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3 tips for dealing with a medical error that causes harm

Medical errors can impact a patient and the patient's entire family. When you are the person who suffered harm, dealing with the fallout can be difficult. You might not be able to interact with your children like you need to. Your relationship with your spouse might suffer.

Handling all of this as you deal with physical pain is immensely challenging. As you work to decide what to do, you should consider these three points.

What you should know

#1: Understand duty of care

Doctors owe patients a specific duty of care. This duty of care isn't universal; instead, its standard depends on the information available to the doctor, and on his or her training and experience. Duty of care is based on what another doctor would do if confronted with similar factors.

You couldn't expect a small-town general practitioner to make a diagnosis of a rare cancer in the same manner as a world-renowned oncologist who works at a cancer center with innovative technology. Proving duty of care is difficult because it can hinge on another doctor having to testify in the case.

#2: Cope with the emotional impact

Patients of medical malpractice and their family members all have to cope with the emotional impact of the error. For the patient, this can mean having to learn how to move past the harm and begin to live life as normally as possible.

For a patient's family, this can mean understanding that they likely couldn't have prevented the error from occurring. Professional help is sometimes needed to cope with the emotional impacts. The cost of counseling can be prohibitive. Taking steps to get the funds to help is imperative so that lasting emotional harm doesn't occur.

#3: Make a decision about pursuing compensation

Financial damages are possible when medical errors harm a patient. You can attempt to recoup some of those damages by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. The circumstances of the case dictate the parties responsible. While the medical professional is usually a defendant, the medical facility and the insurer might also be defendants in the case.

Naming the appropriate defendants and showing how the error caused a patient harm (and financial impact) are the backbones of these cases. You may need medical experts to help you prove your claims by testifying in court or providing information about how the doctor should have handled your case.

Get the legal counsel you need

Talk to a medical malpractice attorney about your case if you're not sure. In most cases the consultation is free, and you can get the important answers you need to proceed.

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