Infection occurs when a microorganism (germ) settles in a part of the body and multiplies. Infections may be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites and some other, more obscure microorganisms. Some can be cured with medications – antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals to name a few. Some are self-limiting and will go away without medical treatment. But, even infections that don’t require medication have the potential to make you very sick. You may need “supportive care” until the infection is gone – like IV fluids, oxygen or a breathing tube. You may need to be isolated from the public for your protection (or theirs).
As with all cases, it must first be established that a healthcare provider rendered substandard care that resulted in harm to the patient. Usually, the issue in an infection case is that the provider failed to diagnose infection or delayed making the diagnosis and that by the time the diagnosis was made and treatment started, it was too late to avoid serious harm. Rarely can it be proved that someone negligently caused an infection. More often the issue is that someone negligently responded to an established infection. Whether or not you have a medical malpractice case related to an infection will depend on a number of factors:
- Was there some inciting event that should have increased the doctor’s suspicion – like recent surgery or exposure to a sick population (chicken pox at your child’s daycare);
- Are you overly susceptible to infections or bad healing – advanced age, insulin dependent diabetes, steroid user or HIV positive;
- Did you have symptoms of infection – fever, enlarged nodes, a change in mental status, pain out of proportion to what it should have been, pus or other fluids oozing from an incision site;
- Was there objective evidence of infection – tenderness to palpation, elevated white blood cell count, bandemia, other abnormal blood results, fluid or thickening on an imaging study (ultrasound, x-ray, CT scan, MRI);
- Did you let the doctor know about your symptoms in a timely way?
- Did the doctor prescribe the wrong treatment or give the wrong advice?
- Did the infection lead to further harm (e.g. organ failure, loss of a limb, brain injury, or death)?
As medical malpractice attorneys consider all of these factors, they are also mindful of the calendar. If you are to bring a medical malpractice case, it must be done within three (3) years of the time that you knew (or reasonably should have known) that you were harmed as the result of medical negligence. This three year period is the Statute of Limitations. Please note that this does not equate to three years from the date that the negligence happened. The date on which you discovered that you were injured by negligence may be later than the date of the actual negligence. The law makes an allowance for this difference via the “Discovery Rule,” which allows for the reality that sometimes negligence cannot be known within three years of its happening. However, in Massachusetts, the Discovery Rule goes only so far. You may not file a medical malpractice case more than seven (7) years after the date of the actual negligence. This last limiting rule is particular to Massachusetts. It does not exist in neighboring states.
The medical malpractice department at Keches Law Group can help you figure out whether you have a case, and what steps to take next. Call Keches Law Group at 617-898-0808 for a free consultation today, or visit us online.