Voted Best Personal Injury Law Firm By Georgia Lawyers
Rome, GA Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Matt Wetherington with Wetherington Law Firm,P.C. is the hardest working attorney I have ever worked with. He went above and beyond our expectations. Calls and emails are returned promptly and by Mr. Wetherington himself.
5 Stars is nowhere near enough to rate how awesome Matt and his colleagues were. They took my case even when I didn’t think there was anything we could do. I was in a bad situation at the time and Matt, Robert, and Sarah were there for me every step of the way.
I’m so grateful to Ben Levy and everything he did for me. He was truly dedicated to helping my case. Throughout the process, Ben was very thoughtful, responsive, organized, and made sure I was fully informed along the way.
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Medical malpractice happens when doctors or other healthcare workers don’t take good care of their patients the way they’re supposed to. This can include making mistakes during surgery, giving the wrong medicine, or not diagnosing a sickness correctly. When this happens, patients can get hurt or even sicker, which can lead to more doctor visits, a lot of pain, and sometimes not being able to work or do things they love.
Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 51-1-27) says that healthcare providers must give a certain level of care. If they don’t, and someone gets hurt because of it, that person can ask for help to cover their medical bills, lost money from not working, and their pain.
Proving medical malpractice can be tough. You have to show that the healthcare provider made a big mistake that other doctors wouldn’t have made under the same situation and that this mistake caused your injury. You also have to start your claim within two years after the injury happens, or you might not be able to ask for help later (O.C.G.A. § 9-3-71).
At Wetherington Law Firm, we understand how hard it is to deal with injuries caused by medical mistakes. We’re here to help you through this tough time. Our team knows how to prove medical malpractice and fight for the compensation you need to cover your bills and take care of your family. If you or someone you love was hurt because of a medical mistake, contact us. We’re ready to listen to your story and help you figure out what to do next, for free.
Understanding Medical Malpractice in Rome, GA
Understanding medical malpractice in Rome, GA, involves recognizing when a healthcare professional’s actions or negligence lead to patient harm, contrasting with the expected standard of care. Under Georgia law, specifically O.C.G.A. § 51-1-27, medical professionals are required to deliver care with a reasonable degree of skill and attention. When they fail to meet this standard, whether through errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, or health management, it constitutes medical malpractice.
Victims of medical malpractice can face significant physical, emotional, and financial challenges. Injuries resulting from medical negligence can lead to additional medical treatments, prolonged recovery times, permanent disability, and even death. Beyond the physical toll, patients can experience lost wages, increased medical expenses, and emotional distress, including depression, anxiety, and loss of life enjoyment.
For those affected, it’s crucial to know that Georgia sets specific guidelines for filing a medical malpractice claim, including a statute of limitations (O.C.G.A. § 9-3-71), which generally gives victims two years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit.
Successfully navigating a medical malpractice case requires proving that the healthcare provider deviated from the standard of care and that this deviation directly caused harm. Given the complexities involved, seeking experienced legal guidance can be invaluable in pursuing justice and compensation.
Common Causes of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice occurs when healthcare professionals fail to provide the appropriate standard of care to patients, leading to harm, injury, or death. Common causes of medical malpractice include:
- Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis: Misinterpreting symptoms can lead to incorrect or delayed treatment, worsening the patient’s condition.
- Surgical Errors: Mistakes during surgery, such as operating on the wrong site, leaving surgical instruments inside the patient, or performing an incorrect procedure, can have severe consequences.
- Medication Errors: Prescribing the wrong medication, dosage errors, or administering the wrong drug can cause significant harm to patients.
- Failure to Treat: Failing to provide necessary treatment or not following up with a patient’s care can lead to complications or worsening of their condition.
- Birth Injuries: Negligence during childbirth that leads to injuries to the baby or mother, such as failure to monitor fetal distress or improper use of delivery tools.
- Anesthesia Errors: Incorrect dosage or improper administration of anesthesia can result in serious injury or death.
- Failure to Obtain Informed Consent: Healthcare providers must inform patients about the risks associated with procedures or treatments. Failing to do so can be considered malpractice.
- Errors in Lab Results Interpretation: Misreading or ignoring laboratory results can lead to incorrect treatment decisions.
- Poor Communication: Lack of effective communication among medical staff regarding a patient’s condition or treatment plan can lead to errors.
- Hospital-Acquired Infections: Infections acquired due to unsanitary conditions or practices within a healthcare setting.
Your Rights Under Georgia Medical Malpractice Law
If you believe that you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice in Georgia, it’s essential to know your rights under the law. Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional deviates from the standard of care in their field, resulting in harm to a patient. Here are your rights under Georgia medical malpractice law:
Right to Compensation:
You have the right to seek compensation for damages if you can prove that a healthcare professional’s negligence directly caused your injury. Damages can include medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, and in some cases, punitive damages.
Right to File a Lawsuit:
As the victim of medical malpractice, you have the right to file a lawsuit against the responsible medical professionals and/or the hospital or healthcare facility where the malpractice took place.
Statute of Limitations:
In Georgia, you generally have two years from the date of injury or death to file a medical malpractice lawsuit (O.C.G.A. § 9-3-71). There is also a statute of repose which limits the time to no more than five years after the date of the act or omission which resulted in injury (O.C.G.A. § 9-3-71(b)).
Expert Affidavit Requirement:
When you file a medical malpractice claim in Georgia, you must also file an affidavit from a qualified expert who will testify as to the alleged negligent act or lack of care (O.C.G.A. § 9-11-9.1).
Right to an Attorney:
You have the right to seek legal representation from an attorney who is experienced in medical malpractice cases. An attorney can help you understand your rights, gather evidence, consult with medical experts, and negotiate with insurance companies or represent you in court if necessary.
Patients have the right to be informed about the significant risks associated with medical procedures. If you were not properly informed and would have declined the procedure had you known the risks, you may have a claim for lack of informed consent.
Steps to Take After Experiencing Medical Malpractice
If you believe that you or a loved one has experienced medical malpractice, it’s critical to take specific steps to protect your rights and build a potential case. Here are the steps you should consider:
- Get Medical Attention: Your health is paramount. Seek immediate medical treatment to address any injuries or complications resulting from the potential malpractice. It’s best to go to a different doctor or hospital than the one where the incident occurred.
- Document Everything: Record all details related to the suspected malpractice as soon as possible while your memory is fresh. Include dates, times, names of healthcare professionals involved, and the nature of the treatment that led to the injury.
- Request Medical Records: Obtain a complete set of your medical records from both the healthcare provider you suspect of malpractice and any subsequent healthcare providers who treated the resulting injuries. You have the right to access these under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
- Keep Track of Damages: Compile records of all damages related to the malpractice, including medical bills, proof of lost wages, and any other expenses incurred due to the injury.
- Do Not Communicate Directly with the Healthcare Provider or Insurer: Avoid discussing your case or intentions with the healthcare providers involved or their insurance company. Such discussions should be handled by your attorney to protect your interests.
- Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney: As early as possible, consult with our medical malpractice attorney. We can advise you on the validity of your claim, help you navigate the legal process, and work on your behalf to secure expert testimonies.
- File Required Affidavit: Remember, in Georgia, you are required to file an affidavit from an expert witness along with your lawsuit which outlines at least one act of negligence based on the expert’s review of the facts of the case (O.C.G.A. § 9-11-9.1).
- Follow Legal Deadlines: Be aware of the statute of limitations. In Georgia, you typically have two years from the date of injury to file a claim, but don’t wait; your attorney will need time to prepare your case.
- Stay Organized: Keep a file of all the information and documents related to your case, including medical records, correspondence with your attorney, and a diary of conversations and important events following the malpractice.
- Follow Your Attorney’s Advice: Throughout the process, adhere to the guidance of our medical malpractice attorney. We will manage the litigation process and work to negotiate a possible settlement or prepare for trial if necessary.
Types of Compensation in Medical Malpractice Claims
In a medical malpractice claim, the types compensation, often referred to as “damages,” that a victim may be entitled to receive fall under several categories:
- Economic Damages: These are quantifiable financial losses that the victim has experienced or will continue to experience as a result of the injury. They include:
- Medical Expenses: Costs for hospital stays, doctor visits, emergency room treatment, medication, medical devices, rehabilitation, long-term care, and any future medical care related to the injury.
- Lost Wages: Compensation for the income lost while recovering from the medical injury.
- Lost Earning Capacity: If the malpractice results in a disability that affects the victim’s ability to earn a livelihood, compensation may be claimed for the reduction in earning capacity over the lifetime.
- Non-economic Damages: These types of damages are not easily quantified in monetary terms and relate to the impact of the injury on the quality of life of the victim:
- Pain and Suffering: This is compensation for the physical pain and emotional distress suffered by the patient due to the injury.
- Loss of Consortium: Compensation awarded to the spouse or family for the loss of companionship, affection, and other familial relationships due to the injury.
- Emotional Distress: This covers the psychological impact of the malpractice, such as anxiety, depression, and trauma.
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Compensation for the inability to enjoy hobbies and activities that were part of the victim’s life before the injury.
- Punitive Damages: While less common, punitive damages may be awarded in cases where the provider’s actions were willful, malicious, or demonstrated a reckless disregard for the safety of the patient. These damages serve to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar behavior.
In Georgia, for example, the state Supreme Court has ruled that the statutory cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases is unconstitutional, meaning there is no limit to the amounts that juries can award for these damages (Atlanta Oculoplastic Surgery, P.C. v. Nestlehutt, 286 Ga. 731 (2010)).
However, punitive damages are generally capped at $250,000 unless there is a finding that the defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences (O.C.G.A § 51-12-5.1(g)).
The Role of Expert Witnesses in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Expert witnesses play a critical role in medical malpractice lawsuits, often determining the outcome of the case. In these complex legal claims, where medical standards and practices are central to establishing liability, expert testimony helps to clarify whether the healthcare provider breached the standard of care and caused harm to the patient. Here’s the importance of expert witnesses in the context of medical malpractice litigation:
- Establishing the Standard of Care: An expert witness will explain to the court what the accepted standard of care is for a healthcare professional in the same field, under similar circumstances. This establishes the benchmark against which the defendant’s actions will be compared.
- Breach of Standard of Care: Once the standard is set, the expert must demonstrate how the healthcare provider’s actions (or lack thereof) failed to meet this standard, thereby constituting negligence.
- Causation: It is not enough to show that there was a breach in the standard of care; the expert must also establish a direct link between the breach and the injury sustained by the plaintiff. This means demonstrating that the defendant’s negligence is more likely than not the cause of the injury.
- Damage Assessment: The expert witness can offer insight into the extent of the injuries suffered as a result of the malpractice and may provide an opinion on the patient’s prognosis, including the need for future treatment and associated costs.
- Expert Affidavit: In Georgia, along with the complaint, the plaintiff is required to file an affidavit of an expert witness who will outline at least one act of negligence based on a review of the facts (O.C.G.A. § 9-11-9.1). Failing to provide this affidavit can result in the dismissal of the lawsuit.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim in Georgia
In Georgia, the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice claim is typically two years from the date on which the injury or death arising from the alleged malpractice occurred. This is encoded in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) § 9-3-71.
However, there are a few notable exceptions and clarifications to this rule:
- Discovery Rule: If the injury was not immediately apparent, Georgia law allows the statute of limitations to begin from the date the injury was discovered, or reasonably should have been discovered, which might extend the time to file beyond the two-year mark. However, this is subject to a strict five-year statute of repose.
- Statute of Repose: Under O.C.G.A. § 9-3-71(b), no medical malpractice claim can be brought more than five years after the date of the act or omission that resulted in the injury, regardless of when the injury was discovered. This effectively sets an outer limit on medical malpractice actions to prevent claims from being brought many years after the treatment in question.
- Minor Children: For minors under five years of age, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the child’s fifth birthday, which means a claim can be filed up until the child’s seventh birthday. For minors over the age of five, the regular two-year statute of limitations applies, but cannot extend beyond the child’s tenth birthday.
- Mental Incompetence: If the injured party is legally declared to have mental incompetence, the statute of limitations does not run during the period of such incompetence.
- Wrongful Death: In cases of wrongful death stemming from medical malpractice, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of death, which might be different from the date of the malpractice incident.
- Foreign Objects: O.C.G.A. § 9-3-72 states that if a medical malpractice lawsuit involves a foreign object having been left in a patient’s body, the action may be brought within one year after the object is discovered, regardless of the time of the act or omission.
Who can be held liable in a medical malpractice case?
In a medical malpractice case, various healthcare providers and entities can be held liable if their actions or omissions fall below the accepted standards of medical practice and cause harm to a patient. The following parties can potentially be held liable:
- Physicians and Surgeons: This is the most common category of healthcare providers who are sued for medical malpractice. If a doctor makes a diagnostic error, performs a procedure negligently, or fails to obtain informed consent, they may be held liable.
- Nurses and Nursing Assistants: Nurses can be liable for malpractice if they fail to follow the proper standard of care, such as administering the wrong medication or dosage, or not properly monitoring a patient’s vital signs.
- Dentists and Dental Assistants: Similar to doctors, dentists can be held liable for medical malpractice in the event of improper treatment, extractions, orthodontic procedures or anesthesia administration.
- Pharmacists: They can be held liable for errors in dispensing medication, such as giving the wrong medication or incorrect dosage, or failing to check for potential drug interactions.
- Anesthesiologists: Anesthesia errors can result in severe injury or death, so anesthesiologists are often held to a high standard and can be sued for malpractice for errors made before, during, or after surgery.
- Psychiatrists and Psychologists: These professionals can be held liable for malpractice for misdiagnosis, improper treatment, medication errors, or breaches of confidentiality that result in harm to the patient.
- Specialists: Medical specialists can be held liable for acts of malpractice related to their specific field of expertise, such as cardiologists, gynecologists, orthopedists, and others.
- Hospitals and Medical Centers: These entities can be held directly liable for their own negligence, such as issues with employee credentialing, insufficient staffing, or inadequate training. They can also be vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees.
- Outpatient Facilities and Clinics: Similar to hospitals, these facilities can be held liable for the negligence of their non-physician staff or for institutional negligence.
- Medical Device Manufacturers: In cases where defective medical devices or products cause injury, the manufacturer may be held liable under product liability law, which slightly differs from medical malpractice but can still be relevant in a lawsuit.
- Laboratory Technicians and Pathologists: Mistakes such as mislabeling samples, incorrect test results, or failure to communicate findings can lead to incorrect treatments and potential liability.
What should I do if I think I’m a victim of medical malpractice?
If you believe that you have been a victim of medical malpractice, it’s essential to take specific steps to address your situation and safeguard your legal rights. Here’s what you should do:
- Seek Immediate Medical Attention: Ensure that you get the necessary medical treatment to address your health concerns, ideally from a different healthcare provider.
- Document Your Experience: Write down a detailed account of your medical treatment, including dates, times, conversations, symptoms, and any issues that arose during your care.
- Request Your Medical Records: As soon as possible, ask for a copy of all your medical records related to the treatment in question. The law requires healthcare providers to give you access to these records.
- Maintain Evidence: Preserve any physical evidence and document all related expenses, such as receipts for medications, travel to appointments, and medical bills. Keep track of any lost wages if you’ve been unable to work.
- Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney: Speak with an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice. They can provide legal advice, help you understand if you have a valid claim, and take you through the legal process.
- Don’t Communicate with the Parties at Fault: Avoid discussing the incident with the healthcare providers or their insurance company, as any statements you make could impact your case. Let your attorney handle all communication.
- Understand the Statute of Limitations: Be aware of the legal time limit to file a claim. The statute of limitations varies by state, so it’s important to act promptly to ensure that you’re still eligible to file a lawsuit.
- Get a Medical Assessment: Your attorney may help coordinate an independent medical evaluation to establish the extent of your injuries or health issues caused by the alleged malpractice.
- Consider Expert Witnesses: Medical malpractice cases often require testimony from medical experts to prove that the standard of care was not met. Your attorney will identify appropriate experts to support your case.
- Stay Organized: Keep all documents and communications related to your case in a safe place. This includes your medical records, correspondence with your attorney, and any other documentation related to your healthcare and legal proceedings.
- Avoid Social Media: Be cautious about what you post. Public statements on social media can be used against you in your case.
- Follow Your Attorney’s Advice: Work closely with your attorney and heed their advice. They will guide you through the legal actions necessary for pursuing your claim, including negotiating with the insurance companies or preparing for trial if required.
Contact Us for a Free Medical Malpractice Consultation
Have you or a loved one suffered due to a medical professional’s negligence in Rome, GA? It’s time to seek justice. Our seasoned team of medical malpractice lawyers is here to fight for your rights and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Don’t let the consequences of medical malpractice define your future. Contact us today for a free consultation, and let’s take the first step towards your peace of mind together.