Should I File A Lawsuit For A Medical Treatment Delay?
Picture this scenario: Your child has a routine surgery and while recovering in his hospital room his blood pressure is abnormally low and the nurses don’t call the doctor for over 24 hours resulting in permanent paralysis. Or, your spouse has an x-ray in the ER for stomach pain, which is read as normal, but there is side-note on the x-ray report about a suspicious lesion on the kidney that you are not told about but discovered a year later as cancer.
These are both examples of delayed medical treatment, which is an issue that affects countless patients as they move through our embattled healthcare system. If you or a loved one suffered harm due to a delay in medical treatment, you have legal options. This article provides an overview of everything to know on the topic, from defining this type of medical negligence and the potential legal consequences, to the key questions you must answer before pursuing a delay in treatment lawsuit.
What is Delayed Medical Treatment?
Delayed treatment refers to a situation where a patient's need for medical care is postponed beyond an acceptable or reasonable timeframe. This delay can occur at any stage of the healthcare process: administering medication, diagnosing conditions, performing surgery, getting physical therapy, undergoing lab testing, and even booking appointments.
Delayed treatment is medical negligence—any unjustifiable lag in care qualifies as a breach of duty by a medical professional or facility. And regardless of why it happens, whether the cause was understaffing, administrative inefficiencies, or lack of resources, it is still legally unacceptable. Both healthcare institutions and doctors themselves can be held liable in delay in treatment lawsuits.
The Consequences of Delayed Treatment
Delayed medical treatment can cause a wide range of consequences for patients, such as increased pain, exacerbated medical conditions, added health complications, and even permanent damage. In the most extreme cases, it can lead to death. The impact of delayed treatment can be especially negative when it involves critical conditions like heart attacks, strokes, cancer, or infections that require timely intervention. While each case is different, delayed treatment or medical negligence lawsuits are typically filed when the patient has suffered permanent harm or lost their life.
Can Delayed Treatment Trigger a Lawsuit?
Yes, it can. Delayed treatment is a form of medical malpractice, which is when the healthcare professional or facility was negligent in their duty to a patient under their care and caused injury to that patient.
However, not all delays in medical treatment are grounds for a lawsuit. To determine whether your case is viable, certain conditions must be met:
Doctor/Hospital -Patient Relationship
The first condition is you must have an established and agreed-upon relationship with the doctor or facility you want to sue. Medical records typically offer this proof, showing the name of your primary care physician or the hospital staff assigned to your care. Once the doctor-patient relationship is confirmed, that professional gains a duty to treat you with a certain standard of care.
Another primary condition for a delay in treatment lawsuit is you must establish that there was negligence on the part of the healthcare provider. Negligence implies that the medical professional or facility failed to provide a reasonable standard of care that a competent person or provider would have delivered under similar circumstances. In most cases, a medical or other expert will be necessary to advise the jury of how a patient’s circumstances is typically handled by most medical professional providers. There is often a dispute on that issue.
Delayed medical treatment alone will not be sufficient grounds for a lawsuit if no harm or injury occurred as a direct result of the delay. Patients must be able to demonstrate that the delay caused them harm, injury, or worsened their medical condition. This harm should be quantifiable and substantiated through medical records and expert testimony.
Your case must establish a strong link between the treatment delay and the harm incurred. If the harm could have happened regardless of the delay, it will weaken your case. For example, if a doctor failed to accurately diagnose a condition based on your symptoms, you must prove that that delay caused your disease to spread more rapidly than if it was treated correctly and promptly.
Oklahoma Medical Malpractice Laws
Like many states, Oklahoma has laws that affect medical malpractice lawsuits based on failure to treat patients in a timely manner. These laws are complex, but an attorney will help you understand them in detail—you aren’t in this alone.
Here is some high-level information relating to Oklahoma laws that’s important to know when considering whether to pursue a delay in treatment lawsuit:
Statute of Limitations
Oklahoma has a time limit for filing medical malpractice claims. Typically, this limit is two years from the date the injury occurred or the date the injury was discovered (or reasonably should have been discovered). So, in the example at the beginning of this article about the missed cancer on x-ray, the start date of the 2-year deadline for filing a lawsuit would be when the patient discovered the doctor failed to advise of suspicious lesion on his kidney, not the date of the x-ray and report.
While an affidavit of merit is no longer needed to initiate a delayed treatment or medical negligence claim, expert testimony will be crucial in your case. Your lawyer will present expert opinions to define the standard of care, prove that it was violated, and demonstrate causation between the breach and the harm suffered. This expert testimony carries significant weight and can greatly influence the outcome of a case.
When a plaintiff wins a medical malpractice suit, they are awarded damages (money) from the defendant to make things right. Damages can be economic (hard costs such as hospital bills or lost wages) and non-economic (intangible losses like pain and suffering or mental anguish). In Oklahoma, there is no cap on the amount of damages you can seek.
Oklahoma follows a modified comparative negligence system. In other words, if you (the plaintiff) are found partially responsible for harm you suffered—for example, if you missed an appointment with a specialist and did not rebook that appointment—your compensation may be reduced or barred entirely, depending on how much “fault” a jury determines you had.
Do You Have a Case?
Medical treatment for even basic health conditions can involve multiple tests, doctors, and medications. If the care you needed was delayed and caused more serious medical issues, it’s difficult to know where everything went wrong and if you should take legal action.
We can help. GT Law has focused almost exclusively on these types of cases for over 30 years and we know how to hold healthcare providers accountable for negligence. Our team will analyze your situation, determine the viability of your case, provide experienced advice, and guide you through the entirety of the process if you decide to file a delay in treatment lawsuit. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
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