By Constance Chen – Military Medical Malpractice
According to a 2016 Johns Hopkins study, the top two leading causes of death in the US were heart disease and cancer. The third leading cause? Medical error. The report estimates that over 250,000 people die every year from medical error. Not only is this statistic horrifying, but the worst part about any sort of medical malpractice is that it is entirely preventable. But worse, people who suffer from medical malpractice injuries will deal with devastating long-term consequences. In many cases, victims of medical malpractice can choose to sue a medical practitioner for medical negligence.
However, for anyone in the military, medical malpractice lawsuits are a little bit trickier. Service members dealing with military medical malpractice usually experience it in a military hospital, and since these are government-run hospitals, it will be a different situation if a military member wants to file a lawsuit against the government.
First, How Do You Even Define Military Medical Malpractice?
Military medical malpractice is when a doctor, nurse, or medical professional has been negligent and ends up causing injury to their patient. For military members, this means that they may have received poor care from a medical professional at a military medical facility such as an Army hospital. Military medical malpractice injuries could range from anything such as a doctor not providing enough care which, in turn, leads to infection, or it could be a surgeon leaving behind instruments after surgery, or a situation where wrongful death occurred. Incidents like this not only leave military members and their families with deep emotional trauma, but it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long-run.
Other examples of medical malpractice can include birth injuries, paralysis, cerebral palsy, damage to organs, muscle, nerve, ligaments, or tissue, amputation, misdiagnosis, wrongful diagnosis, spinal injury, head injury, anesthesia errors, and many more.
Military Members Who Want to Sue the Government
Is it even possible for military members to sue the government if they’ve experienced medical malpractice at a military hospital? Although there are some tricky things to sort through, yes, it is possible. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, military service members as well as their family members who have experienced medical malpractice at a military hospital could file a claim or a potential lawsuit against the government.
However, your case will probably need to be evaluated by a lawyer who has experience with military medical malpractice cases. Most lawyers will need to prove that your injury or malpractice issue was caused by negligence from the medical professional at the military hospital. However, if military members want to file a claim, they will have to do it within 2-3 years of their date of injury since there is an FTCA statute of limitations, so getting in contact with the right kind of lawyer will be of utmost importance.
How To Save On Costs When Hiring a Lawyer
For any military member who is thinking of pursuing action against the government, they should be mindful and realistic of the costs of the process. Hiring a lawyer can be expensive, so finding ways to cut costs will be beneficial for anyone who is hoping to pursue legal action.
Find Free Consultations
Before you even file paperwork, you should first consult with a lawyer who could offer a free consultation for your case to determine if you would be able to build a case from your circumstance. Many firms will offer this to help you understand the law and how it can pertain to your individual case. Free consultations will give you a chance to ask questions about your specific situation without being billed for a lawyer’s time.
Ask About Alternative Billing Methods
Another way to save on costs is to ask your lawyer about alternative billing methods. Many lawyers will require payment through an hourly fee, monthly retainer, or contingency fees (which takes a percentage from your settlement should you win your case). If your lawyer agrees to it and determines that your case will not require too much time, then you can determine if a flat fee would be more beneficial for your situation.
Guarantee a Certain Number of Hours
If you are able to guarantee a certain number of hours during the year to your lawyer, consider coming up with a flat fee or ask if your lawyer would be willing to negotiate a lower rate in exchange for a guaranteed number of hours.
Come Prepared and Organized
Time is money, and if you spend more of your time with your lawyer chit-chatting or getting side-tracked, it’s money out of your pocket. Instead, come prepared with all your unanswered questions and organized paperwork so you can get down to business right away.
Ask for Itemized Statements
Just as you have receipts showing you the breakdown of your purchase, ask your lawyer to provide itemized billing statements so you can have a clear picture of what services you are being charged for. It will give you an understanding of where your money is going, and a chance to reduce costs if there are any unnecessary charges in your statement.
Find Experienced Lawyers for Your Case
Finally, make sure you hire the best lawyer with the most experience for your type of case. It’s an expensive mistake when you have to hire then fire your lawyer, or if you end up losing your case because of an inexperienced lawyer. Find the right attorney that has a proven record of success as well as years of experience.
Other Ways For Military Members To Cut Costs
In addition to cutting costs when hiring a lawyer, here are other ways military members and their families can aim to cut costs when dealing with medical malpractice.
Victims of military malpractice may have had to make modifications to their home and car or cover other medical expenses that came with their malpractice injury. In many cases, these modifications are tax-deductible. For example, if you had to remodel your home or car to add wheelchair ramps or alter the space to make it compatible for your injury or disability, these costs are tax-deductible. Medical expenses such as prosthetics are also covered within medical expenses that are tax-deductible.
Free or Recycled Medical Equipment
Medical equipment can cost thousands of dollars, and fortunately, there are various resources that offer opportunities for free or recycled equipment that could help with cutting costs. This page from Low-Income Relief lists resources by each state, while the Pass It On Center provides a search filter to help you find reusable assistive technology in your local region.
Look to Your Community
Finally, another way to cut costs is by finding community co-ops or services that offer shared, free, or recycled tools, or resources. One site that does this is Freecycle, where you can sign up and join your local group to see if people in your neighborhood are giving something away or offering something up. Many areas may also offer a community tool lending library where you can borrow tools or equipment as a way of communal sharing.
Last Thoughts On Military Medical Malpractice
Military members who are dealing with medical malpractice and are thinking of filing a claim against the government will need to sort through some complicated legal matters first. By consulting the right kind of attorney and finding a number of ways to reduce their costs, military members can navigate through their financial circumstances with more ease.
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