Nobody wants to think about medical malpractice. When we seek medical attention, we expect our care providers to have the experience and skill necessary to attend to our needs. Unfortunately, medical mistakes happen. When a doctor or care provider makes a mistake that causes you to sustain an injury or illness, it may prove difficult to process the situation and move forward.
At The Bruning Law Firm, we advocate for victims who unfairly have to deal with the consequences of a medical mistake, whether the malpractice injured them at major providers like Barnes Jewish or St. Louis University Hospital or one of the Gateway City’s many smaller medical facilities. If you or someone you love has to navigate through this difficult time, you shouldn’t attempt to handle your legal claim alone. In St. Louis, you may have a right to financial compensation. To learn more, contact a St. Louis medical malpractice lawyers at The Bruning Law Firm for a free initial case evaluation.
The Bruning Law Firm: Experience When It Matters the Most
If you suffered injuries or illness due to the actions of a doctor or other care provider, you need a medical malpractice attorney. Medical mistakes don’t just happen. In many cases, they result from negligence or a breach of the duty of care. When this happens, you have rights.
At The Bruning Law Firm, our attorneys don’t just work in St. Louis, we live here. We represent our neighbors, families, and friends. When you work with us, you can expect compassionate, understanding, and aggressive representation. You deserve nothing less. We care about our community, and we stand ready to help our clients process and heal.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice Claims Our Firm Handles
Any time doctors make a mistake, they risk a medical malpractice lawsuit. Malpractice constitutes the tort committed when a professional fails to properly execute their duty to a client. In essence, all healthcare providers must legally provide care consistent with the legal and moral ethics of providers in their field.
That said, medical malpractice might not apply when the patient merely does not get the desired outcome. As a patient, it may prove difficult to differentiate what constitutes medical malpractice. Due to this complexity, you should talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney if you suspect you might have a legal claim. At The Bruning Law Firm, we handle a wide range of medical malpractice cases, including:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of all Americans have used at least one prescription drug in the last 30 days. As patients, we rely on our doctors to prescribe the right dose, select the right medication, and provide clear and appropriate instructions. The FDA reports, however, that it receives more than 100,000 reports of suspected medication errors in the U.S. every year.
When doctors prescribe a drug, they need to check for effectiveness, consider possible drug interactions, and verify the patient’s history and possible allergies. When they fail to take any of these steps, the patient may suffer injury or death.
Most of us have not received formal medical training, like doctors. As such, we rely on our doctors to make a diagnosis when we suffer an injury or contract an illness. When a doctor misses a diagnosis, not only does it prove frustrating, but it can also cause harmful, permanent effects. A delayed diagnosis can lead to prolonged pain, worsening of symptoms, and sometimes death.
Possible reasons for diagnosis issues may include:
- Poor communication between care providers
- Failure to review patient’s medical/family history
- Misread lab results
- Failure to include symptoms in diagnosis
- Concurrent or masking symptoms
Surgeries can prove scary. Most of us overcome that fear by presuming that our surgeons know what to do. Unfortunately, surgical errors happen at an alarmingly frequent rate. A recent report found that medical personnel commits at least 4,000 surgical errors in the U.S. every year. These errors can result in permanent injuries, infection, pain, and death. In some cases, the patient may need one or more additional surgeries to fix the surgical error.
Possible surgical errors include:
- Improper anesthesia
- Injury to a nerve
- Wrong limb amputation
- Leaving surgical equipment in the body
- Operating on the wrong patient
- Wrong side operations
Your child’s birth should constitute one of the happiest days of your life. However, a birth injury can change the life of you and your child forever. Birth injuries can happen when a doctor makes a bad judgment call or when a doctor fails to recognize signs of distress during a birth. When a doctor makes a mistake, the results can prove devastating.
Birth injuries may include:
- Cerebral palsy, due to lack of oxygen
What to Do if You Think You Have a Medical Malpractice Case
First, everyone must understand that a negative medical outcome does not necessarily constitute a medical mistake. To claim medical malpractice, your attorney must show that your care provider acted in a way inconsistent with how another person in a similar position would have acted. With that, you should talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney to determine whether you have a medical malpractice case. If you believe you have experienced a medical mistake, you should take a few steps to protect your case.
These steps include:
- Document your symptoms. The minute you realize that you’ve sustained an injury or illness, you should take note of what you feel. Be very specific. Write down your symptoms, how long they last, and anything that specifically triggers these symptoms. Be sure to note the time, and if you feel pain, try to describe the pain as clearly as possible.
- Make an appointment for follow-up care. If something feels wrong, you need to go to the doctor. You should always prioritize your health and wellbeing, and you should never delay care. However, this does not mean that you should go to the same doctor you believe caused your injuries. Instead, make an appointment with someone outside of your doctor’s organization, and let that doctor know about your concerns so that he or she can make the best decision moving forward.
- Request your medical records. Your medical records can provide critical information about your care. If your doctor later claims you did not disclose symptoms or medical history, your records can prove otherwise.
- Contact an experienced St. Louis medical malpractice attorney. The sooner you talk to an attorney, the sooner your attorney can begin to work on your case. You should call an attorney as soon as you realize what has happened. At this point, your attorney can begin to review your records and build your medical malpractice case.
Causes of Medical Malpractice
No doctor can ever justify an instance of medical malpractice. When we visit a doctor, we give him or her our complete trust. When doctors betray this trust, not only can it lead to physical injuries, but it can also cause a lifetime of psychological issues. However, it helps to understand why medical malpractice issues continue to happen. Some of the most common causes of medical malpractice include:
Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals notoriously work long, extended shifts. These shifts can range from 12 to an excess of 24 hours at a time. While these types of shifts occur commonly in hospitals across the country, they certainly constitute a very real cause for concern. Fatigue can prove dangerous and lead to poor judgment, difficulty concentrating, impaired muscle coordination, and blurry vision.
When you make an appointment with a doctor, you expect that your doctor will know what to do. As a result, it may come as a surprise when your doctor doesn’t have the experience needed to provide appropriate care. Unfortunately, lack of training constitutes a serious problem. If doctors don’t have the experience or training necessary to do their job, they have a responsibility to hand the case over to someone else who does.
Proper staffing levels may prove essential to providing appropriate patient care. Unfortunately, staff shortages constitute a continual problem within hospitals and care facilities across the United States. Improper staffing can have direct and indirect effects on patient care. Some of the consequences of improper staffing include:
- Provider fatigue
- Longer wait times
- Rushed appointments
- Poor record-keeping
- Lack of support services, including translators and patient advocates
- Poor quality of care
Unfortunately, some medical errors happen as a result of pure negligence. These types of errors can constitute some of the hardest for patients to cope with. When you enter a hospital or a doctor’s office, you expect your doctor to provide you with the highest quality of care. When doctors rush their job or don’t pay attention, it may constitute negligence. Why does negligence happen?
- The doctor forgot to review the patient’s medical records.
- The care provider made a mistake because of routine or complacency.
- The doctor felt rushed.
- The doctor provided your treatment while distracted.
- The care provider wasn’t willing to ask for help.
- The doctor felt sick, had recently taken medication, or was working while under the influence.
- The doctor dismissed the advice or judgment of other care providers.
Possible Damages for Medical Malpractice Claims
If you fall victim to medical malpractice, the law may entitle you to financial compensation. If someone you love dies because of a medical mistake, you may have a legal claim. Under the law, when a person suffers an injury because of someone’s negligence, the negligent party may bear responsibility for the costs related to those injuries. In a legal proceeding, these costs constitute damages. While damages may vary from case to case, you may qualify to recover certain expenses in a medical malpractice case.
These expenses include:
- Medical costs: If you have undergone medical treatment, you understand how expensive medical bills can become. In a medical malpractice case, medical bills often represent one of the highest costs. When you file a medical malpractice suit, you want to recover all of these costs, including doctor visits, surgeries, hospital stays, medication, and rehabilitation.
- Lost wages: Serious injuries can cause you to lose time from work. When this happens, you need a way to support yourself. When you miss time from work as a direct result of your injuries, your attorney may argue for lost wages. If you cannot return to work, you may qualify to seek compensation for future lost wages.
- Pain and suffering: Medical errors can cause physical and emotional pain. When a doctor causes you to sustain an injury, it can make you question your judgment and lose trust in the healthcare system as a whole. This kind of trauma often requires time and treatment for a patient to recover. In addition, when a doctor makes a mistake, it can cause prolonged or even increased pain. This pain matters, and you should include it in your medical malpractice case.
- Wrongful death: Study after study continues to show that medical errors constitute one of the leading causes of death in the United States. No one should ever have to lose a loved one because of a preventable mistake. Under the law, the family of the deceased has many of the same rights that a victim would have had if he or she had survived the fatal injuries. This can include medical costs, lost wages, loss of guidance, and pain and suffering.
St. Louis Medical Malpractice FAQ
Of the 52 healthcare facilities in the St. Louis region, U.S. News & World Report has ranked Barnes-Jewish Hospital as the top hospital to receive quality care. Indeed, it ranks first in northwestern Missouri and the 17th in the nation. However, medical errors still happen at highly ranked hospitals under the care of the best doctors.
Each year, medical mistakes in healthcare facilities across the nation kill a quarter of a million people and leave many more with injuries as a result.
If a St. Louis medical care provider failed to provide the minimum standard of care and injured you, an experienced St. Louis medical malpractice attorney from Bruning Law Firm can help you. We can determine your legal options for pursuing compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury.
Contact us today to discuss your case. And find below answers to questions St. Louis medical malpractice victims are likely to have.
What is a medical malpractice lawsuit?
The American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys describes medical malpractice as when a doctor, hospital, or other health care professional causes injury to a patient through a negligent act or omission. A medical malpractice claim is a legal claim filed against the at-fault medical provider by the injured patient, seeking compensation for the expenses and impacts the patient incurred as a result.
Common errors that give rise to a medical malpractice lawsuit include:
- Diagnosis errors, such as missed diagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or misdiagnosis
- Medication errors, including providing a patient with the wrong medication or the wrong dosage
- Failure to obtain a complete patient history or to obtain informed consent from the patient to perform a medical procedure
- Premature discharge or failure to provide adequate post-operative instructions
- Surgical errors, such as wrong-site surgery, wrong-patient surgery, or even a surgeon or surgical staff leaving a medical tool inside the patient’s body cavity during surgery
How long do I have to file a medical malpractice claim in St. Louis?
The time limit to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in St. Louis is generally two years after the injury occurred. However, if the case involves a foreign object (for example, a surgical tool) left inside the patient’s body, the statute of limitations tolls until two years after you discover the error. And in cases involving a child victim of medical malpractice, you must file the lawsuit before the child’s 20th birthday (or two years after they reach the age of majority). You cannot file a medical malpractice case more than 10 years after the medical mistake was made or, in the case of a minor medical malpractice victim, two years after the patient’s 18th birthday, whichever is later.
What can I receive compensation for through a St. Louis medical malpractice claim?
St. Louis medical malpractice claimants can seek to recover compensation for the expenses and impacts of the injury that resulted from the medical error.
Common expenses and impacts claimed in St. Louis medical malpractice cases include:
- Medical expenses incurred, to repair the damage that resulted from the error
- Lost wages, if the medical error caused a victim to miss work
- Loss of future earning capacity, if the medical malpractice caused a victim to acquire permanent deficits and they can no longer earn what they did before the error
- Physical pain and suffering and emotional distress caused by the injury a victim endured because of the error
If you have lost a loved one as a result of St. Louis medical malpractice, you can seek compensation for expenses and impacts such as:
- The cost of the funeral and burial or cremation
- Medical bills relating to the treatment of the deceased from the time of the error until death
- The value of wages and benefits the deceased would have likely earned had they not died as a result of the malpractice
- Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased between the time of their injury and the time of death
- The value of support, services, companionship, nurturing, and care that the deceased provided to their loved ones
What Is an Affidavit of Qualified Health Care Provider?
An affidavit of Qualified Health Care Provider is a document St. Louis medical malpractice victims must obtain before being permitted to proceed with a medical malpractice claim.
Your attorney can obtain this affidavit from a legally qualified health care provider who has evaluated the facts of your case and has found:
- The at-fault health care provider failed to provide a standard of care that a reasonably prudent health care professional in similar circumstances would; and
- This failure contributed to or caused the harm that the plaintiff experienced.
You must submit the affidavit to the court within 90 days of filing a malpractice claim.
Is there a cap on the damages I can recover through a St. Louis medical malpractice claim?
Previously, Missouri law capped the amount of compensation a claimant could recover through a medical malpractice claim for pain and suffering at $350,000. However, the courts found that rule unconstitutional several years ago.
The legislature amended the language of the medical malpractice statute to cap non-economic damages (compensation received for the psychological impacts of your injury) in 2015 at $400,000 in cases involving non-catastrophic injuries and $700,000 in cases involving catastrophic injuries. The caps increase by 1.7 percent annually.
Catastrophic injuries are highly likely to produce physical disabilities that prevent people from earning an income or accomplishing daily living tasks independently. The term usually refers to injuries affecting the brain or the spinal cord.
I had a bad outcome from a surgical procedure. Is that considered malpractice?
Bad outcomes are not uncommon in surgical procedures and are often not enough on their own to give rise to a medical malpractice case. Malpractice requires that the bad outcome result from the healthcare provider’s failure to provide care as a similarly tasked provider would have.
For example, if the bad outcome resulted from a surgery failing to accomplish a remedial outcome—particularly if the medical provider explained in advance that such was a possibility—you might not have a case for medical malpractice. However, if the bad outcome resulted from the anesthesiologist accidentally giving you twice the medication that a person of your size would require, surgery was performed on the wrong body part, or the doctor left a surgical sponge inside your body, these would more likely give rise to a claim.
One of the important services a medical malpractice attorney can provide is a free case evaluation, as this allows you to discuss the details of your case in an obligation-free session to determine the viability of your claim. A qualified medical professional must also evaluate your case to ensure you have a claim.
Who is liable in a St. Louis medical malpractice case—the hospital or the doctor?
Liability in a St. Louis medical malpractice case often depends on the type of provider that created the error. Hospitals must hire properly licensed and trained staff and that staffing levels can provide adequate care for all patients. Because of these responsibilities, a healthcare facility can be found liable for such things as negligently hiring or inadequately training staff members. In many of these cases, the individual staff member can also be found liable.
However, many doctors are not hospital employees but rather independent contractors with privileges to use the hospital. If a doctor failed to provide the standard of care, unless the doctor who made the error is a hospital employee, the facility might not bear liability.
To prove liability in a medical malpractice case, you must show:
- A provider-patient relationship existed
- The provider failed to take the actions of a reasonably prudent facility or professional when providing the patient’s care
- The failure to provide the standard of care caused or contributed to the patient’s injury.
- The patient’s injury resulted in significant financial costs and other impacts
Medical malpractice cases are often among the most difficult cases to prove. These cases take a lot of time to investigate and require a great amount of technical evidence. St. Louis medical malpractice victims are best off hiring an experienced attorney with the knowledge and resources necessary to establish a medical malpractice claim.
Do I have to pay taxes on the award I received from my medical malpractice case?
For the most part, court awards or settlement recoveries in St. Louis medical malpractice cases are not taxable. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not consider this money as income. The exception to this rule is if a victim recovers punitive damages, which are awarded not as compensation for the expenses and impacts of the injury, but as a means to punish a defendant for particularly egregious behavior. However, punitive damages are relatively rare, as they require that the plaintiff prove the provider intentionally caused the injury, and that simply isn’t the case in the vast majority of medical malpractice claims.
If you claimed medical expenses as a tax deduction and then received compensation for those medical expenses, you must return to the IRS that deduction.
I can’t afford an attorney. How hard would it be to file a medical malpractice claim on my own?
Medical malpractice cases are extremely hard to file and prove independently. These cases are complex even for attorneys who have spent years gaining the education and experience to serve their clients. For an individual not trained in Missouri medical malpractice law, the process would likely prove overwhelming, and even if the victim could reach a successful outcome, the settlement or award would likely be far lower than what they could have received with the assistance of an attorney.
The legal team at Bruning Law Firm understands the financial pressure medical malpractice victims are already under and their concern that they can't afford an attorney. We are pleased to assist our clients by not only providing a free case evaluation—during which we can provide information about the services we offer and determine the viability of your claim—but we also provide a contingency fee payment option.
This means you will not owe us for legal fees on your St. Louis medical malpractice case until we obtain a successful outcome for your claim. This allows us to begin the difficult and time-consuming work without requiring an upfront investment from you.
The services we can provide during your case include:
- Determining liability and estimating a value for your claim
- Obtaining an affidavit from a qualified healthcare provider that states your case has merit
- Negotiating with the provider’s insurer to reach a fair settlement
- Gathering the evidence needed to prove your medical malpractice claim in court
- In lieu of a fair settlement, litigation services that include presenting your case at trial, introducing evidence, and examining witnesses.
- Assistance collecting your settlement or award and dispensing these funds to creditors who treated your injury.
Let our experienced St. Louis attorneys help you make sense of collecting compensation for the injuries you incurred because a provider failed to deliver the standard of care you deserved. For your free case evaluation, contact us right away.
Get the Help You Need—Contact the Bruning Law Firm Today
When a doctor or care provider causes you harm, you should pursue justice and compensation. You want an experienced attorney on your side who knows how the insurance agencies work and will help you fight for what’s right. At The Bruning Law Firm, we work with victims of medical malpractice to help them regain their lives. We know you value your future and that you want to know you have someone in your corner whom you can trust. Don’t wait. The sooner you talk to an attorney, the sooner you can begin to focus on your recovery.
Whether a medical provider injured you in St. Louis, over the river in the Metro East, or in one of the city’s Missouri suburbs, we can help you. To learn more about your legal rights or to set up a free initial consultation, contact The Bruning Law Firm at (314) 735-8100.
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