Frequently Asked Questions
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Medical Malpractice

  1. What is medical malpractice?
  2. What are examples of medical malpractice?
  3. When should I suspect that medical malpractice might have occurred?
  4. How can I determine if a doctor, hospital, or other health care provider has committed medical malpractice?
  5. Should I report an act of medical malpractice to any organization or institution?
  6. What is the Statute of Limitations for filing a claim for medical malpractice in the State of Minnesota?
  7. Whom can I sue for medical malpractice?
  8. How do I know if I have a valid medical malpractice case?
  9. What is meant by "a breach of the standard of care" in a medical malpractice case?
  10. If I can prove that the defendant violated the standard of care, does that mean I win my case?
  11. Can I sue a doctor for malpractice even though my case did not involve a surgery?
  12. What are some of the common allegations in malpractice cases involving surgery?
  13. What damages can I recover in a medical malpractice case?
  14. What must be shown to prevail in a medical malpractice case?
  15. What is the first step in pursuing a medical malpractice claim?
  16. Will I have to go through a trial in court before my case is finished?
  17. Ive heard that lawsuits take a long time. Is that true with malpractice cases?
  18. If the consent form I signed prior to a procedure is considered valid, can I recover any damages in a malpractice action against my doctor?
  19. How do I prove that I have been injured through medical negligence?
  20. How much money will I receive if I win my medical malpractice case?
  21. Do I need to retain an attorney in a medical Malpractice case?
  22. How quickly should I contact an attorney?

Questions & Answers

What is medical malpractice?
Answer:
Medical malpractice is negligent treatment by medical providers, such as a doctor, hospital, nurse, chiropractor, therapist, or other medical practitioner. If a medical practitioner fails to act in accordance with accepted standards of practice in the diagnosis or treatment of a condition, they may be responsible for all damages that result, including pain and suffering, medical bills, loss of wages, or a death.

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What are examples of medical malpractice?
Answer:
Example 1 – A patient has headaches and goes to the Emergency Room. The doctor there fails to do a required standard test that would have disclosed the presence of a weakened blood vessel in the brain. If detected, the weakened blood vessel could be easily repaired by surgery. Because the doctor didn’t do the standard test, the vessel ruptures, and the patient dies. The doctor and hospital would be responsible for the losses to the family, including loss of the support, love, and comfort that the decedent would have provided. 
Example 2 – During abdominal surgery, a doctor becomes distracted and cuts into the patient’s liver, seriously damaging it. A review of the case by other surgical experts demonstrates that in her distraction, the doctor failed to follow accepted protocols and procedures. The clinic would be liable for the medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of wages that result. 
Example 3 – A patient goes into the hospital to have a mammogram, a standard breast examination. The radiologist reads the resulting x-rays, but mixes up the report with another patient’s. As a result, the patient is told she has advanced breast cancer and needs to have her breasts removed immediately, when in fact, her test was perfectly normal. The doctor and hospital are responsible for the resulting surgical costs, infections, loss of wages, disfigurement, and other damages that result.  

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When should I suspect that medical malpractice might have occurred?
Answer:
Sometimes, the presence of medical malpractice is obvious, such as Example 3 above. However, the mere fact that the result of a surgery or treatment is not what the doctor predicted or expected does not necessarily means that medical malpractice has occurred. Rather, anytime a person learns that a doctor, hospital, nurse, chiropractor, or other medical provider did not follow accepted medical procedure, they should be concerned that medical malpractice has occurred. Quite often, the presence of a medical practice case can only be learned through consultation with an attorney experienced in handling medical malpractice matters.

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How can I determine if a doctor, hospital, or other health care provider has committed medical malpractice?
Answer:
As noted above, this is often not possible for the layperson to determine. Instead, review of voluminous medical records, x-rays, or other tests might be necessary to determine whether the medical provider was negligent.

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Should I report an act of medical malpractice to any organization or institution?
Answer:
Yes, if you have reason to suspect that a doctor, hospital, nurse or other medical provider had failed to act in accordance with the requirements of standard medical practice, this should be reported to the State Medical Practices Board.

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What is the Statute of Limitations for filing a claim for medical malpractice in the State of Minnesota?
Answer:
For injury, the general Statute of Limitations is four years and for wrongful death, it is three years. But specific cases may have other time limits applicable to them that would be shorter than the four or three years respectively. In addition, the date on which your claim arose can affect the length of the Statute of Limitations because of changes in the law.

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Whom can I sue for medical malpractice?
Answer:
The responsible medical provider, and any other organization such as a medical corporation or hospital for which that individual worked.

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How do I know if I have a valid medical malpractice case?
Answer:
Generally, the only way to make such a determination is for review by an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who in turn will consult with medical experts in the field.

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What is meant by "a breach of the standard of care" in a medical malpractice case?
Answer:
Standard of care is the expected method of treating a condition, injury, or disease. Failing to follow that standard of care is negligence or in other words, medical malpractice.

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If I can prove that the defendant violated the standard of care, does that mean I win my case?
Answer:
Not necessarily. You must also prove that damages, such as medical bills, loss of earnings, and pain and suffering or death resulted from that failure to follow the standard of care.

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Can I sue a doctor for malpractice even though my case did not involve a surgery?
Answer:
Absolutely. For example, failing to identify and treat a disease like cancer can give rise to a claim.

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What are some of the common allegations in malpractice cases involving surgery?
Answer:
Operating on the wrong body part, causing injury to healthy organs that should not have been damaged by the surgery, and failing to correct the condition that was supposed to be treated by the surgery.

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What damages can I recover in a medical malpractice case?
Answer:
Where injury results, the damages include medical bills, both past and future, wage loss, both past and future, and past and future pain and suffering, as well as any disfigurement caused by the malpractice. In wrongful death cases, damages include medical bills, loss of support for family members, and loss of the aid, comfort, society, and companionship that the deceased person would have provided to the family members had he or she lived.

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What must be shown to prevail in a medical malpractice case?
Answer:
You must establish both that the medical treatment violated the standard of care, that is, was negligent, and that damages resulted.

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What is the first step in pursuing a medical malpractice claim?
Answer:
Obtaining a review with an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can review the medical records with the appropriate expert.

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Will I have to go through a trial in court before my case is finished?
Answer:
Not necessarily. Many medical malpractice cases are settled without the necessity for starting a lawsuit, but others may have to go all the way through to court. There is no way to know early on how long a case will take to resolve.

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Ive heard that lawsuits take a long time. Is that true with malpractice cases?
Answer:
Sometimes, but not always. Variables that affect the length of time a case takes include complexity of the case, the willingness of the insurance company for the doctor, hospital, nurse, chiropractor or other medical practitioner to resolve the case, and how long it takes to fully determine your damages from the medical malpractice.

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If the consent form I signed prior to a procedure is considered valid, can I recover any damages in a malpractice action against my doctor?
Answer:
Yes. All that the consent form is doing is indicating that you have been informed of risks of the procedures. If the doctor is negligent in performing the care or surgery, you may still recover against that physician.

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How do I prove that I have been injured through medical negligence?
Answer:
In most cases you need to have expert testimony, not only on the fact that the doctor was negligent but also what injuries you sustained as a result.

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How much money will I receive if I win my medical malpractice case?
Answer:
There is no way to know this without evaluation by an expert medical malpractice attorney. Even then, attorneys can give general ranges of typical jury verdicts, but ultimately the value of any particular case must be determined either by agreement through settlement or through the verdict of a jury.

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Do I need to retain an attorney in a medical Malpractice case?
Answer:
Yes. Medical malpractice cases are complicated and are invariably hard-fought. It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a layperson to have the expertise necessary to prepare and if necessary try a medical malpractice case.

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How quickly should I contact an attorney?
Answer:
The sooner the better. Memories fade with time and in addition, the sooner a lawyer can be involved and preserve evidence, the more likely it is that the lawyer will be able to bring the case to a successful resolution.

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