When someone is treated after being injured in a serious automobile accident, mistakes may be made which leaves the injured victim worse off than he was before treatment. If a patient’s life is altered because of mistakes or neglect by medical professionals, he may be able to file a claim against the medical providers for medical malpractice. However, proving who is at fault in a malpractice case after a car accident can be difficult, which is why you should retain a medical malpractice attorney who also handles car accident cases.
Proving Fault in Malpractice Cases
In many states, the injuries resulting from a car accident and their complications if mistakes were made during treatment of injuries, are the responsibility of the original tortfeasor. The tortfeasor is the one responsible for causing the accident which resulted in the original injuries. However, if medical malpractice against a doctor, nurses or hospital can be proven, the tortfeasor and those breaching the “standard of care” may both be responsible.
If an insurance company believes someone else is responsible for the costs of medical care after an accident, it may refuse to pay the victim’s medical claims. This would force the victim to seek counsel and sue both the person who caused the original accident and those at fault for the alleged malpractice. A medical malpractice attorney would hire medical experts to help determine who was responsible for the accident and resulting injuries and then possibly sue both the original tortfeasor as well as those responsible for malpractice.
What is the Standard of Care?
The standard of care is what a “reasonable person” would do in a given situation, with a reasonable person considered any typical person. For medical professionals and facilities, the standard of care is the level of care that is a patient should expect from similar medical providers in that area. If the standard of care is breached as a result of negligence or actions taken outside the normal standards and that breach causes or exacerbates an injury, the victim may have a claim for medical malpractice.
Compensation for Injuries
In a typical personal injury or medical malpractice case, the injured party can be compensated for:
- Economic damages – such as medical expenses, loss of wages, loss of future income.
- Non-economic damages – loss of use of a limb for example. Pain and suffering would also fit under this category.
- Punitive damages – these are only available in extreme cases and are designed to punish those reasonable for the plaintiff’s injuries.
However, if both parties are held responsible, the original tortfeasor and the one who committed malpractice, the plaintiff may have to recover from both parties based on proportionate fault. For example, under Utah’s medical malpractice laws, the malpractice award can be reduced by the amount the plaintiff’s auto insurance company provides for health costs and income disability coverage, because the insurance company is considered a collateral source.
Staying with the example of Utah, it should be noted that Utah is a comparative fault state, so if you were found to have contributed to the accident, your compensation may be reduced by the percentage of fault for which you are deemed responsible. If you’re found 50% at fault for the accident, you cannot collect compensation at all in Utah. Finding fault after an accident involving malpractice is complicated and requires the help of a good medical malpractice lawyer who also handles car accident injury claims.