages Can Be Claimed in a Maryland Hospital Neglect Case?
If you were harmed at a hospital in Maryland, a hospital neglect attorney can advise you of the type of damages you can make a claim for. They include:
- Extra medical expenses involved in further procedures;
- Lost income as a result of additional time spent in the hospital;
- Pain and suffering;
- Mental anguish;
- A decrease in your quality of life due to the neglect;
- Lost potential for future earnings;
- Loss of companionship in death cases.
Are Patients Who Signed a Consent Form Barred from Filing a Lawsuit?
Before undergoing any medical procedure, a patient will typically be asked to sign an informed consent document. The informed consent form states that the physician has explained the risks inherent in the procedure and the patient understands these risks. A consent form, however, does not prohibit a person from pursuing a medical malpractice case in Maryland.
How Long do Patients Have to File a Hospital Neglect Lawsuit?
If you believe you were hurt by hospital neglect in Maryland, you should not wait too long to file a lawsuit. Maryland has a statute of limitations. The general statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits is three years.
However, patients who are victims of hospital neglect may not always realize their injury immediately. If a hospital fails to diagnose cancer, this mistake will probably not come to light for some time. If a foreign object is left in a patient, it often will not come to light for months.
In Maryland, a patient has three years from the date from which the injury is recognized to file a lawsuit. In most medical negligence cases, there is a five year cut off by law.
In other words, the medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed within five years of the time that the injury occurred, or within three years of the date the injury was discovered, whichever comes first.
There are some noteworthy exceptions. If a patient was under the age of 11 at the time the medical negligence occurred, the statute of limitations “clock” doesn’t usually start running until the child reaches the age of 11.
If a patient was under 16 and suffered an injury caused by the presence of a foreign object or harm to the reproductive system, the filing deadline “clock” starts ticking when the patient reaches 16. If a patient was suffering from a mental disability when the medical neglect occurred in Maryland, or was under 18 at the time, the filing deadline will typically be set at three years from the date when the mental disability ends or the patient turns 18.
Contact a Maryland Hospital Neglect Attorney
Medical neglect is often very complicated. It also occurs more often than many people realize. In 2016, 1,291 medical malpractice payments were made in Maryland, according to the National Practitioner Data Bank.
Taking on a hospital or a senior doctor can be daunting. It’s difficult to know where to start. You should not be discouraged to make your case if you feel that you have been a victim of hospital negligence. An experienced hospital neglect attorney will fight for you. As in the case of motor vehicle accident cases, you pay nothing up front until the outcome of your case is determined.
Please contact our Maryland medical malpractice team today for a free consultation at (410) 694-7291.