Should I Sue My Doctor or Hospital?

Doctors, nurses and other caregivers are bound by the law to offer a patient medical treatment which a "reasonably careful" doctor/nurse would give, under similar circumstances. If injury results from their failure to do so, they can be held liable for the damage caused. Let's look at some examples.

Case 1: You are in the hospital, having had knee surgery 2 days ago. You're in pain, and while your surgeon is examining you, you ask for pain medication. He answers, "grow up. Don't be a baby. I've had 75 yr old patients handle their pain better than you." Do you have a case because the doctor is offensive?

No, you don't. You don't sue a doctor because he or she is rude. You sue because they somehow injured you.

Case 2: You fall, injuring your arm, and go the local hospital emergency room (ER). X-rays are taken and you're told there are no broken bones (broken bone= fracture). A week goes by and you continue to have pain in your arm. You go to another hospital and another x-ray is taken. This time the report comes back that you have a fractured arm, which is then placed in a cast. Do you have a case?

Probably not, but it depends on whether the condition of your arm got worse during the time between the two ER visits. How can this be? In order to sue a medical provider they have to have caused an injury. If you present to ER #2 with the same fracture with which you presented to ER #1, where is the injury caused by the doctor? You can't sue for the fracture caused in the original fall.

However, if during the week, something changes about the fracture because of the failure of ER #1 to provide proper treatment, then you might have a case.

Case 3: You go to a hospital for back surgery. A fusion is done and you are discharged with the fusion "pieces" having dislodged. At home, you notice you have no urge to use the bathroom to rid your body of waste. You continue to have back and leg pain, just like you did before surgery.

You tell your doctor this, and see him or her the following day. Some tests are run. You are told you have a permanent injury affecting your functioning below the waist. Do you have a case? Unknown (I'll explain in a minute). But this is something you would want to contact a lawyer about. You have a serious, permanent injury which appears related to something which should not have happened (the dislodging of your fusion, and your discharge from the hospital).

You never know whether you have a case when first speaking with a lawyer. That's because the law requires a special process for filing a medical negligence suit- your records have to be obtained and presented to a reviewing doctor selected by your lawyer. If there is a case, the reviewing doctor has to prepare a written report or sign an affidavit stating what your medical providers did wrong, and the injury resulting from the wrongdoing. At that point, you know you have a case. Of course the doctor, nurse or hospital may respectfully (or not) disagree with you, and a jury will have to determine the outcome.