Here's a dark fact about the medical industry: approximately 15,000 to 19,000 personal injury cases claiming medical negligence or malpractice are filed each year. In 2013, over $3 billion was paid out by the medical industry for malpractice lawsuits. There are many different types of medical negligence and malpractice that stem from various causes. This article will focus solely on outlining what patient abandonment is.
The Fundamentals of Patient Abandonment
To make it simple, patient abandonment is considered to be a type of medical malpractice where a physician terminates his or her relationship with a patient without providing a reasonable cause. The termination of this relationship must lead to the patient receiving insufficient medical care and resources. For a case to qualify as patient abandonment, it must fulfill all four of the following conditions:
- a physician-patient relationship must be established. In short, the patient must prove that the physician has agreed to treat him or her, or that the patient was involved in an on-going treatment plan with the physician.
- the physician must have abandoned the patient when he or she still required medical attention and services.
- the abandonment must have happened in such an abrupt manner that the patient was left without access to any medical resources or any ability to find another physician who can take over the course of the treatment and provide necessary medical services and attention.
- the abandonment must have led to the patient suffering a direct injury.
Although it may seem unreal, patient abandonment is not uncommon. Many physicians may 'abandon' their patients if there is insufficient staffing. Patient abandonment can also be due to an inability to provide adequate medical services and attention when needed. For example, if medical professionals fail to contact a patient who has missed an important follow-up or appointment, or if medical professionals failed to communicate in an efficient manner with a patient, the patient can argue that any conditions that have worsened or any injuries that have occurred are a direct result of patient abandonment.
Evidence Required for Patient Abandonment
If you have suffered a direct injury as a result of patient abandonment, speak with a personal injury attorney immediately in order to determine the type of evidence that is required to build a strong case against the physician in question. Do not wait, as each state has set up a statute of limitations for personal injury cases that involve medical negligence.
Generally speaking, you will need to have medical documentation and reports that verify an existing patient-physician relationship. You may also need to get a thorough medical examination from another physician in order to obtain an expert opinion regarding whether the patient abandonment resulted in the conditions worsening or the injury occurring. The extent and severity of the injury must also be noted.
Types of Compensation That Can Be Requested
Just like all personal injury cases, you are eligible to request compensation to deal with the injuries that have incurred, if you can build a strong case. Depending on your situation, your personal injury attorney may request compensation for:
- the cost of currently needed medications and medical treatments and the future cost of medications and medical treatments that are needed as a result of the condition worsening.
- wage loss experienced and that may be experienced in the future by not being able to attend work as a result of the condition worsening or as a result of incurring the injury.
- non-economic compensation for any pain and suffering that may have been endured as a result.
- caregiving or housekeeping expenses.
- a loss of quality of living that may have resulted from any disabilities or permanent damages that have occurred.
Situations That Are Not Considered as Patient Abandonment
Not all situations where a physician may have stopped treating a patient qualifies as patient abandonment. If a physician has provided a patient with a written notice of termination along with a valid reason for the decision, then he or she can avoid liability.
Keep in mind that the physician will still be responsible for treating the patient for an amount of time that is deemed as reasonable, and should also put in an effort to help the patient find another qualified physician. The physician is also responsible for transferring the patient's medical information and files in a timely manner to the physician who will take over. Common reasons for a physician to terminate his or her relationship with a patient include:
- having insufficient skills, equipment or resources to provide adequate treatment or medical attention that the patient requires.
- when a patient refuses to comply with the physician's recommendations.
- when a patient may have missed numerous appointments or follow-ups.
- when a patient engages in inappropriate behavior, including sexual advances or verbal abuse.
If you believe that you are a victim of patient abandonment, do not hesitate to speak with a personal injury attorney. You have the right to request any compensation that may be needed for you to recover from the condition worsening or from any injuries that you may have incurred as a result. Keep in mind that resolving a case can take some time. In fact, it takes an average of 27.5 months for a medical malpractice case to reach resolution once it has been filed. For more information, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer.