What Kinds of Evidence do You Need to Prove Pediatric Malpractice?
While it may be debatable how high medical malpractice ranks in the top ten causes of death in the United States, the truth is that tens of thousands of patients die in hospitals annually due to avoidable errors. Some sources estimate that 440,000 patients a year die due to medical errors. When those errors harm children, the result devastates all involved. Medication, communication, emergency room, and safety protocol errors can cause enormous damage to a young life and destroy a family. When malpractice occurs with a child, parents often call in lawyers to help the family recover financial, physical, and emotional losses due to medical negligence and cover the costs of ongoing medical care. Having just any lawyer help with your child’s medical negligence case is not the best approach. It is imperative to enlist an experienced medical malpractice team in New Jersey that concentrates on pediatric malpractice cases such as ours, entrusting your child’s case to a group of select attorneys who understand the complications of pediatric lawsuits against medical professionals and hospitals. Often, the success of the case hinges on the evidence: how it is gathered, assembled, utilized, and weaved into the most compelling claim for top the financial award. We skillfully handle this process on a regular basis and below, we provide you with more information that you’ll need to know about important types of evidence in pediatric malpractice claims.
The Burden of Proof in a Pediatric Malpractice Case
Proving a pediatric malpractice case requires linking the child patient’s injury to a medical professional’s negligence. After establishing that a doctor or other healthcare worker owed a duty to a patient, a plaintiff (one who is suing) must demonstrate that the medical professional failed to perform their duties up to the standard of care expected of them. Further, the plaintiff must show that the substandard care led to verifiable injury and compensable damages. Of course, a jury will not take the plaintiff’s or their lawyer’s word for what or how they suffered. They must offer proof by hard evidence. That is what persuades a jury that the medical professional made the patient/plaintiff worse than another similarly trained, educated, and experienced medical professional would have and to what extent. That is the plaintiff’s burden of proof by law.
Preparing a pediatric malpractice case is a tremendous feat. First, you need to know what, where, and how to obtain what you need as evidence to prove your claim. You can depend on a pediatric malpractice attorney to help you compile the necessary evidence to prove your claim and bear your evidentiary burden at trial. With the help of a team of lawyers, an injured child’s parents or caregivers can prepare their lawsuit with a thorough investigation that includes gathering medical records, taking depositions from parties and key witnesses who may testify at trial, and acquiring expert testimony. Some of the critical components that may serve as evidence in a pediatric malpractice case are explained below.
Medical Expert Witnesses and Reports
Many malpractice cases succeed or fail based on the opinions of medical experts and how they are successfully woven into the narrative of what occurred. Finding the right one who can convey complex medical procedures, practices, and indications in simple terms that a jury can understand is critical. Our lawyers have practiced long-term in pediatric malpractice and we have connections with reputable experts who are respected in their field and have experience testifying in court. Jurors give great weight to the credibility and information of experts when deciding if negligence occurred that caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
Medical experts base their opinions on their experience as applied to the case’s specific facts. As such, the patient’s medical records are the backbone of the malpractice lawsuit. Medical records show what the doctor and medical staff did to diagnose and treat the patient. They include the doctor’s and nurse’s notes on how the patient presented at their initial visit or emergency room admission. The doctor’s notes contain the patient’s initial symptoms, results of initial physical examination, medical history, and the tests ordered by the doctor. Medical records also show the treatment and procedures performed and medications prescribed and administered, including how much and when. Medical records also include the results of tests and laboratory work.
While the medical records are a road map of what occurred, in most instances, medical bills are the proof of one portion of the injured child’s damages. Every consultation, follow-up, and visit with a physician comes with a bill for services. Hospitals, pathologists, assistant surgeons, surgeons, specialists, anesthesiologists, laboratory technicians, and radiologists may have separate bills, even if they all worked on a patient within a single emergency room visit. Pharmacy costs are also in medical bills. While in the hospital or after the child’s discharge, a child may undergo physical, respiratory, and other therapies to regulate their health and recovery. Follow-up visits with doctors, necessary appointments with specialists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and other medical providers may also occur. These costs are also included in the realm of medical expenses. Notably, some out-of-pocket costs for over-the-counter medication may need receipts for proof. In sum, gathering all medical bills can be time-consuming, but they are a significant piece of the compensation that a plaintiff requests in their lawsuit.
Correspondence with Insurance Companies
Medical experts, medical records, and medical bills form the most prominent picture of the essential elements of a medical malpractice lawsuit, although they are not the only evidentiary pieces. Attorneys may gather these first to supply compelling evidence of fault and damages. Proof of correspondence between the patient’s parents and their insurance company or the defendant’s insurance company may also be telling evidence to a jury. Insurance companies’ correspondence may be quite revealing after negligence occurs. Sometimes, medical evidence regarding a patient’s condition or other important information may come from the medical malpractice insurer or the patient’s insurer.
Lost Income and Earning Potential
Other evidence critical to a compensation calculation is lost income and earning potential. If a child is not old enough to work, their future income may be permanently reduced or entirely negated due to permanent physical or cognitive disabilities. Additionally, parents of injured children may claim their lost wages or salaries resulting from caretaking a sick, disabled, or injured child due to malpractice, including time off work for doctor visits and treatments. Having to exit the workforce altogether may happen to some parents whose children require 24-hour care. Pay stubs, federal tax returns, human resources documents showing used sick or vacation pay, or financial statements for self-employment may all be proof of lost income. Parents can also claim costs associated with medical treatment, burial, and a funeral, if applicable. They can also claim a monetary value for losing the relationship with the child if the child’s injuries were fatal.
Costs of Future Care
Finally, trial or settlement preparation is incomplete without evidence of future costs for care and treatment for an injured child. For example, the child may need continuing therapy for physical, emotional, and intellectual damage due to medical negligence. In addition, they may need special accommodations that require modifications to a child’s home, such as ramps for wheelchairs and wider doorways. These documented costs must go to a defendant’s attorney, their insurance company, and/or a jury, along with medical and life care planning experts’ assessments of what the child’s future needs and life plan may be.
Depending on the injury, a child may need close monitoring, special ongoing medical treatments to keep them alive or maintain their health with a deteriorating condition, and other projected physical, educational, and psychological needs. And as a child grows or their requirements change, they may need additional or different help down the line. Experts’ reports verify future costs of the child’s future needs, given their condition, and the comparable costs of those services, care, and accommodations. Sometimes actuarial testimony is required to prove what the value of those costs will be in the future.
Prove Your Child’s Medical Malpractice Case with Help from a Trusted New Jersey Attorney
When your child is the victim of medical malpractice, you want to ensure they get what they need to keep them safe and thriving as best as possible for as long as they are affected by the fallout, often the rest of their lives. For that, you need a lawyer with vast experience compiling evidence so that no past expense or future cost is uncovered. You only get one chance to obtain all of the compensation you and your child need. Our team knows at the heart of a pediatric malpractice case is a child, those who love them, and the necessity for a skilled advocate they can count on to recover the resources for their life moving forward. If you are in need of answers and assistance with a medical negligence case for a child in New Jersey or elsewhere, contact us 24/7 at (866)-708-8617 for a complimentary consultation. Our pediatric malpractice lawyers are ready to assist with a thorough discussion of your situation and free case review.