When Do You Need a Medical Malpractice Lawyer?

When a medical professional fails to meet the standard of care, it can be a matter of life and death.

There are certain professions which carry ethical obligations and a duty of care. For example, teachers, therapists, and law enforcement personnel are “mandated reporters,” meaning they must report evidence of child abuse if they see or are told of it.

Medical professionals have a similar responsibility to their patients. The American Medical Association has outlined some of these duties in their Code of Medical Ethics, including newer additions which specify, “a physician, while caring for a patient, [must] regard responsibility to the patient as paramount” and, “physicians should support access to medical care for all people.”

When a doctor, surgeon, nurse, pharmacist, or hospital employee fails at meeting their professional obligations, it’s serious. Such mistakes may cause injury, long-lasting harm, or death in a patient, and may be instances of medical malpractice. To prove that, you’ll need a medical malpractice attorney with a history of case success, and strict adherence to legal ethical standards.

The lawyers at Pierce Skrabanek have a fierce record of winning or satisfactorily settling medical malpractice cases for our clients. Fill out our contact form as soon as possible to get your questions answered. In the meantime, learn what medical malpractice is, and various reasons people may need medical malpractice lawyers.

Table of Contents

The Legal Definition of Medical Malpractice

The basic definition of medical malpractice is summed up here with information from Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research:

  • The injured patient must show that the physician acted negligently in rendering care, and that such negligence resulted in injury. To do so, four legal elements must be proven: 
    • (1) A professional duty owed to the patient: Certain physicians have a heightened duty of care to patients. For example, the expectations differ between a general practitioner doctor in a rural town vs. a specialist surgeon in a metropolitan hospital.
    • (2) Breach of such duty: This involves proving first that a failure of care has occurred, and then who is the responsible party.
    • (3) Injury caused by the breach: Injuries can be physical or psychological, temporary or long-lasting. 
    • (4) Resulting damages: The job of a practiced lawyer is to build a case that can prove what kind of damages were caused by medical malpractice injuries, and what sort of restitution is owed.
  • Money damages, if awarded, typically take into account both actual economic loss and non-economic loss, such as pain and suffering.

Because the burden of proof is on the injured party, you need an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a medical setting, your priorities should be getting proper treatment, not worrying about legal matters.

Hiring a medical malpractice attorney takes the legal burden off your shoulders, and places it into capable hands. Contact Pierce Skrabanek at (832) 690-7000 today to discuss your circumstances.

Common Examples of Medical Malpractice Claims

You usually seek medical treatment in order to get better. But medical malpractice can cause additional injuries and hardships on top of the original ones. You may experience a delay in healing due to negligent treatment. Even worse, you may have a catastrophic complication that leaves you battling for your life and/or your overall vitality.

Here are some common reasons people may need a medical malpractice lawyer:

Surgical Errors

A surgeon is one of the most highly skilled operators in hospitals and across other professions. The knowledge, reaction times, and endurance it takes to perform life-saving procedures is an incredible accomplishment for the surgeon, and a prize for any hospital they work at…when it goes well. When it goes wrong, the consequences can be disastrous.

Examples of common surgical errors include:

  • Operating on the wrong patient or body part: It seems extremely avoidable, and yet it happens. 
    • Patients go in for a left knee surgery, and wake up with their right knee operated on. 
    • A male patient goes in for a cystoscopy, wakes up with a vasectomy. 
    • An elder patient needs a dislocated jaw bone put back into place, but instead receives unnecessary brain surgery.

    The liability of such a mistake should be a clear call, and yet, sometimes surgeons refuse to own up to their mistakes. For example, a St. Louis-area doctor who operated on the wrong side of a patient’s spine claimed he was exempt from liability due to the PREP Act, which granted legal immunity to health care providers working to stop the spread of COVID-19.

    • Nerve injury during surgery: Nicking or severing a nearby nerve during an operation is another mistake that cannot be excused. Not only is such an error costly to a patient, a lawsuit could reveal negligent circumstances like incompetence, fatigue, drug or alcohol influence, or neglect that deserves to be accounted for.

 

    • Anesthesia errors
      • Too much anesthesia can lead to serious side effects like nausea or vomiting, respiratory distress, seizures, prolonged unconsciousness, hypothermia, hallucinations, brain injuries, and even death. 
      • Too little anesthesia could mean the patient wakes up mid-surgery, or is conscious of the pain of being operated on without the ability to speak. Not only is such a scenario torturous, it could cause other conditions like PTSD and heart attack. 
    • Wrong site incision: Similar to wrong-side operations, just cutting a patient in the wrong area before realizing the mistake is a serious breach of professionalism. It could lead to permanent scarring, nerve damage, or infection.

 

  • Leaving instruments inside the patient: Leaving metal tools or “gossypiboma” (surgical sponges or pads) inside the body after a surgical procedure is an all-too-common oversight. These completely preventable mistakes are known as “never events” because they should never happen if the correct procedures are followed. Items left inside the body can cause pain, infection, re-injury, and even wrongful death if they go unnoticed and untreated.

When you consent to an invasive procedure, you literally place your life in the hands of your surgeon. If that trust is not respected, and you suffer extra injury from the one person who was supposed to heal you, call the offices of Pierce Skrabanek at (832) 690-7000 to explore your options with our medical malpractice attorneys.

Man with spouse recovers after surgery.

Hospital Negligence

Hospital negligence is a distinct category that may or may not involve a doctor’s wrongdoing. That depends on whether a doctor is essentially employed as an independent contractor, or if they are part of the staff in the same manner as nurses, technicians, and janitorial employees. These distinctions are ones that experienced medical malpractice attorneys like we at Pierce Skrabanek would sort out on a client’s behalf.

There are specific situations where the hospital as an organization is the negligent party.

Examples of unique instances of hospital negligence include:

  • Inadequate or understaffed hospitals/emergency rooms: If enough doctors and nurses are not hired to cover the area’s need, your care may be delayed due to hospital negligence. Overworked doctors and nurses may also be the result of hospital staffing negligence. 
  • Insufficient supplies and/or medical equipment: Without the proper diagnostic and treatment tools available, the doctor may be competent, but the hospital has set both you and your physician up for failure. 
  • Paperwork mistakes: Failing to take a thorough patient history, failing to order proper testing, misplacing charts, misrecording information in the charts, ignoring or misreading laboratory results, and prematurely discharging patients due to miscommunication could all be considered the hospital’s responsibility. 
  • Incompetence: A failure to diagnose or the act of misdiagnosing an injury could be fatal. For example, think of a patient displaying symptoms of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) who is told to fly home and seek care with their primary physician instead of being treated on sight. DVT and flying is known to be a potentially deadly combination. If that patient dies, a lawsuit against the hospital for failing to meet the minimum standards of care may be justified.
  • Improper medication or dosage: Whether the wrong medication was ordered (prescription negligence), dispensed (pharmaceutical negligence), or administered (practitioner negligence), improper medication can lead to serious side effects or poisoning, and deserves justice.

It may be difficult to understand the exact origin of the failure of care you or a loved one have experienced. This is why it’s important to contact experienced medical malpractice lawyers like those at Pierce Skrabanek—we can help pin down the source of the negligence and seek justice on your behalf.

Birth Injuries

Injuries that result during the birthing process can be particularly horrific for parents and families. After nine months of care, a healthy child is damaged due to medical malpractice at the moment of birth. Shouldn’t a hospital or birthing facility be the safest place for welcoming a new life?

Common, preventable birth injuries include:

  • Brain damage: Damage to a baby’s brain can come in the form of anoxic infant brain damage (lack of oxygen), umbilical cord choking, an undiagnosed brain infection, bleeding in the brain that isn’t treated fast enough, or physical injuries from medical tools like forceps or vacuum extractors.
  • Cerebral palsy: This is a life-long condition which can be caused by birth injuries, specifically mistreated bleeding in the brain, infection or fever, lack of oxygen, heart attack, stroke, or other forms of medical negligence.
  • Newborn cephalohematoma: When bleeding within the baby’s skull causes blood to pool around the brain, the pressure it creates can lead to depressions and/or swellings in the head, brain damage, and seizures. The main risk factors for cephalohematoma in infants are difficult, prolonged labors and the use of forceps or vacuum extraction. 
  • Spinal cord injuries: Spinal cord injuries could leave your child partially or fully paralyzed, unable to crawl, walk, run, jump, or play with other children. Newborn spinal cord injuries usually occur if the delivering physician pulls on the baby’s body or head too hard in an effort to drag them out of the birth canal. For that reason birth spinal cord injuries typically happen at the neck, which risks full-body paralysis.
  • Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE): This refers to a lack of blood flow (ischemia) or oxygen (anoxia), which can result from placental abruption or bleeding. It can also be caused by abnormally long labor, umbilical cord prolapse (which cuts off the oxygen supply), or a fetus presenting in the wrong position at the time of birth. It’s the responsibility of your medical team to watch for all of these events, and act swiftly to prevent injury.

You may have noticed that forceps and vacuum extractors were mentioned frequently in these causes of birth injury. When a baby needs to be retrieved from the mother’s body quickly (usually because of a risk of oxygen deprivation), these tools must be used carefully, and must not be defective. 

The consequences of malfunctioning tools or an incompetant user can be profound. Hiring a lawyer with experience in birth injury cases can help you find out what went wrong, and who is responsible. 

Parents surround their infant child with love and support.

Medical Device Injury

Medical devices are often life-saving (think of pacemakers), but if they are defective or used/placed incorrectly, they can cause serious pain, injury, and sometimes death. Forceps and vacuum extractor injuries are one type of medical device injury.

Other common medical device injuries include:

  • Surgical mesh: Surgical mesh can be used to support prolapsed organs (bladders), uphold hernias as they heal, and help reconstruct the female pelvic region (often after childbirth). However, more recent uses of transvaginal mesh has led to pain, infection, and sometimes crippling internal scarification. In some cases, it requires a lawsuit to force companies to take these products off the market.
  • Hip prosthesis: A hip replacement can give an accident victim, injured athlete, or elder person a new lease on life. However, instances of hip implant injuries due to metal-on-metal implants can lead to blood poisoning, brain injury, loosening of the implant, necrosis (tissue death), severe pain, and the need for a repeat surgery (plus lengthy recovery).
  • Spinal stimulator implants: These implants are meant to mask feelings of pain sent through the spinal cord with a gentle tingling sensation called paresthesia. When it works, it can relieve pain for conditions like angina (heart) pain, chronic back pain, and missing limb syndrome, but when it goes wrong it can lead to shocks, burns, and injury to the spine causing paraparesis (partial inability to move one’s legs).
  • Defibrillators: Pacemakers, aka defibrillators, help restore and maintain a normal heartbeat by sending an electric pulse through the heart. However, the need to replace the electrical leads with some pacemaker products can lead to death and cardiovascular injury. Not all implants and not all extraction tools are the same, and unsafe products may need to go through a legal process to be banned or modified for safety.
  • Insulin pump implant: The convenience of an implanted insulin pump is supposed to improve a patient’s life. Ideally, it should act as a failsafe which bypasses human error. But when an implanted insulin device fails, it can lead to severe injury (coma and brain damage) or death.

If you or your loved one has been injured by an implanted medical device, contact the medical malpractice lawyers at Pierce Skrabanek for help. Let experienced medical malpractice attorneys investigate the device manufacturer and the medical team which implanted it, all towards the goal of seeking the justice and support you deserve.

Cancer Misdiagnosis

Recent cancer statistics show that over a million people in the United States are diagnosed with cancer each year, and roughly one-third of them will die as a direct result of that cancer.

A cancer misdiagnosis can cause profound harm in one of two ways:

  • Your cancer is not recognized as cancer: Time is critical with a cancer diagnosis. The earlier the disease is detected and treated, the better the chances are for remission and a long, healthy life. A doctor may fail to order cancer tests when symptoms are first present. A doctor might misdiagnose cancer as another ailment and treat that one instead. In such an instance, a doctor may actively antagonize the cancer by treating it like a different condition (lasering skin cancer thinking it is only a blemish, for example). In each of these scenarios, the doctor may be held liable for the resulting damage.
  • You are falsely diagnosed with cancer: Being told you have cancer causes an immediate emotional toll. Engaging in unneeded cancer treatment (chemotherapy and radiation) harms your body unnecessarily. Having organs removed to stop the spread of a cancer that isn’t there can alter your life and family (especially in cases of false uterine, ovarian, or testicular cancer—this may effectively sterilize a person, meaning they can never have their own children).

Cancer is one of the most serious diseases impacting humans, and a failure to diagnose cancer properly is an equally serious form of medical malpractice. Call a dedicated medical malpractice attorney today at (832) 690-7000 to discuss what can be done towards recovery.

What a Medical Malpractice Settlement Could Mean For You

Even in cases of severe loss, there are important benefits to pursuing legal redress.

Support Damages

A legal settlement or verdict could provide:

  • Monetary support for potentially astronomical and ongoing medical care, including:
    • Hospital visits
    • Doctor’s appointments
    • Medications
    • Therapies (physical and psychological)
    • Home healthcare aids
    • Medical equipment (wheelchairs, monitoring machines, etc.)
    • Home modifications (for those with new mobility needs)
  • Compensation for other, harder to quantify losses like:
    • Loss of wages and potential income
    • Pain and suffering
    • Loss of consortium (marital relations and affection)
  • Wrongful death damages awards which may cover:
    • Hospice care
    • Funeral/burial expenses
    • Loss of income
    • Pain and suffering

On top of economic damages, the non-economic results of a medical malpractice lawsuit may go even further in the pursuit of justice and safety.

Additional Results

Additional effects that may come from a legal settlement or verdict include:

  • Punishment and/or delicensing for those who’ve endangered patients, such as:
    • Disreputable hospital administrators
    • Unsafe doctors, surgeons, and/or nurses
    • Reckless medical device manufacturers
  • Improvements for future patients, such as:
    • A lawsuit that prompts a product recall
    • A mandated change in treatment protocols to avoid preventable injury
    • A new interpretation of the law which leads to higher medical standards

Seeking justice for yourself and your family can help ease your burdens, improve your standard of life, and lead to a better prognosis for future patients. Reach out to Pierce Skrabanek today to see what’s possible.

A young, injured man is ready for recovery.

Successful Medical Malpractice Settlements by Pierce Skrabanek

Michael Pierce has served as lead counsel in many successful medical malpractice settlements, including the following:

Confidential Settlement in a Medical Malpractice Case

Pierce Skrabanek successfully settled a medical malpractice case involving allegations that the defendant failed to check the proper placement of the decedent’s peg tube prior to feeding. This was argued as the cause of subsequent peritonitis and sepsis. Our client accepted a significant confidential settlement prior to a trial.


Confidential Settlement Obtained Before Trial

Pierce Skrabanek was lead counsel in a medical malpractice case in which the defendant was alleged to have failed to properly evaluate and treat the decedent. This was argued as the cause of the patient developing decubitus ulcers and sepsis. Even though this case took place in an unfavorable venue that capped medical malpractice damage, we were able to secure our client a significant confidential settlement prior to trial.


Confidential Settlement in a Medical Malpractice Case

In a medical malpractice case against a cardiologist and a cardiology practice group, Pierce Skrabanek argued that the cardiologist performed an unnecessary heart catheterization. Due to an allergy to the contrast used during catheterization, the patient went into anaphylactic shock. During prosecution of this case, we handled complicated medical issues, and helped navigate through a bankruptcy proceeding filed by the defendants. We ultimately facilitated a significant confidential settlement prior to the trial.

Client Reviews and Testimonials for Pierce Skrabanek

Hear what our clients have said about Pierce Skrabanek in their own words:

Michael Pierce and his team, especially Krystle, were very professional, always available (even on weekends), and very knowledgeable. We appreciate their hard work on our case and the time they took to explain every detail as our case progressed. Mike is a phenomenal attorney and we highly recommend them for your legal needs.

– Michele R.

Working with Paul Skrabanek was a very positive experience. He helped me understand the legal process as being someone who has never been a part of a lawsuit and was able to get me settled quickly and painlessly! Loved working with Pierce/Skrabanek law firm!

– Cam F.

These guys are awesome, they were very informative from the beginning to end, working with them was super smooth, and I had all questions answered thoroughly. The whole team at this firm works to help in every way they can. They were able to get me the compensation I deserved and exceeded my expectations. If you’re ever in need of a stellar team to stand behind you and work for you these guys are the ones you would want in your corner. Thank you very much Paul Skrabanek and thank your team for me.

– Raymond H.

Contact the Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Pierce Skrabanek Today

Medical malpractice cases can seem overwhelming. The stakes are high for patients as well as for doctors and hospitals. It may require a full legal team to support the client until resolution, while aggressively pursuing the liable parties.

The offices of Pierce Skrabanek have years of experience in pharmaceutical, medical device, and medical malpractice cases. We’ve achieved significant settlements for our clients in instances of unnecessary procedures, medical negligence, and even in venues with medical malpractice damage caps. We leave no stone unturned when advocating for justice.

The law team at Pierce Skrabanek offers bilingual English and Spanish service to our clients nationwide. We strive to get cases handled as efficiently and satisfactorily as possible, so that you aren’t waiting for support. Call us with your medical malpractice questions at (832) 690-7000, or fill out our contact page to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

Seeking justice for yourself and your family could help ease your burdens, improve your standard of life, and lead to a better prognosis for future patients.

Medical Malpractice FAQ

Common areas of medical malpractice include:

  • Surgical errors: Wrong-side, wrong-site, and wrong patient surgeries, as well as anesthesia errors, and leaving instruments inside the body.
  • Hospital negligence: Understaffed or undersupplied hospitals, paperwork errors, incompetence, or medication errors.
  • Birth injuries: Preventable harm like brain damage, oxygen deprivation, and spinal cord injuries.
  • Medical device injury: Surgical mesh, hip prostheses, spinal stimulator implants, defibrillators, and insulin pumps may cause injury if defective or incorrectly implanted.
  • Cancer misdiagnosis: A missed or false cancer diagnosis can be life-altering or even fatal.

Economic and non-economic outcomes of pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit could include:

  • Monetary support for medical care
  • Restitution for pain and suffering
  • Wrongful death expenses
  • Punishment and/or delicensing for those who may be a danger to patients
  • Improvements for future patients like device recall or new prevention protocols

You should consult with a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been wrongly injured by a doctor, hospital, or medical device. There may be time-sensitive evidence to collect, or statutes of limitation involved, so time is of the essence. Call Pierce Skrabanek today at (832) 690-7000—we are ready to hear your concerns, answer your questions, and possibly help you seek justice for your injuries.

The office of Pierce Skrabanek has successfully achieved confidential settlements in medical malpractice cases involving:

  • Failure to render adequate care, which led to later injuries (decubitus ulcers and sepsis)
  • Negligent actions which resulted in infection (peritonitis and sepsis)
  • An unnecessary procedure which caused damage (an unneeded heart catheterization that led to anaphylactic shock)

In cases hindered by medical malpractice damages caps, or in situations where the lawsuit is complicated by issues like bankruptcy proceedings, we never lose sight of our commitment to justice. Call Pierce Skrabanek at (832) 690-7000 to get the help you deserve.