How Do I Know If I’m the Victim of Medical Malpractice?

How to identify medical malpractice

Some instances of medical malpractice are immediately identifiable, such as waking up from surgery to find that they operated on the wrong limb or performed the operation meant for another patient. However, not all medical malpractice cases are as instantly understood. If you aren’t a doctor yourself, you might wonder if your worsened condition or new symptoms are the result of a doctor’s error or negligence. So, how can you tell if you’re the victim of medical malpractice?

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Malpractice occurs when a doctor/patient relationship exists and the doctor fails to perform according to the standard of care accepted by the medical community. This is an act of liable negligence. A negligent action in a medical malpractice claim occurs when a provider makes a mistake and performs an incorrect medical procedure or treatment. Examples of negligent actions in medical malpractice include the following:

  • Misdiagnosis of a patient’s condition resulting in the wrong course of treatment 
  • Prescribing incorrect medications, prescribing medications to which a patient has a known allergy, administering a contraindicated medication, or prescribing an incorrect dosage of a medication
  • Surgical errors, including wrong patient/wrong-site/wrong side surgeries and surgical implements left behind in body cavities

When a doctor performs a negligent action, the results may be immediately apparent, or the medical mistake may not reveal itself until some time later. Often the patient suffers unnecessary pain, a worsened medical condition, and irreversible harm. With negligent actions, a patient not only endures an incorrect treatment or procedure, but their true condition goes untreated. In cases such as cancer, this can cause advanced disease and result in terminal illness.

Negligence in medical malpractice doesn’t always result from negligent actions. In some circumstances, what a doctor or provider doesn’t do is as harmful to a patient as a medical mistake in a wrongful action done to a patient. Some forms of negligence result from inaction or negligent omissions. When a doctor fails to perform a key action necessary for properly diagnosing or treating a patient, the patient may suffer serious harm.

How Do I Know If Medical Malpractice Caused My Condition?

Some of the following indicators could mean you’ve been injured by medical malpractice:

  • You feel worse after treatment than before
  • Your injury or illness isn’t improving with treatment
  • The treatment is excessive compared to the severity of the problem
  • You’ve developed new or additional symptoms
  • The facility appears disorganized or understaffed
  • The medical provider or facility hasn’t responded to your concerns
  • Lack of informed consent occurred, for example, the doctor performed additional procedures or a different procedure than planned while you were under anesthesia

If you suspect doctor negligence but are unsure if a mistake occurred in your treatment, it’s important to obtain a copy of the complete medical record where the treatment occurred. Then, bring the records to a trusted physician and undergo a complete evaluation. Your trusted doctor may compare your previous condition to your current condition and identify the malpractice through an examination of your records.

Understanding Doctor Liability in a Medical Malpractice Case

If you aren’t sure if you have a medical malpractice case, ask the question often posed to a jury in these cases: “Would another, reasonable medical provider have acted the same way under the same circumstances?” if the answer is no, then you have a valid medical malpractice claim. Doctors have a special duty of care to treat patients at the industry-accepted standard of care. If they breach this duty and a patient is injured and suffers damages, the doctor is liable for those damages. Hiring legal representation from a St. Louis medical malpractice lawyer can be key to recovery.