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How Do I Know if I Have a Medical Malpractice Case?

April 7, 2021

An experienced medical malpractice attorney in Michigan must show that medical malpractice has occurred when a patient is harmed by a doctor, surgeon, nurse, or other medical professional who fails to competently perform his or her medical duties.

In Michigan, medical malpractice law requires that a patient’s attorney give notice of a lawsuit to the responsible physician, surgeon, nurse, clinic, or hospital. This is a letter that states the issue and the reason the patient is bringing a lawsuit. This notice gives the Defendant the opportunity to prepare their defense before a lawsuit is filed.

In addition, another important requirement in the filing of a medical malpractice lawsuit in Michigan is that the patient must submit an affidavit of merit with the lawsuit complaint. This states that the case has been reviewed and endorsed by a health care professional qualified under state law.

In addition, here are the basics that apply to most medical malpractice cases that can help you determine if you have a medical malpractice case.

What are Some of the Basic Signs that I May Have a Medical Malpractice Case?

 There are some signs that a patient may have a medical malpractice action. Some very apparent signs are:

Extraordinary Consequences

A physician must explain those risks and benefits of treatment that are foreseeable, but they aren’t required to describe highly unusual risks. However, when a patient has a highly unusual outcome after treatment, it may be a sign that a mistake occurred.

You are Informed of a Mistake

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has created a program called CANDOR (Communication and Optimal Resolution) as a way for hospitals and health care providers to address medical errors. The principles of CANDOR are:

  • Honesty with patients and their families when a medical error occurs;
  • Offering an apology;
  • Offering compensation;
  • Conducting an investigation into the cause of the error; and
  • Updating the patient on the progress of the investigation.

The goals of CANDOR are worthwhile, but most healthcare providers don’t use it. Most hospitals won’t admit when the organization or its staff made an error.

Most importantly, even if a physician is honest about mistakes, a patient who has suffered actual harm should speak to an experienced Michigan personal injury attorney.

What Must be Proved in a Medical Malpractice Claim?

  1.  The doctor breach his or her duty and was negligent. To be liable, a physician must have been negligent in a patient’s diagnosis or treatment. To bring a successful lawsuit for malpractice, a patient must be able to prove that the physician caused harm to the patient in a manner in which a competent doctor, under the same circumstances, would not have. The physician’s care is not required to be the best possible—just care that is “reasonably skillful and careful.” The question of whether the physician was reasonably skillful and careful usually is the main issue of a medical malpractice claim.
  2. The medical professional’s negligence caused the injury. Because many malpractice cases involve patients who were already sick or injured, there is often a question of if what the physician did—negligent or not—actually caused the harm to the individual. In these situations, the patient must show that it’s “more likely than not” that the physician’s error directly caused the injury. This requires that the patient call a medical expert to testify that the doctor’s negligence in fact caused the injury.
  3. The injury resulted in specific damages. No matter if it’s clear that a physician performed below the expected standards in his or her field, a patient is prohibited from suing for malpractice if the patient didn’t suffer any harm. Types of harm that a patient can sue for include physical pain, mental anguish, additional medical bills, and lost work and lost earning capacity.

What are the Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice?

There are many circumstances that can lead to a medical malpractice claim. However, the majority of medical malpractice claims in Michigan are in one of these categories:

Failure to Communicate or Act on Abnormal Test Results

More than 7% of abnormal test results are never reported to the patient.  Patients cannot assume test results are normal because they never hear from the healthcare provider.  Lack of notification or abnormal test results can lead to a missed diagnosis or delay in treatment, endangering the patient.  When a patient suffers injury because an abnormal test result is not reported, a medical error has occurred.

Medication Errors – i.e., Overdose

Common medication errors are:

  • Patient given wrong drug
  • Patient given the wrong amount of the correct drug
  • Patient is given a drug known to cause an allergic reaction
  • Patient is given a drug known to interact poorly with a patient’s other medications
  • Patient is not prescribed a medication known to help patient’s illness or condition

Patients can often avoid injury by medication error by being educated: awareness of what you are taking, how much you are taking, and what you cannot take.

Early Discharge and Repeated Medical Visits Without Diagnosis

Hospital patients are often anxious and chaos and urgency in the emergency department overwhelm.  Sometimes the chaos affects healthcare provider decision making and result in premature discharge.  A health care facility or provider will discharge a patient before he or she is medically stable.  When a patient must be readmitted or suffers injury because of early discharge, a medical error has occurred.

Surgical Injuries

Patients undergo surgery to improve or fix a medical complication.   When a surgeon errs during an operation, it is a surgical error. Common surgical errors include:

  • Performing surgery on the wrong part of the body
  • Cutting a blood vessel or organ inadvertently
  • Turning off or ignoring a warning alarm of equipment monitoring patient vitals
  • Performing surgeries that are unnecessary
  • Using surgery tools negligently
  • Delaying surgery unnecessarily
  • Reckless decision making under pressure
  • Leaving surgical instruments inside the body
  • Performing the wrong procedure
  • Utilizing an inappropriate surgical technique

Failure to Monitor

When a medical provider fails to properly respond to a patient’s serious symptom, this is failure to monitor. This may include failure to monitor a patient’s vital signs, failure to communicate an important change to a physician, failure to recognize and respond to signs of distress, etc.  Failure to monitor accounts for several medical injuries and situations.  Failure to monitor can apply to physiological monitoring, such as neonatal monitoring or monitoring of vital signs during a medical procedure.  Monitoring call also apply to the study of patient’s postoperative recovery.  There are different ways in which medical providers can fail to properly monitor.  Some common failures to monitor include:

  • Management of a Patient: Failing to review a patient’s medical chart to verify that the proper medical tests and medicine have been administered to a patient.
  • Surgical Monitoring: A patient is not monitored carefully during a medical procedure.  For example, anesthesia is administered incorrectly, or surgical staff ignores vital signs.
  • During recovery: A patient is not closely monitored for post-operative complications such as bleeding, blood clots, infections, or abnormal breathing or heartbeat.


If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to an injury or complication you believe was an error by the physician, surgeon, or hospital, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney at Buchanan Firm in Michigan for a free consultation. We can discuss your situation if you believe you’ve been injured as the result of medical malpractice and determine if a you have a meritorious claim.

Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Detroit, Dearborn, Lansing, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Wyoming, Pontiac, Kentwood, or Waterford, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Cascade, Grant, Ionia, Fruitport, Big Rapids, or Three Rivers. We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital to accommodate you.

Contact us today!