Medication caused seizure do I have a medical malpractice case?
Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “If my pain doctor prescribed medication that caused me to have a seizure does this mean I have a case against my doctor for medical malpractice?"
Medical malpractice claims, like other personal injury claims, are civil claims, but they are filed against medical professionals for injuries caused by the medical professional’s negligent, intentional, or unintentional actions.
To win a medical malpractice claim the claimant or injured party will have to prove certain elements of their claim. Specifically, they will have to prove:
The plaintiff must prove the doctor owed them a duty of care, which means they must prove that a relationship existed between them and the medical provider prior to the negligence. If the doctor was your treating doctor then duty has been established.
The duty of care was breached.
Next, the plaintiff must prove that the duty was breached. Specifically, the doctor failed in their responsibility- either through their actions or inaction- to provide care which is comparable to what another doctor would have provided in a similar circumstance.
Proving breach of duty can be very difficult in medical malpractice cases. For example, to prove breach of duty for this user they would most likely will have to find another doctor to testify as an expert witness who can provide information about what most doctors, in a similar situation, with a similar patient, would have done.
Other sources of information to prove breach of care can include hospital procedures, state statutes, and professional journals.
Proximate cause of injury
Proving proximate cause of injury requires the claimant to prove that there was a direct link between the negligent action and the injury. For this patient this means they would need to have evidence that it was, in fact, the pain medication that caused the seizure. Given that patients by their very nature are sick, proving proximate cause can be very difficult. In fact, experts for the defense may argue that it was the sickness that was being treated, rather than the medication, that caused the seizure.
Negligence caused injury or loss
The final requirement of winning an injury claim is proving that the negligence caused injury or loss. If a doctor’s actions are negligent but there is no injury or loss, there is no personal injury claim.
For example, even if the doctor should not have prescribed the medication and you had a seizure as a result, if you have not missed time from work, suffered pain, or had any medical complications from the seizure, it’s likely you do not have a strong medical malpractice case.
In fact, given the costs of filing and winning a medical malpractice case, a lawyer may not even be willing to accept your case if there are not substantial damages.
What if I win my medical malpractice claim?
Now, let’s assume you were able to prove all the elements outlined above, and after the seizure you suffered severe injuries. For example, you lost the ability to walk, talk, and eat and had to spend months in the hospital rehabbing before you could go back to work.
Not only do you have thousands of dollars in medical bills, but you also lost months of wages. Now, let’s also assume you have substantial long-term injuries and cannot return to work.
Given the facts listed above, you might be due a substantial amount of compensation. In fact, if you win your injury claim, you may be entitled to:
- Payment for future and current medical costs
- Payments for current and future lost income
- Pain and suffering (including pain, discomfort, stress, anxiety, scarring, disfigurement)
- Punitive damages (not given unless the conduct was egregious or outrageous)
Statutory caps and Statute of Limitations
All medical malpractice claims must be filed within a specific statute of limitations. So although you may need to take some time to make sure you have reached your maximum medical improvement level and clearly understand how much compensation you are entitled to receive, do not wait too long or you may lose your right to compensation.
States may also cap the amount of damages which a plaintiff may recover through a medical malpractice lawsuit, specifically, the amount of damages which can be awarded for to non-economic losses, including pain and suffering.
Although caps for damages are considered controversial, with one side arguing caps improve access to medical care while the other side argues caps increase medical errors and eliminates the ability to fully compensate claimants, many states have passed tort reform laws which cap damages.
What’s the bottom line for this individual who has been injured? Without more information it is impossible to say for sure whether this doctor’s actions were similar to what another doctor would have done in a similar situation. Additionally, if the individual did not suffer loss or injury from the seizure they do not have an injury claim. Talk to injury lawyer about the laws and statutes in your state regarding the amount of compensation you can receive.
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