Michigan Medical Malpractice Law
Medical malpractice occurs where a medical practitioner acts in a negligent manner when treating a medical condition. Malpractice can occur from an action taken by the medical practitioner, or by the failure to take a medically appropriate action. Examples of medical malpractice include:
A medical practitioner may also be legally liable if a patient does not give "informed consent" to a medical procedure that results in a harm to the patient, even if the procedure is performed properly. For example, if a doctor does not tell a patient that a surgical procedure has a 50% chance of causing paralysis, the patient does not have the necessary information to make an informed choice to either have or refuse the operation. If the patient has the operation, and is paralyzed as a result, the doctor may be liable even if the operation was performed flawlessly, as the patient might have refused the surgery if the risks were known. For a health care provider to obtain informed consent, the information must be provided to the patient in a timely manner and in accordance with the accepted standard of practice among members of the profession with similar training and experience.
If the patient is not harmed by the physician's error, the patient cannot recover damages as the result of the error. For example, if a doctor misdiagnoses stomach pain as caused by appendicitis, and surgery discloses that it resulted from a perforated ulcer, if the patient would have required the surgery to repair the ulcer the patient will probably be unable to bring a lawsuit - the surgery was necessary even with the correct diagnosis. However, if the patient was only suffering from indigestion, an unnecessary surgical procedure most likely will support a malpractice action.
Medical malpractice actions have been significantly affected by "tort reform." Michigan has been a pioneer in medical malpractice "tort reform" and has implemented many legal provisions which make malpractice actions both expensive and cumbersome to pursue. Michigan has also imposed caps on non-economic damages. Thus, malpractice cases are very expensive to litigate and your ability to recover damages may be limited by statute. In order to prosecute a malpractice claim, is necessary to seek advice from medical experts who can be very costly to hire. Due to the highly technical nature of medical malpractice litigation, it is usually best to retain an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice law, and who has the resources necessary to develop your case, hire appropriate experts and, if necessary, to take your case to trial.
Sometimes, even when there is a clear case of medical negligence, a suit may not be appropriate. Due to the high costs of litigating medical malpractice cases, some injured people will find that the cost of litigation will exceed the amount of any damages award, and they are forced to choose between abandoning their claim or pursuing it at a financial loss "as a matter of principle."
Medical malpractice law is a highly technical, specialized field. You will find that some medical malpractice attorneys primarily handle birth trauma cases, while others handle surgical errors, and others handle misdiagnosis of cancer, or some other narrow area of medical negligence. If your case is very technical, you should seek an appropriately specialized lawyer.
When you are consulting malpractice attorneys, it is helpful if you can provide them with copies any documents or records that you have, relating to your case. Before hiring a malpractice lawyer, you may wish to read our article on how to hire an attorney. You may also wish to ask the following questions:
Most medical malpractice attorneys take their cases on a "contingency" basis, where the attorney fee is a percentage of the amount recovered from the defendant through judgment or settlement (usually 1/3 of the judgment, after costs and fees are deducted). It is unusual for attorneys to take malpractice cases on a "retained" basis, where the client pays the attorney fees and costs but receives the entire judgment or settlement, as few clients can afford that option. In many malpractice cases, by the time a case reaches trial, costs alone can exceed $100,000.00.
As medical malpractice cases are expensive and difficult, attorneys choose their battles very carefully. Don't feel hurt if an attorney refuses your case, and don't be bashful about requesting a referral to another attorney for a "second opinion".
You may find that an attorney's initial acceptance of your case is conditioned upon a thorough investigation and review of the medical records. You will need to provide your attorney with the names of all physicians who have treated you, so that all of your medical records can be reviewed. It is important that you tell your attorney about all of your doctors and medical conditions, even if you think they don't have anything to do with your case.
When you initiate medical malpractice litigation, you should be aware that it can be a very long, difficult process. You may find yourself answering very personal questions, including in response to "interrogatories" (written questions) and "depositions" (live testimony, taken under oath, often at an attorney's office), and spending a surprising amount of time assisting your attorney with your case. While some cases are resolved quickly, it may take months or years before your case is resolved.
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