It is also important for doctors and nurses to communicate with patients and gather pertinent information about their health history and that of their immediate family members. Information on preexisting medical conditions and family history of inherited disorders such as heart disease and diabetes are crucial to properly diagnosing a patient’s symptoms. A patient with flu-like symptoms, severe stomach pain, and dehydration that has a family history of diabetes could be quickly tested for high glucose levels and treated immediately before they suffered organ damage or coma.
In the mid 1990s the concept of a ‘gratuitous care’ award was developed by the High Court. Basically, if you can’t look after yourself or your house (or in some cases your children) because of your injuries, then you can claim the cost of a commercial carer or cleaner even though your family is doing the tasks you can’t do. For a while this was a very lucrative area of damages but now there are laws that place both a threshold and a cap on what you can claim. Put simply, you aren’t entitled to any gratuitous care award unless you need at least 6 hours of assistance per week for at least 6 continuous months and the hourly rate of any award is capped at the Average Weekly Earnings hourly rate. You should be careful, however, not to confuse gratuitous care with commercial care, which is a different claim for damages entirely and which is not the subject of thresholds or caps.
Is our situation unique? According to the MPS report, in the United States there have been two waves of legal reforms prompted by medical malpractice claims: one in the mid-80s and another in the early 2000s. Reforms were driven by an increase in insurance premiums and concerns about access to health care. Since 2000, 29 states in the US have introduced limitations on damages; some limit both “economic” and “general” damages (compensation for pain and suffering), while others cap only general damages.
The settlement a person receives for their pain and suffering depends on many factors. This includes the severity of the injury, type of medical treatment received, the length of recovery time, and potential long term consequences of the personal injuries. In addition to physical pain, claimants can also cite emotional and psychological trauma in their pain and suffering claims. For example, a visible scar on the face can lead to painful feelings of constant embarrassment and insecurity.
If there are too many intervening events and causes between the defendant’s actions and your injury, this will not qualify as immediate. For example, a woman who sued her husband for causing the death of their son in a car wreck was not allowed to proceed with her claim of emotional damages because she was not physically present during the wreck, even though she arrived at the hospital immediately after and witnessed her son being brought in as they were trying to resuscitate him.
Bringing a medical malpractice claim is not a thing to be taken lightly. Malpractice lawsuits are expensive, time consuming, and can open you up to public inspection. And, unlike most other types of personal injury claims, case trends show a tendency toward favoring doctors and other care providers, not injured plaintiffs. Settlement, too, is far more difficult in a malpractice case due to a doctor’s ability to refuse to settle, regardless of whether his or her insurance company wants to pay. Simply put, even the most winnable malpractice case is still an uphill battle with little or no guarantee of success. Should you sue your doctor for malpractice? Perhaps, but consider what follows before you do.