Being involved in a car accident can be a traumatic and overwhelming experience. Not only do you have to worry about physical injuries and property damage, but you also have to deal with getting all your questions answered. Will the insurance companies handle the accident fairly? Will there be medical bills to pay? How will […]
Getting Your Day in Court: Medical Malpractice and Missed Diagnoses
I. Your Day in Court
It’s one of the most common phrases in the world, when talking about the legal system. “Everyone is entitled to their day in court.” As a Charlotte trial attorney has recently shown, making this promise come true may also seem like the longest day of all. That’s why it’s so vitally important make sure you only work with an experienced Charlotte trial attorney. Delaying advice from an expert may end up in a denial of your valid claim. The following case shows how vital time can be, whether getting full medical or legal attention.
The 16-year-old child of a couple was hurt in a car wreck and taken to Lake Norman Regional Medical. He received examination and some treatment, and then was sent home. Unnoticed in the medical exam before discharge was the fact the boy, named Duncan, had suffered lacerations to his liver. His lacerations, it was eventually proven by the Charlotte trial attorney, in turn caused internal bleeding, which staff at the hospital had not observed or fully treated. The condition was shown to have been liver and internal lacerations. The staff did notice an apparent external seatbelt abrasion, running from Duncan’s left shoulder, all the way onto his right upper abdomen. Other signs of that injury were indicated by various bruises.
Duncan himself complained of significant neck and chest pains. At that time, a general physical, some bloodwork, and x-rays were conducted. The x-rays covered the chest and spine, and revealed no major problems. Duncan’s final ‘treatment’ was to be given pain meds and then was discharged. Tragically, Duncan was discovered in bed the next morning, unresponsive. He had bled to death, overnight, from the liver lacerations.
II. Seat Belts: Bruised, Not Broken?
Studies indicate that seatbelts have been an enormously influential factor in decreasing highway and traffic deaths. On the other hand, studies also indicate that there’s a downside to this blessing. Seatbelts save lives, but also lead to serious, often unseen or secondary injuries such as head trauma. The seatbelts themselves may even cause injury.
The defendants in this case had two arguments to keep the trial from going forward. First, they were to argue that the expert testimony about the lacerations wasn’t adequate. Secondly, they argued that there were problems with how the issues of proving adequate care (community standards) for this particular community was established.
Let’s look at those two issues separately. They demonstrate how important is to have an experienced Charlotte trial attorney in medical malpractice and auto accident cases. Though the issues may seem unrelated, it takes genuine expertise to explain the complications of how medical negligence is proven.
III. Expert Enough?
The attorneys for the doctors argued, basically, that the medical evidence and experts used by the Charlotte trial attorney were either not qualified or had not presented enough evidence to prove the cause of Duncan’s death.
Ultimately, the North Carolina Supreme Court agreed with the Charlotte trial attorney: the doctors evidence was “expert” enough. This reflected a three-part test. First, the Charlotte trial attorney showed that the doctors proof was sufficiently reliable to be considered expert. Next, the Charlotte trial attorney had introduced a doctor’s (Dr. M.) testimony without any objection by the defendants. Finally, and perhaps the most important issue: why is the expert’s testimony made relevant? This area alone often showcases the special skills and experience of a Charlotte trial attorney. Many times, the specific types of questions of legal relevance may be considered by laymen to be relevant, but still not meet the proper legal standard. This requires an expert Charlotte trial attorney who understands about laying the foundation and building a malpractice case brick by brick. The wrinkle in this case was that the defendants probably realized the Charlotte trial attorney had done a good job showing basic medical expertise. So instead, they argued that there wasn’t enough “sufficiency” of testimony to establish the relationship between injury and the death. Once again, the Charlotte trial attorney proved to be correct. It was improper for a trial court to predetermine the specific type of evidence as to its to be produced at trial. In fact, the North Carolina Supreme Court went so far as to say “no issue exists [Emphasis Added] regarding any preliminary” questioning about the doctor’s expertise. The Charlotte trial attorney had proven that the trial court had acted too hastily in dismissing the case. Next, was the issue as to what kind of community standards should apply.
IV. Community Standards Are a Crucial Measure…
One of the most frequent keys to a successful Charlotte trial attorney medical malpractice/auto accident case is to explain what reasonable expectations for treatment are available. For example, if the standard of care is in a very small, isolated and rural hospital, your experienced Charlotte trial attorney will know that standard. On the other hand, the standards of care for particular types of emergency treatment, such as Duncan received here, may have an entirely different standard of care. Evidence was introduced to show: the population the community, the kinds of facilities that were in the hospital, the diagnostics that were available, and even the number of beds. All of these factors were handled by the Charlotte trial attorney successfully, to demonstrate what probably should’ve been done in Duncan’s case at that particular facility. At the end, it was very likely that Iredell County had a standard of care which at least raised the issue as to whether or not the specific treatment of Duncan had fallen below the area’s acceptable standards. Once having established the applicable standard of care, the next duty of a Charlotte trial attorney may be to show there’s a basis (proof of duty and how well that duty was met) to apply that standard of care in a specific case.
The Charlotte trial attorney was successful in showing Dr. M’s specific familiarity with the defendants in this case. From there, it was possible to link the standard of care in the area to the question about whether or not Duncan had received an adequate standard of care.
Notably, the standard of care ultimately rested not only on this crucial medical criteria. It was also essential that the experience to Charlotte trial attorney was able to show that the correct legal standard— allowing someone their “day in court”—had not been given either. If you, your family member or loved one—have questions involving an auto injury or resulting medical treatment issues, or even insurance issues related to these injuries, please contact us. You will speak with an expert Charlotte trial attorney, who can best answer your questions about how your or loved one’s injuries or case may be best addressed. There is never a fee for this initial consultation.
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