Washington, D.C. Laws May Make it More Difficult for Plaintiffs to Recover in Medical Malpractice Suits

When an individual ends up in a hospital, they expect that the nurses and doctors will take care of them and make sure they are safe. Because of the level of trust given to health care professionals, and the stakes at issue, Washington, D.C. (the District) medical malpractice cases can be extremely traumatic. Unfortunately, however, doctors and nurses can and do make mistakes. Generally, Washington, D.C. law allows victims to sue when they are injured as a result of those mistakes.

However, some laws in the District may prevent a plaintiff from recovering anything against their medical provider, even if they were injured as a result of the provider’s negligence. For instance, Washington, D.C. residents should be aware of the District’s harsh contributory negligence rules, which will bar a plaintiff from recovering anything for his damages if the court finds he was at all responsible for his injury. This applies in situations where a plaintiff is found to be just 5 percent responsible. In some unusual cases, a plaintiff who brings suit against a medical provider and is found partially accountable may even end up owing the medical providers money for legal fees.

Additionally, plaintiffs may find themselves unable to recover if they decide to leave the hospital against medical advice (AMA). Typically, in these cases, the hospital will ask the patient to sign a form indicating that they are leaving AMA, that they assume all of the risks of doing so, and that they release the hospital and medical staff of all liability. Sometimes patients won’t even read this form thoroughly, but signing it can preclude a plaintiff from successfully bringing a suit later on. For instance, in a recent state appellate opinion, the court dismissed a plaintiff’s lawsuit against her doctor because she signed an AMA form.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff, while in the hospital, had temporary stents inserted into her ducts. She then left the hospital AMA, but did not know the stents were supposed to be removed. Years later, the stents caused her severe blockage, leading to infections and requiring surgery. The plaintiff sued her doctor for failing to provide the follow-up care needed to remove the stents, but her suit was dismissed because the doctor owed her no duty after she signed the AMA form.

Have You Been the Victim of Medical Malpractice?

The victims of Washington, D.C. medical malpractice deserve compensation for their injuries from the medical professionals responsible. Thus, it is essential for them to be aware of these harsh laws that could preclude their recovery. In the aftermath of an accident, the best thing to do is consult with a personal injury attorney who has experience overcoming these hurdles and can handle your case for you, maximizing your chance of success. The Washington, D.C. personal injury attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers are here to do just that for you. Our attorneys have decades of experience representing D.C. plaintiffs and will work hard to ensure that you and your family receive the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to learn more and schedule your free consultation at 800-654-1949.

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