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Before performing any surgical procedure, doctors typically require patients sign an informed consent form. This form usually details common risks inherent in the procedure, absolving the doctor from liability in the event any of these risks manifest. In a vasectomy, this typically includes verbiage about the possibility of pregnancy, protecting your urologist from liability in the event your partner becomes pregnant. However, there have been successful medical malpractice suits for a failed vasectomy. Two decisions in the 1990s, one in Wisconsin and one in New Mexico, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, stating that they could recover the costs of raising the child.
Medical Malpractice Defined
Medical malpractice is defined as harm occurring as the result of a medical professional failing to competently perform his or her professional duties. A failed vasectomy, meaning one in which your partner becomes pregnant, likely falls under a surgical error medical malpractice claim. Surgical error suits claim that the doctor made a preventable error during the procedure, one which went beyond the known risks inherent in the procedure.
Requirements to file a medical malpractice claim vary by state. An experienced medical malpractice attorney understands the laws and requirements in your state and can explain the viability of filing a medical malpractice claim for a failed vasectomy.
What Constitutes Medical Malpractice?
A claim of medical malpractice must prove four items:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed. This requirement protects doctors from being sued by non-patients. A possible scenarios would be someone who overheard the doctor offering another person medical advice and then suffered injury after implementing said advice. If your urologist actually treated you, you'll have no difficulty proving the existence of a doctor-patient relationship.
- The doctor was negligent. This requirement protects doctors from suit based solely on a patient's satisfaction with his or her treatment. To file a medical malpractice claim, you must prove you suffered harm due to your doctor's negligence. In other words, if a competent doctor performed your vasectomy in the same conditions, it would have been successful. This includes proving whether the doctor's care was reasonably skillful and careful. Most states require testimony from a medical expert that your urologist's care deviated from the medical standard.
- The doctor's negligence caused harm. In many medical cases, patients received care after already becoming sick or injured. In this case, the patient must prove whether the injury was due to the doctor's incompetent care and was not the natural result of the patient's preexisting condition. This requirement also requires expert medical testimony.
- The patient's injury caused specific damages. If you cannot prove specific damages – medical bills, lost work or earnings, physical pain, or emotional anguish – you do not have a claim for medical malpractice.
Medical Malpractice Claim Requirements
Requirements to file a medical malpractice claim vary by state. The following guidelines, though, offer you a basic idea of what each state considers a requirement for filing.
- The statute of limitations varies by state and indicates the timeline within which the patient must file a medical malpractice claim. Typically, the time limit is between six months and two years from when the patient suffered injury. States also differ on when the clock begins counting down that timeline. Some place it from the date of the procedure while others begin the countdown when the patient could be reasonably expected to discover the injury.
- Many states require patients first submit their claim to a medical malpractice review panel. The panel listens to arguments and reviews evidence and expert witness testimony to determine whether medical malpractice occurred. You may still file suit if the panel decides no malpractice occurred, but in many states, courts throw out these cases.
- Before filing a medical malpractice claim, many states require you first notify the doctor of your claim.
- Most states require expert witness testimony from a qualified medical professional. What qualifies someone as a medical expert varies by state, as well. In the case of a failed vasectomy, this likely would be an experienced urologist.
- Many states place caps on the possible amount of damages medical malpractice victims may claim.
Schedule a Free Consultation
If you are the victim of a failed vasectomy, schedule a free consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. He or she will advise you on the viability of your case and what damages you can reasonably expect to collect.