Medical & Dental Negligence

Medical and Dental Negligence in Decatur

Bad medical or dental results do not necessarily mean a health care provider committed malpractice. But serious mistakes happen every day during medical and dental care. Physicians and dentists must exercise the same reasonable care and skill that would typically be used by physicians and dentists under similar circumstances. When a physician or dentist fails to exercise reasonable care, the mistake can lead to a serious injury or even loss of life. If you are hurt by medical or dental negligence in Clayton, DeKalb, Cobb, or Fulton County, the trustworthy Michael Braun may be able to help you recover compensation for your injuries.

Liability for Medical and Dental Negligence

A plaintiff must prove three elements in an action for medical or dental negligence: (1) the doctor or dentist’s duty to the patient; (2) the doctor or dentist’s breach of that duty through failure to exercise the requisite degree of skill and care; and (3) an injury actually and proximately caused by the doctor or dentist’s failure. To bring a malpractice case against physicians or dentists in Georgia, a plaintiff must have the support of an affidavit from someone in the same profession as the defendant. If there is no malpractice affidavit or the affidavit is inappropriate, the suit will be dismissed.

The affidavit should explain the standard of care and how it was violated. The person signing the affidavit must not only be a member of the same profession but must also qualify as an expert who regularly and frequently engages in practice or teaching in the defendant’s specialty or practice area for at least three of the past five years. For example, an expert who opines on a defendant dentist’s botched wisdom tooth extraction will be expected to have taught or practiced performing tooth extractions in similar situations in the past. A judge will determine whether the expert has the appropriate level of knowledge in performing the same procedure or diagnosing a condition to be able to opine whether the defendant violated the standard of care.

Assuming an appropriate malpractice affidavit is filed, the issue of whether the defendant was negligent will often come down to which expert is more believable. Judges have broad discretion to screen expert physician or dentist testimony. Usually the experts on each side will be testifying on whether or not there was negligence. However, in hospital emergency department cases, a plaintiff must demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence gross negligence. This is an extremely tough burden of proof for a plaintiff to shoulder.

Trustworthy Georgia Attorneys Can Help You Recover for Malpractice

Figuring out the window in which you can bring a malpractice claim in Georgia is very complex, making it crucial to consult an attorney with detailed knowledge and experience in this area of law. Generally speaking, there is a two-year statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases in Georgia. This runs from the date of the procedure or the date on which the plaintiff knew or should have known of his injury. Although there are two years before a suit must be filed, it is prudent to consult an attorney as soon as you suspect malpractice. Because of the additional requirements related to expert testimony, it is important for your attorney to have time to evaluate your case, retain an appropriate expert and start to build a strong case even before filing.

Georgia also has a statute of repose that limits a patient’s ability to file a claim against a medical professional. An injured patient only has five years within which he must file a lawsuit after an act that caused the injury occurred. The statute of repose means that even if an injury isn’t discovered until ten years after a medical procedure, a plaintiff will be unable to bring a lawsuit. Other rules may also apply to make the window shorter.

Surgical Errors in Atlanta

Surgeries are inherently risky. Patients who undergo surgery are usually warned that surgery is complex and surgical procedures carry the risk of unexpected occurrences that can lead to medical complications, permanent injury and even death. Nonetheless, patients have the right to expect doctors and medical staff will be careful, avoid unnecessary risks and take all possible precautions. If you have been hurt by a surgical error in DeKalb, Clayton, Cobb, or Fulton County, the trustworthy Michael Braun may be able to help you recover compensation for your injuries.

Surgical errors include: failure to take a complete history, operating on the wrong body part, leaving sponges or instruments inside a patient, failure to correct injuries that occur during a surgery such as a perforated organ, failing to take proper precautions against infection before a surgery, and failing to communicate appropriately with another medical professional. Whatever the error, it is crucial to consult an attorney as soon as you suspect a problem, due to an extremely limited window in which to sue for damages.

Liability for Surgical Errors

In order to bring a medical malpractice case for a surgical error in Georgia, a plaintiff must get an affidavit from a surgeon in the same specialty attesting that the defendant surgeon breached his duty to exercise the requisite skill and care for a particular procedure. The expert must testify that the defendant surgeon violated the applicable standard of care and that the violation or deviation is the proximate cause of the injury suffered. If a plaintiff fails to submit the affidavit or submits an affidavit from someone not qualified to opine as an expert, the case may be dismissed.

Hospital emergency departments or surgeons providing “emergency medical care” have a different standard of care, however. Emergency medical care under OCGA § 51-1-29.5 (a) (5) are bona fide emergency services provided after the start of a medical or traumatic condition that appears through acute and severe symptoms including severe pain. These are services that are so necessary that if immediate attention is not provided the patient’s health will be placed in serious jeopardy.

Plaintiffs that have emergency surgeries must prove gross negligence, not just ordinary negligence, under O.C.G.A. § 51-1-29.5 (c). “Gross negligence” is the absence of even “slight diligence”; a defendant fails to exercise slight diligence under O.C.G.A. § 51-1-4 when he fails to meet the degree of care someone of common sense, no matter how inattentive he is, utilizes under similar circumstances. A surgeon does not provide “emergency medical care” once a patient is stabilized. After a patient is stabilized, the ordinary standard of medical negligence applies.

Bringing a Surgical Error Lawsuit in Georgia

Calculating the window in which a lawsuit may be brought for surgical error in Georgia can be complicated. The statute of limitations for most medical malpractice claims is 2 years after discovering an injury or after the surgery. However, you usually only have a window of five years after the act constituting medical malpractice occurs. There are certain exceptions. Notably, if a surgeon leaves a foreign object is left inside your body during surgery, a Georgia medical malpractice claim can be filed within 1 year of the discovery, even if it exceeds the 5-year limit for the statute of repose.