Medical Malpractice Claims Must Be Handled With Care

Almost every person who is admitted at a hospital has had to deal with a nurse at some point. Nurses, like doctors, are responsible for providing medical care to patients and can be subject to liability if they deliver treatment that falls below the standard set forth by the law of proper care. A 2010 case centering around the Willis Knighton Medical Center in Bossier City, Louisiana, discusses the standards required of a nurse.

Mr. Reilly was admitted to the ER with multiple pelvic fractures after a horse had fallen on top of him at Louisiana Downs. After surgery, doctors inserted a catheter to alleviate bladder pressure. Reilly was cared for by several nurses in the following months who removed and reinserted additional catheters. Reilly alleged that on numerous occasions, the nurses were negligent in the removal and insertion process, leaving him impotent and in need of additional surgery to correct the damage that he had suffered from this process.

To file a medical malpractice claim against a nurse or doctor, you must establish the:

(1) standard of care applicable to the nurse/doctor
(2) that the nurse/doctor breached that standard of care, and
(3) that the nurse’s/doctor’s actions were causally related to the resulting injury
Standard of care is usually established with expert testimony; perhaps a nurse/doctor in a similar field that can show how an ordinary professional in that situation would have behaved. Showing that the nurse/doctor’s actions deviated from the standard is less intensive and is typically established by a close examination of the facts.

More importantly, however, and the reason why Mr. Reilly ultimately lost his claim in the case mentioned above, is to show that the nurse’s/doctor’s negligence was the proximate (most direct) cause of the accident. Your claim cannot survive without this element. What this requires is demonstrating in court that but for the improper care demonstrated by the medical expert, your harm or damage would not have been suffered. Mr. Reilly was unable to prove that the catheter procedures were the specific reason for his damage.

While claims against the nurse or doctor may seem the most obvious path to take, another avenue of relief may be against the hospital itself. The doctrine of respondeat superior says that employers are responsible for the negligent acts of their employees if the act is performed during the normal course of duties. Liability for the nurse’s behavior can be assigned to the medical facility and viewed in light of the employee’s actions. Claims addressing respondeat superior are attractive to patients because the pocket of the medical facility is typically much larger than that of the individual nurse or doctor.

If you are a victim of nurse/doctor negligence, consider your options. Your choice of defendant may have a significant effect on the dollar amount of your recovery. Perhaps what is an even more important choice is the legal representation you select for your litigation. By carefully selecting an attorney with extensive experience in medical malpractice suits, settlements and trials, you can insure that you do not fall into the unfortunate class of people who never receive the justice they deserve.