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What to do When Your Trusted Family Physician Harms You

Written by Berkowitz

stethoscope that is labeled medical error

Malpractice Attorneys Fighting for Victims of Physician Injuries or Negligence in Connecticut

Most patients have a family practitioner that they see. The family doctor handles their annual physicals, monitors prescription medications, and might treat a single patient for several years or even their entire life.

Family practitioners are trusted by their patients because they have long-term care relationships with their patients.

While family doctors are trusted, they are not perfect. Errors might occur, injuries could result, and in some cases, a patient could suffer a life-threatening complication.

However, when is an error or injury the result of negligence? Furthermore, is it in your best interest to file a lawsuit against your trusted family doctor? Most family physicians that have cared for a patient for a long duration are not sued; simply because the patients know and trust the medical doctor.

When a serious injury occurs, however, and the patient endures multiple damages or long-term complications, they might feel as though they have no choice, but to file a lawsuit.

Primary care physicians have medical malpractice insurance for this very reason. Mistakes do occur, but when those mistakes happen, and a patient suffers serious complications, a doctor and their insurer must make it right.

Reviewing the Facts about Lawsuits Against PCPs

Primary care physicians (PCPs), are less likely to be sued compared to other specialties like OB/GYNs and surgeons. Also, male PCPs are more likely to be sued than female PCPs per one study.

Most Common Reasons Family Doctors are Sued

Patients sue their family care doctor for a variety of reasons. However, there are seven reasons a PCP is more likely to see a lawsuit in his or her career:

  • Failure to diagnose or delayed diagnosis.When a patient is not feeling well, they seek a diagnosis from their PCP. The most common cause of a lawsuit against a PCP is diagnosing incorrectly or failing to diagnose promptly. The most common diseases associated with this misdiagnosis or delayed treatment is breast cancer. Sometimes diagnosis involves following up with a patient for a month to determine if their symptoms have resolved with treatment or time. Other times, it requires taking diagnostic measures, such as blood work and scan, to rule out other conditions.
  • Negligent prenatal care. A family physician might find themselves in the center of a malpractice lawsuit when they improperly prescribe medications to a pregnant patient or incorrectly monitor the patient during her prenatal care.
  • Failure to consult with a specialist. A physician should consult with a specialist if they have not corrected or diagnosed a patient after three visits. Also, they should refer to a specialist if a patient’s condition or illness is outside their scope of experience and capabilities. Working alongside a specialist ensures patients are diagnosed and treated quickly. However, some physicians fail to pass off patients to specialists or fail to consult with a specialist and treat rather than accurately diagnose.
  • Negligent prescribing. Family physicians write thousands of prescriptions to their patients each year. Ranging from heartburn medication to anti-depressants and even pain medication. However, any doctor writing a legal prescription must follow protocol. This includes monitoring the patient’s progress, conducting follow ups, and reviewing a patient’s history to ensure that there are no harmful interactions. Also, writing clear and correct prescriptions ensures the patient receives the right medication for treatment.
  • Failure to obtain informed consent. Patients trust family doctors, but that does not mean they can get a patient’s consent without informing them of all risk factors and results of a proposed treatment and diagnostic plan. All physicians are required to inform their patients requesting a consent form signature.
  • Poor communication with the patient. A majority of lawsuits filed by PCP patients and families are because the patients do not understand what went wrong in their treatment. When a PCP fails to communicate with his or her patients, naturally the patient becomes frustrated. The patient then feels as though they have no option but to file a lawsuit to gain insight.
  • Poor documentation. Physicians must accurately and meticulously document all patient care and symptoms. While it is tedious work, doing so ensures that they do not accidentally miss a patient’s complaint, symptom, or possible medication interaction.

Should You Sue Your PCP?

Before suing a family physician for malpractice, you must determine if your case meets the criteria for a malpractice claim. This criterion includes answering the following:

  • Did your doctor breach the acceptable standard of care?
  • Did his or her breach cause your injury?
  • Did you suffer financial, physical, and emotional damages as a result?
  • If the doctor had not breached their standard of care, would you have been injured?

Naturally, you must also answer these questions for an attorney, because a lawyer has the expertise to determine if your case qualifies for a malpractice claim.

Unsuccessful Treatments are Not Malpractice

Sometimes, patients might think they have a claim against a physician for an unexpected or unsuccessful result.   Poor results in medical treatments are common, but not malpractice. Even routine procedures can lead to unexpected issues. If those complications are not foreseeable or preventable, the doctor is not liable for any injuries his or her patient endures.

Instead, it is the acceptable standard of medical care. A doctor must follow the acceptable level and protocols. If they deviate from the accepted standard and injure you, then you might have a claim for malpractice.

Can a Patient Avoid Malpractice Issues?

Sometimes, a patient can be the defining line between negligence and successful treatment.

Patients must also perform due diligence and participate in their healthcare. While they rely on the expertise of their physician, patients must ask questions, research, and possibly seek a second opinion any time they question a diagnosis. Doing so might result in fewer injuries.

My Doctor Apologized, So He is Guilty

It is common for a family care doctor to apologize when something goes wrong with a treatment or a patient suffers. After all, they have treated that patient for several years.

However, when a PCP apologizes, are they guilty of malpractice or just being human? Some doctors are so fearful of a lawsuit that they will not apologize and show their human side. However, being compassionate is not a sign of guilty.

Today, there are laws in place that prevent patients from using apologies against physicians in a malpractice lawsuit. While your doctor might tell you he or she is sorry, you cannot use that apology as a claim that the doctor was guilty.

In Connecticut, a physician’s apology cannot be used against them, even if you have a case for malpractice. Pursuant toStatute Section 52-184d(b), a civil action brought against a physician by an alleged victim cannot rely on statements, gestures, expressions of apology, sympathy, condolences, or compassion.

Connecticut’s lawmakers enacted these laws to prevent physicians from being sued for apologizing. However, apology or not, this law does not preclude you from filing a lawsuit against your doctor if they caused a foreseeable and preventable injury.

Steps to Filing a Malpractice Claim in Connecticut

If you feel your family physician caused you harm, and you feel the injury was preventable, then you can start with the steps for filing a malpractice claim.

Step One: Consult an Attorney

You must refer to a medical malpractice attorney in CT immediately. An attorney helps you determine if you have a claim, but also reviews the evidence, collects documentation, and ensures your claim is completed correctly.

Step Two: Review the Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is a timeframe for which you have to file your claim after the injury or discovery of the injury. If you pass the time limit, you no longer can file or collect on your malpractice claim — regardless if the physician was grossly negligent.

When you meet with an attorney, one of the first steps they complete is a review of your injury, when it occurred, or you reasonably knew it happened, and how long the statute gives you to file your claim.

Step Three: Following Pre-Suit Requirements

Depending on the facts of your claim, your attorney might complete pre-suit requirements, such as going to the medical review board, sending a notice of intent to the local hospital, or conducting a medical examination and receiving a certified Affidavit proving you have a legitimate case.

Step Four: Medical Records

Your attorney goes through an in-depth process of pulling and reviewing your medical records. Those records are also reviewed by medical experts retained by your lawyer. The medical expert is in the same field das your physician and practices in the state. He or she reviews your medical records looking for discrepancies, issues, or signs of malpractice.

The same expert reviewing your records for your attorney is likely to also testify in court about your physician’s negligence and how the negligence contributed to your injury.

Step Five: Notifying Proper Parties

Next, your attorney must notify the insurance companies involved in the lawsuit and your physician’s hospital or clinic (if they are an employee of one). In some cases, your notification will automatically trigger an insurance review. The review could include an independent medical examination (IME) by the insurance company’s physician.

The IME reviews your medical records and conducts a physical exam to see if your injuries are as severe as you claim.

Step Six: Negotiations

Before your case goes to trial, your attorney and the insurance company will likely complete several sets of negotiations. Most medical malpractice cases settle out of court. However, if the insurance company is unwilling to meet your demands or they are purposely offering low settlements, your attorney might feel they have no choice but to take the case to court.

Start with the First Step: Speak with a CT Malpractice Attorney

If you suspect that your private or family care doctor has injured you, talk to an attorney. While it is difficult to accuse a family physician, you must hold them accountable for causing your injuries and damages.

Contact Berkowitz and Hanna, LLC today to schedule a no-obligation consultation. Call us or contact us online to get started.