There are many alternatives to litigation. Depending upon the jurisdiction you are in -- and whether there are caps on damages that may come into play in a formal trial -- you may wish to consider these options. Remember that in many cases alternative dispute resolution is simply part of the trial process and not the endgame. Your best first step might be discussing your options with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
If you have been injured by a doctor, then the first step you MUST take is to request a copy of you medical records. This may be a little difficult, because some offices may try to stall or stonewall you. They will also charge you a copying fee for doing this, so be prepared. However, federal law states they must provide you with a copy of your records if you request it. These files may contain information about what went wrong with your treatment to cause the injury in question. That is why it is necessary to get a copy as soon as possible. (It should also be requested quickly after the incident because some records can be altered.) Simply contact the doctor’s office and ask for a copy of everything. This should include all notes from the doctor and other staff as well as lab work and medical imaging such as x-rays or CAT-Scans. If the incident occurred at a hospital, check with their medical records department for this information.
Medical malpractice cases are generally sought by patients who have been harmed or injured due to poor medical treatment or mistaken diagnosis from a medical provider such as a doctor, nurse, technician, hospital or medical worker. Typically, the measure of whether a medical provider was “negligent,” or failed to provide proper care, turns on whether the patient would have received the same standard of care from another medical provider under similar circumstances.
“Richard was very helpful from the beginning. He handled our car accident case with such responsibility and punctuality. Throughout the case, Richard checked in often, as did his wonderful staff at the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP. I must have called the office a hundred times to ask questions pertaining to my case, the staff was always prompt and incredibly nice. Richard and his team really made our experience as stress free as possible. Richard is very intelligent yet simple. His amazing team of experts including (Julia, Debbie, Ariel) helped us with everything, from appointments to filling out forms. I would recommend Cohen And Jaffe to anyone in need of a personal injury attorney.”
Emotional distress is a type of claim of damages for injury due to either the intentional acts or negligence of another. Severe emotional distress refers to any form of disabling mental or emotional condition, including neurosis, chronic depression, psychosis or phobia, which may be recognized and diagnosed by the proper medical professionals. Temporary anxiety or fright, regret, or disappointment, on the other hand, is not considered severe emotional distress.
A doctor has to tell you about your condition, the nature of the proposed treatment, the risks of the treatment, and other options that you may have. You can’t consent to treatment unless the doctor gives you all this information. A doctor does not have to explain every possible risk, just the risks that a reasonable patient would want to know before deciding on treatment. This includes explaining what could happen and the likelihood of it happening.

The study recommended reforming the system by increasing funding for legal services, so attorneys could be compensated for their time; making defendants who lose a case pay the plaintiff's attorney fees; or sending malpractice complaints to an administrative system with neutral adjudicators and medical experts so patients wouldn't need an attorney.
Costs of suing—some lawyers will work for a contingency fee, meaning the fee depends on the result of the case. If you lose, the lawyer gets nothing. If you win, the lawyer gets part of your compensation award. Win or lose, though, you usually have to pay the expenses of suing, which can be thousands of dollars, especially if you have to hire experts to help prove your case. The Law Society regulates contingency fee contracts to ensure they are fair to clients. For more information about lawyers’ fees, check script 438, called “Lawyers’ Fees”.

It is not easy to get a full picture of the increase in medical malpractice cases in South Africa, as there is no central register. Cases can be settled in court, out of court or via mediation. If matters are settled out of court or via mediation, there is no public record of compensation. However, if all sources of information are collated, it would certainly appear that both the number and levels of claims are increasing, and this is affecting the overall cost of health care in the country, including what you pay for medical scheme cover.


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