Every year, approximately 44,000 to 98,000 Americans die in hospitals due to preventable medical errors. Over $3 billion was spent on medical malpractice payouts in 2012, averaging one payout every three minutes, but that still only accounted for .3% of America’s annual healthcare spending. The annual cost of actually treating preventable medical errors was $29 billion.
If you think you’ve been a victim of medical malpractice but you’re not sure when to call a personal injury attorney, it’s important to consider the details of your case. Most personal injury lawyers will tell you that not all medical malpractices start from a dramatic injury or death. It may be as simple as patient abandonment.
What is Patient Abandonment?
Patient abandonment is when a physician unexpectedly terminates the doctor-patient relationship without providing a reasonable excuse or an avenue for the patient to find another care provider to replace them.
For a case to be patient abandonment, and therefore medical malpractice, a doctor-patient relationship must have been established at some point. The abandonment must also occur when the patient is still in the critical stage of treatment, or still in need of medical attention.
The abandonment must have occurred abruptly enough that the patient couldn’t find a replacement physician in time to resume treatment. As a result, the patient must have suffered an injury as a result of being abandoned.
Nurses and other medical professionals may also be held responsible for patient abandonment. Patient abandonment can be caused by inadequate hospital staffing, failure to reach out to a patient who missed a crucial follow-up appointment, or failure to communicate important information to a patient.
Scheduling a follow-up so far in the future that the patient’s condition worsens may also be considered abandonment.
What Isn’t Patient Abandonment?
Most cases where a doctor ceases treatment aren’t considered abandonment. The doctor can terminate the relationship if they don’t have the skills, supplies or resources to provide proper treatment. They can also terminate the relationship if a patient violates the policies of the physician, frequently misses appointments, refuses to cooperate, or exhibits inappropriate behavior.
Even in these cases, a physician will usually treat the patient until a transition to another physician can be made. In these cases, even the best personal injury lawyers will have a hard time proving abandonment.
Talk to a personal injury lawyer if you’re still not sure that you have a case.