Medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease and cancer.* For many people the medical profession and those who work within it can be very intimidating. Most people are taught from an early age that physicians are trusted sources of advice and that their decisions and recommendations should not be questioned; but sometimes those decisions have life-altering outcomes that negatively affect patients and their loved ones. When this occurs it is critical to know what steps to take to hold those at fault accountable for their actions.
Any act or omission by a healthcare professional during treatment of a patient that deviates from accepted norms of practice, often referred to as the standard of care, and that causes an injury to the patient is considered medical malpractice. This may include:
- •Failure to diagnose
- •Drug and pharmacy errors
- •Surgical procedure complications
- •Childbirth injuries
- •Inadequate follow-up care
- •Medical device defects
- •Nursing home neglect
In order to succeed in a medical negligence case, the injured party or the person acting on behalf of the injured party must prove that the provider’s negligence directly caused or directly contributed to cause injury or damages to a patient. Proving negligence – defined as the failure to act with the same degree of skill and learning ordinarily used under the same or similar circumstances by members of the provider’s profession – is the key to a successful malpractice claim.
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Medical negligence cases are barred if you do not bring them within a specific time period referred to as the statute of limitations. In general, the statute of limitations is two years after the medical malpractice event; but there are four recognized exceptions to this limitation under Missouri law. The exceptions are the “foreign object” exception, the “failure to inform” exception, the “minor child” exception and the “continuing treatment” exception. The rules regarding statutes of limitation in general, as well as the recognized exceptions to such statutes, are strictly construed so you should consult an attorney immediately in any case where you believe medical negligence may have occurred. In medical malpractice cases the sooner you act the better because if you miss the statutory deadline you will not be able to file suit to hold the negligent party or parties responsible for the harm they have caused.