We respect and honor our physicians, nurses and other medical providers who save lives and offer us relief from pain and other disabilities. However, like everyone else, medical providers make mistakes that are of commission or omission. Because our health is at stake, a medical error can lead to catastrophic results including death that could have been avoided if the medical provider had acted properly or according to certain standards.

In Massachusetts, you may bring a claim of medical negligence or malpractice against a physician if:

  1. Your provider was negligent
  2. The negligence was the cause of your injury
  3. And you sustained damages as a result of that injury

Standard of Care

Physicians who fail to adhere to a certain standard of care may be held liable for any resulting injuries and damages. The standard of care in medical negligence claims is how an average and careful practitioner in the same specialty and in the same or a similar community would have cared for the patient under similar conditions. For example, a Boston neurologist is accused of malpractice in caring for a patient who sustained brain damage following his admittance to the hospital after a car accident. The inquiry is how an ordinarily prudent Boston neurologist would have handled the care of a patient who suffered a similar injury. If the finder of fact determines that the care would have differed and if followed would not have led to the patient’s brain damage, then the defendant physician may have breached the standard of care and be liable for any resulting injuries and damages caused by the error.

But determining if medical malpractice has occurred can be difficult to ascertain. The following are top signs that medical negligence may have occurred in your case or in that of a loved one.

Signs of Medical Malpractice

  1. Failure to diagnose. This is one of the more common medical errors that occurs. If there is a delay in diagnosing a condition, or if it turns out that the diagnosis was incorrect, then further investigation is needed to determine if a more prudent physician would have diagnosed the condition earlier or arrived at the correct one. For instance, the doctor failed to note certain symptoms or ignored them despite multiple complaints over a period of time by the patient.
  2. Failure to order standard tests. A patient who exhibits certain symptoms indicative of a possible condition, like cancer, should have routine tests ordered. If a physician fails to order the tests and the patient is later found to have cancer at an advanced stage that could have been avoided if tests had been conducted, then there may be a cause of action for malpractice.
  3. A worsening condition. If your or a loved one’s condition continued to deteriorate despite multiple visits to the physician who failed to diagnose the proper condition or neglected to order proper or standard tests, then you should have a second or even third opinion from a different physician. If the condition could have been diagnosed and treated earlier that would likely have prevented further injury, or the diagnosis is different, then the original doctor could be held liable for any damages.
  4. No follow-up. All doctors should follow up with their patients after a procedure to discuss future medical care or to be cognizant of certain symptoms that could indicate an infection or some other serious condition. Be suspicious if your doctor fails to discuss future treatment with you and is ignoring you or is unwilling to answer questions.
  5. A piece of medical equipment was found in your body cavity after a surgery. A common malpractice claim is a surgeon having left an instrument, sponges, clamps, needles, gloves and other objects in a patient’s body following a surgery. The most common areas where these are left are the chest, abdomen and vagina. This can lead to severe infections, internal bleeding, damage to organs, and even death. If you or a loved one had to undergo additional surgery to remove the object and suffered substantially from the error, then immediately contact a medical malpractice lawyer from Lovenberg & Associates.
  6. Death occurred. If your loved one went to the hospital or had a procedure for a routine or minor condition but succumbed during surgery or soon thereafter, you should immediately consult with a medical malpractice lawyer to investigate. Your loved one could have been administered the wrong medication or an improper dose, had the wrong procedure performed, or the surgeon committed an error during the procedure.

Bringing a Medical Malpractice Claim in Massachusetts

In most cases, you have 3-years from the time of the injury to bring a medical malpractice claim. This includes a 3-year window from the time the injury was discovered. For instance, if the surgeon left a scalpel in your abdomen that you did not discover until 4-years later and which caused you substantial injuries, then you have 3-years from the time you discovered that the scalpel was in your abdomen to bring a claim. The standard for this is whether the injury could have been reasonably been discovered earlier.

If you are bringing a medical negligence action, your medical malpractice lawyer will have to present an “offer of proof” before a three-person tribunal consisting of a judge of the superior court, a licensed physician who practices in the same area or specialty as the defendant doctor, and a Massachusetts licensed attorney. Your own medical malpractice lawyer will present all medical records and statements from credible medical experts who have opined that the defendant physician breached the standard of care.

If the tribunal concludes there is substantial evidence of liability, then the lawsuit can proceed. Otherwise, the plaintiff or claimant must post a $6,000 bond within 30-days with the clerk of court to cover the defendant’s legal fees and court costs if the claim is unsuccessful. The court can raise the bond amount if it determines that the $6,000 bond is insufficient.

There is a cap on pain and suffering for all medical malpractice claims in Massachusetts of $500,000, regardless of how egregious the error or the extent of the injuries. However, there is no cap on economic loss. If your loved one had medical expenses and lost earnings of several million dollars, then the decedent’s estate can recover whatever economic damages can be supported and proved.

Retain the Law Firm of Lovenberg & Associates

Few causes of action are as traumatic or as difficult to handle than medical malpractice. It takes a medical malpractice lawyer with years of experience and success in this complex area of personal injury law to get you the compensation that your claim deserves. Call one of our medical malpractice lawyers at (617) 973-9950 for an in-depth consultation about your injury claim.