Medical Malpractice Lawyers in Virginia
TL;DR: If you believe you or a loved one were injured as a result of a doctor’s carelessness or negligence, please contact the medical malpractice lawyers in Virginia at The Smith Law Center today for a free case review.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- What is Medical Malpractice or Medical Negligence?
- Liability for Medical Malpractice in Virginia
- Types of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
- Benefits of Working with a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
- Contact a Virginia Medical Malpractice Law Firm
Medical malpractice lawsuits are one of the most complicated types of personal injury cases. Medical malpractice lawyers in Virginia understand the details about the law and how it can be difficult to bring medical professionals to justice. The Smith Law Center has been successfully handling cases of hospital negligence for close to 70 years. We have a proven track record for holding healthcare workers accountable when they have failed to meet the minimum standard of care. Whether you discovered this page for your own needs or on behalf of a loved one, you can trust our team of experienced advocates to protect your rights.
Below you will find helpful information for understanding when you may have grounds for legal action as well as other necessary points to consider if you are thinking about filing a lawsuit against a medical provider for negligence.
If you believe you were injured or lost a loved one due to a healthcare professional’s carelessness, please call us at (757) 244-7000 or contact us using this short form. We are available 24/7 to answer your questions free of charge.
WHAT IS MEDICAL MALPRACTICE OR MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE?
In short, medical malpractice occurs when a patient is injured as a result of a healthcare professional’s intentional or unintentional negligence. The American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys (ABPLA) lists the following criteria for defining medical malpractice and hospital negligence.
What defines medical malpractice or hospital negligence?
- The standard of care is violated. The standard of care is a universally-recognized set of expectations for what is considered “acceptable medical treatment by reasonably prudent healthcare professionals under like or similar circumstances.” When a medical professional fails to meet this standard, it may be deemed negligence.
- Doctor negligence resulted in injury to the patient. As one of the most challenging parts of any hospital negligence lawsuit, the patient must not only prove the medical professional was negligent, but that the said negligence directly resulted in the patient’s injury. Both proof of negligence and an injury must be present for it to qualify as a medical malpractice case.
- Significant damages resulted from the injury. For a case to be successful, the potential recovery amount must be reasonably greater than the cost of litigating it. Medical malpractice cases are highly expensive to pursue. Thus, there must be clear evidence of a patient’s life-altering hardship to warrant enough compensatory damages for covering the legal fees as well as the patient’s projected losses.
LIABILITY IN VIRGINIA MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LAWSUITS
Several parties can be held liable in these types of cases. These include:
- Outpatient facilities
- Nursing homes
TYPES OF MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LAWSUITS
An anesthesiologist has a highly responsible job in the operating room. Even a small mistake in the level of drugs administered can prove serious or even deadly to a patient. When an anesthesiologist’s error is not caught quickly and corrected, a patient can suffer catastrophic injuries in a matter of minutes.
A 2009 study by the medical journal Anesthesiology found anesthesia mistakes are linked to about 34 deaths in the United States annually and are a contributing factor in more than 275 other patient deaths. Human error is a factor in up to 87 percent of cases.
The most common types of anesthesia errors include:
- Anesthesia overdose
Side-effects of an anesthesia overdose include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Breathing problems
- Mental or physical impairment
- Prolonged periods of unconsciousness
- Traumatic brain injury
Even patients who received a local anesthetic for minor surgery can suffer side effects of an anesthesia overdose or worse. There have been well-documented cases in Virginia of children who died under anesthesia administered by dentists.
- Failure to Properly Monitor Patients
The failure to monitor patients correctly during surgery can lead to serious or fatal injuries in the operating room, including brain injury or death. The anesthesiologist is responsible for regulating a patient’s level of consciousness during procedures as well as oxygen levels.
- Administering Too Little Anesthesia
The level of anesthesia given to a patient is based on body weight, gender and age. Too little anesthesia can lead to a terrifying experience during a surgical procedure in which the patient is conscious but paralyzed and unable to speak. The patient feels the extreme pain of the procedure but cannot understand what is happening. This kind of anesthesia error can result in extreme psychological trauma.
- Failure to Correctly Intubate
The anesthesiologist must intubate the patient during surgery to allow breathing. This is crucial because a failure to maintain proper airflow to the patient can result in brain injury or even death. Ensuring proper breathing is a meticulous process. Anesthesiologists may cause injuries during intubation by failing to take adequate care.
- Failure to Research a Patient’s Medical History
Medical professionals must check records to establish whether a patient is allergic or will have a reaction to a certain drugs used during anesthesia.
As one of the most complex types of medical malpractice lawsuits, birth injuries due to a medical professional’s error are unfortunately common. Depending on the type of birth injury, symptoms may not be obvious right away and won’t become apparent until a child shows developmental delays.
To learn more about common types of birth injuries and filing a birth injury lawsuit, see our birth injuries page.
When a child suffers from a birth injury, the parents may have grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a hospital. It is often a challenge finding out what really happened in the delivery room, and an experienced Virginia birth injury lawyer can investigate the circumstances and hold medical professionals to account.
Mistakes made by doctors during surgery can be devastating to a patient.
Causes of Botched Surgery
Demanding schedules and surgeon burnout can dull a medical specialist’s eye for detail. However, surgery requires exacting skills and total concentration. When surgeons operate on patients while they are overexerted, both can ultimately suffer and pay a great price.
Doctors have a long checklist before they can operate on a patient. This includes fully examining the patient’s history, adverse reactions to medication or anesthesia, previous surgeries and anything else that could cause complications during the operation. In spite of meticulous preparation requirements, surgeons may cut corners. A lack of preparation can have serious consequences.
Performing an Incorrect Procedure
Although it is rare for a doctor to carry out the wrong procedure, it happens. On occasions, surgeons remove the wrong body part. This is a devastating ordeal to recover from. A doctor may mix up charts or receive incorrect information. Surgeons can also operate on an area that does not need surgery, causing unnecessary pain and suffering.
At times, there are cases of junior doctors who have been allowed to perform operations that are above their pay grade or without adequate training or supervision. When events go wrong in the operation room, they can unravel fast. It’s important to have an experienced and properly qualified team performing procedures.
In certain cases, defective equipment can cause injuries during surgeries. Equipment such as the Da Vinci robotic system sparked lawsuits against the manufacturer after patients suffered burns.
Leaving Objects in a Patient
Doctors typically utilize a wide range of tools during an operation. Foreign objects like surgical sponges and forceps have been left inside patients on occasions. These can cause severe internal damage or serious infections.
Improper Care After a Surgery
A hospital’s duty of care to a patient does not end with the operation. Doctors must follow up and look for signs of infection or other complications. If an operation was botched and the patient suffers pain and other complications, the doctor has a duty of care to rectify the issue as soon as possible rather than concealing it.
If you believe you have been harmed by botched surgery, seek medical attention immediately. Contact the hospital and inform authorities. You should also speak to a medical malpractice lawyer in Virginia as soon as possible for advice on how to proceed.
Dental malpractice refers to poor practice by a dental provider that leaves the patient with an illness, injury, or results in death. A substandard dentist or hygienist can cause serious injuries and even fatally harm a patient.
Dental malpractice is more common than many people realize. According to the National Practitioner Data Bank, one out of every seven medical malpractice cases involves a dentist.
The Center for Health Journalism reports how even an apparently minor mistake can cause serious health implications.
While there are instances of dentists who intentionally harm patients, these cases are extremely rare. Dental malpractice is usually caused by negligent or poorly trained dentists.
Causes of Dental Malpractice
A dentist or orthopaedic surgeon can be sued for:
- Unsterile equipment leading to infections
- Failure to diagnose oral diseases and mouth cancer
- Nerve injuries
- Tooth extraction complications
- Root canal injuries
- Incorrect administration of anesthesia
- Drug complications, such as with Novocaine
- Crown and bridgework mishaps
- Wrongful death
- Poor orthodontic treatment
- Unnecessary tooth extraction
- Failure to consider a patient’s medical history
Being given incorrect treatment is not necessarily grounds for filing a lawsuit. An oral practitioner must have caused harm for a patient to have grounds to sue.
Dentists may also be sued for failing to obtain a patient’s informed consent to a medical procedure. Most dental practitioners get new patients to sign consent forms at the outset, inform them orally of what they intend to do and supply documentation.
Injuries From Dental Malpractice in Virginia
Dental malpractice is associated with a wide range of injuries. Many of them are serious and debilitating, such as:
- Paralysis in the jaw, tongue or lips
- Permanent loss of feeling or sensation
- Permanent damage to the jawline
- Excessive bleeding
- Cracked teeth
- Bacterial infections
- Gum damage
- Loss of the sense of taste
- Heart attacks from improperly administered anesthesia
Deaths Under Anesthesia During Dental Treatment
One of the most tragic consequences of dental malpractice is the death of a patient under anesthesia. Children in particular are the most vulnerable. There is a lack of transparency over the deaths of children during dental treatment. An estimated 100,000 to 250,000 pediatric dental sedations are performed each year. However, no data is kept on the number of fatalities caused by pediatric dental anesthesia.
At the Smith Law Center, our attorneys have successfully represented families and individuals in dental malpractice claims for decades. If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at (757) 244-7000.
Heart Attack Misdiagnosis
Heart attacks are the leading cause of death in the United States. However, many are preventable with timely diagnosis and treatment. Sadly, thousands of heart attacks are missed by medical professionals or improperly diagnosed. Not all heart attacks are survivable. However, the failure to diagnose a heart attack or a delay is a factor in about 10,000 cases a year.
Contrary to common belief, the symptoms of a heart attack are not obvious each time. Rather than extreme chest pain, the patient suffers diverse symptoms that can be confused with something else.
Heart attacks are often missed for the following reasons:
- Incorrect Diagnosis
Minor heart attack symptoms often mimic other health conditions like heartburn, acid reflux, or even anxiety attacks. A medical professional may not realize you are having a heart attack.
- Few Symptoms
Heart attacks can also have minimal symptoms such as nausea, fatigue or shakiness.
- Normal EKG Readings
Heart attacks are measured with electrocardiograms (EKGs). Although EKGs are usually reliable, they can be inaccurate at times. In spite of this, doctors rely heavily upon them when deciding if cardiac arrest has occurred.
- Patient Stereotypes
Older, overweight men with a history of hypertension, high cholesterol or past heart disease are more likely to suffer a heart attack. Unfortunately, medical professionals can overlook signs of a cardiac arrest in those who don’t fit this demographic profile, including younger women. Statistics show women die of heart attacks just as often as men.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for Heart Attack Misdiagnosis
A wide range of medical professionals can be sued for medical malpractice over heart attack misdiagnosis, treatment delays that led to a patient’s death or other serious complications. This includes:
- ER doctors
- Consulting physicians
- Triage nurses
- Interns and medical students
- Cardiologists and other specialists
- Hospitals and other medical facilities
The Smith Law Center files lawsuits against hospitals, doctors, and nurses across the country for heart attack misdiagnosis. If you suspect an irregularity in the treatment of your loved one, please talk to us. We offer free consultations. See our medical malpractice results or call us at (757) 244-7000.
Hospitals, outpatient facilities, nursing homes, and other medical treatment centers owe a duty of care to their patients to provide a clean and infection-free environment. However, about 14,000 Americans pick up infections at hospitals in any given year. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates one in 20 patients will contract a hospital-associated or hospital-acquired infection (HAI) every day.
The HAI Prevalence Survey published by the New England Journal of Medicine in 2014 reported an estimated 722,000 HAIs were found in U.S. acute care hospitals in 2011.
The top ten most common hospital infections include:
- Pneumonia 22%
- Surgical-site infection 22%
- Gastrointestinal infections 17%
- Urinary tract infections 13%
- Primary bloodstream infections 10%
- Eye, nose, ear, throat or mouth infections 6%
- Lower respiratory tract infections 4%
- Skin and soft-tissue infections 3%
- Cardiovascular system infections 1%
- Bone and joint infections 1%
Most Common Cause of Hospital Infections
The most commonly reported pathogen related to hospital associated infections is called Clostridium difficile, which is linked to 12% of healthcare-associated infections. Also known as C. diff., it is a relatively recent strain that has grown more virulent and resistant to drugs. While under 100,000 hospital stays were associated with C. diff in 1993, the number climbed to 336,600 by 2009 according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. C. diff causes fever and life-threatening diarrhea.
Sepsis After a Hospital-Acquired Infection
Sepsis is one of the most serious potential consequences of an HAI, occurring when a patient’s body shuts down, injuring tissues and organs as a result of the infection. It can be fatal, and every second counts in terms of diagnosis and treatment. Although there are no simple diagnostic tests for sepsis, medical staff is responsible for recognizing the warning signs and symptoms in patients. Failure to do so may be considered medical malpractice.
Hospitals may be liable for infections by failing to:
- Create a sterile environment during operations.
- Clean instruments like catheters that cause bloodstream infections via the central line
- Clean stethoscopes and doctor’s white coats. Doctors’ ties were found to be a major cause of infection.
- Diagnose patients with infections in a timely manner before they spread the infection
If you were injured due to a hospital-acquired infection, you may have grounds for legal action. Call the Virginia medical malpractice lawyers at The Smith Law Center today at (757) 244-7000.
Medical Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis
Many medical malpractice lawsuits result from the wrong or delayed diagnosis of a serious condition. When a doctor’s diagnosis error leads to incorrect, delayed, or lack of treatment, the patient’s condition can worsen. It may be too late to treat the illness once a proper diagnosis is made.
Not all instances of incorrect diagnosis are grounds for legal action. It does not necessarily mean a doctor was negligent if he or she improperly diagnosed or took too long to diagnose a condition. If the error did not result in the patient’s harm, there won’t be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Doctors can and do make diagnostic errors even when exercising reasonable care. However, the key question is whether the doctor breached the relevant medical standard of care in the circumstances. Would a doctor with similar training and background have made the same diagnosis? Your medical malpractice attorney must look at whether the healthcare professional acted competently.
Medical malpractice and medical misdiagnosis cases can be challenging, since the patient must prove the misdiagnosis caused the injury or illness to become more serious than if a correct diagnosis was made.
Common Types of Medical Misdiagnosis
Cancer – A delayed cancer diagnosis or mistakenly determining it to be benign could be fatal for a patient. Alternatively, patients can also receive an incorrect cancer diagnosis, causing them to unnecessarily suffer harrowing treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Lymph node inflammation can also be mistaken as flu.
Asthma – Asthma may be wrongly diagnosed as recurring bronchitis with possibly fatal consequences.
Heart Attack – Mistaking a heart attack for a panic attack, indigestion or a muscular issue can be deadly for a patient.
Celiac Disease – Many people with Celiac are mistakenly diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulitis, and other intestinal conditions. This can lead to long-term intestinal damage or severe reactions.
Stroke – Research by the American Heart Association found younger people who suffer stroke symptoms are frequently misdiagnosed with migraines, vertigo, or believed to be intoxicated from alcohol.
Fractures – Doctors may diagnose a bone fracture as a sprain.
In most medical misdiagnosis lawsuits, the doctor who made the diagnosis is the only person who can be sued. Patients may not be able to sue the hospital or medical provider where they were treated. Not all doctors are employees of a hospital, as many are independent contractors. A lawsuit is brought against the doctor’s personal insurance policy.
In rare cases, other medical professionals can be sued. However, nurses, lab technicians, consultants, and specialists can only be sued if they played a role in the negligent misdiagnosis.
You may be angry about a misdiagnosis, but you will not have grounds for legal action if it did not cause you any harm.
Here are important questions to ask:
- Will the injury impact your chances of improving healthwise?
- Would your outcome have been more positive with an earlier diagnosis?
- Did you lose an opportunity to fix the problem earlier?
- Is a misdiagnosis likely to shorten your life-span?
Surgery Without Informed Consent
Informed consent requires a doctor to provide information about the medical condition of a patient and the available medical care options before a procedure. The patient must have all of the facts at his or her disposal before making a decision with potential long-term health implications.
Informed consent forms the basis of mutual trust between a healthcare provider and a patient. If a doctor fails to adequately inform a patient about the possible implications of a medical procedure and he or she develops complications, the doctor can be sued.
These types of cases often involve patients developing complications from an operation or other procedure that their doctor failed to warn them about.
Patients must be informed of the:
- Purpose and nature of the suggested treatment
- Procedure’s benefits
- Alternative treatment
- Risks and possible side-effects
When a patient consents to treatment, this may impose certain limits on his or her legal recourse. However, it does not mean they have no recourse to sue if a hospital or healthcare provider fails in a duty or is negligent.
Informed consent may be given orally or in writing. Typically, doctors give patients consent forms for them to sign. This may be difficult to obtain at times, such as when the patient is in a serious or unconscious state or when no family member is able to give it on the patient’s behalf.
When the patient is a child, the parent or guardian is required to consent to any treatment, unless emergency treatment is required when a parent or guardian is unavailable to consent. The exception to this rule is if the minor seeks treatment for a sexually transmitted disease, or for drug and alcohol treatment, and does not want a parent to know the nature of the treatment.
Damages in an informed consent case are different from those related to a typical medical malpractice negligence action. A patient may recover damages even when a medical procedure was successful. In a negligence case, a patient is required to show he or she was injured.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN A VIRGINIA MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LAWSUIT
Medical malpractice lawsuits typically take time to resolve and are more likely to go to trial. This is because healthcare providers have sophisticated and well-developed legal teams to help protect their interests. It takes an experienced lawyer to understand how to navigate these types of cases.
Here are a few helpful points to consider when filing a medical negligence claim.
Statute of Limitations
If you believe you were injured as a result of doctor or hospital negligence, there is a time limit during which you are able to seek damages. Under Virginia law, the deadline to file a medical malpractice lawsuit is within two years from the date the injury occurred. This is known in the legal realm as the statute of limitations. There are certain exceptions to this, though they apply in special circumstances, such as when a patient could not reasonably detect an injury.
The Four D’s & The of Burden of Proof
When a medical malpractice case to go to trial, the plaintiff must provide proof in four areas. These are referred to by the National Center for Biotechnology Information as the “Four D’s of Medical Malpractice”:
- Duty – What the standard of care was at the time of the alleged malpractice
- Dereliction – That the medical professional deviated from this standard of care
- Direct Cause – How this error directly resulted in the patient’s injury
- Damages – What damages should be awarded
WHY HIRE A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LAWYER IN VIRGINIA
How can a medical malpractice lawyers in Virginia help you? For most, the benefits don’t become clear until you consider the challenges of a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Challenges in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
For one, medical malpractice cases are complex and often difficult to prove. Several precautions are already in place to help protect doctors from liability and proving that the doctor’s deliberate or unintentional error qualifies as negligence is required for a case to be considered.
Medical malpractice cases require expensive resources. This often includes experts, specialists, investigators and credible witnesses to testify that the standard of care was in fact, violated. These are resources that your lawyer must be able to cover the cost of in order to dissect the doctor’s own testimony and/or documented care. Negligence is seldom immediately evident and the emphasis here is that it must be proven beyond doubt, both before a judge and a jury.
Medical malpractice cases require experience taking on large teams of defense lawyers. As with large corporations, medical providers are well-prepared when it comes to defending themselves. It is essential that your lawyer not only knows what to expect, but that he or she has proven experience standing trial against large defense teams such as those used by hospitals and doctors in medical malpractice cases. There is no substitute for experience here, and your lawyer ought to have it.
Why Hire Medical Malpractice Lawyers in Virginia
Consider enlisting the help of medical malpractice lawyers in Virginia for the following reasons:
- Interpreting the law and legalese. Unfortunately, the legal realm is not a level playing field and you will need an advocate on your side who knows how to navigate the jargon, endless documents and the intricacies of medical malpractice law.
- Valuable resources. A qualified attorney has a trove of valuable resources at their disposal, including specialists, investigators, expert witnesses and access to valuable assets to help build the strongest case possible on your behalf. Be sure your lawyer has the financial means to properly prepare for your case.
- Negotiation skills. The right lawyer not only understands the monetary value and projected worth of your losses but will be able to effectively convey that in a negotiation and secure the best possible outcome for your case. You want an attorney with the experience, poise and tenacity necessary to face the intimidation of insurance companies and negotiate favorable compensation on your behalf.
- Trial experience. When settlement negotiations fail, as they do at times, your lawyer will need the wherewithal to take your case to trial. Having a trained, proven advocate on your side in the courtroom could make or break your case outcome. Be sure to choose a lawyer who can litigate your case before a judge and jury if it becomes necessary!
CONTACT A VIRGINIA MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LAW FIRM
At The Smith Law Firm, we understand that this may be a trying time for you and your family. Now is the time to focus on your healing, and allow our experienced team to shoulder the task of protecting your best interests. Time is limited for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, so we urge you to contact us today.
If you have questions about your potential case or would like to understand your options, the Virginia medical malpractice lawyers at The Smith Law Center are available to help! Please call us for a free, private case review at (757) 244-7000 and we will be happy to discuss the details surrounding your situation.
VERDICTS AND SETTLEMENTS
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SPEAK TO US NOW FOR FREE
Your legal questions answered, completely free of charge.
IF WE DON’T WIN, YOU DON’T PAY
There are absolutely no out-of-pocket fees for filing a claim.
DELIVERING RESULTS SINCE 1949
We are one of Virginia’s largest and most successful law firms.