A Norwalk doctor agreed Wednesday to pay a $2 million settlement to a Norwalk woman who claimed in a lawsuit she was misdiagnosed for the “worst headache of her life.”
Dr. Donald McNicol, of the Norwalk Medical Group, agreed to the settlement with Margaret Gabriele as the case was about to go to trial before a state Superior Court jury.
Gabriele claimed in her lawsuit she went to see McNicol for a severe headache. The lawsuit states McNichol did not perform an appropriate physical and neurological examination on Gabriele and failed to recognize she may have been suffering from a neurovascular event.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.—right behind heart disease and cancer.
However, just because there was a mistake on the part of a health care professional or facility does not always mean there is a viable medical malpractice case.
What Qualifies as Medical Malpractice?
In order to bring a successful medical malpractice lawsuit there are a four different elements that must be established through evidence and testimony by the plaintiff and his or her legal team.
1) A doctor-patient relationship existed. You must show that you had a physician-patient relationship with the doctor you are suing. This means you hired the doctor and the doctor agreed to be hired. For example, you can't sue a doctor you overheard giving advice at a cookout. If a doctor began seeing you and treating you, it is easy to prove a physician-patient relationship existed.
2) The doctor was negligent. A lack of satisfaction with your treatment or results does not mean the doctor can be held liable for medical malpractice. The doctor must have been negligent during the process of your diagnosis or treatment. To sue for malpractice, you must be able to show that the doctor caused you harm in a way that a competent doctor, under the same circumstances, would not have. The doctor's care is not required to be the best possible, but simply "reasonably skillful and careful." Whether the doctor was reasonably skillful and careful is often at the heart of a medical malpractice claim. Almost all states require that the patient present a medical expert to discuss the appropriate medical standard of care that a doctor would go through during the diagnosis and treatment of a patient, and then show how the doctor (defendant) deviated from that standard.
3) The doctor's negligence caused the injury. Because many malpractice cases involve patients that were already sick or injured, there is often a question of whether what the doctor did, negligent or not, actually caused the harm. For example, if a patient dies after treatment for lung cancer, and the doctor did do something negligent, it could be hard to prove that the doctor's negligence caused the death rather than the cancer. The patient must show that it is "more likely than not" that the doctor's incompetence directly caused the injury. Usually, the patient must have a medical expert testify that the doctor's negligence caused the injury.
4) The injury led to specific damages. Even if it is clear that the doctor performed below the expected standards in his or her field, the patient can't sue for malpractice if the patient didn't suffer any harm. Here are examples of the types of harm patients can sue for:
- Physical Pain
- Mental Anguish
- Additional Medical Bills
- Lost Work and Lost Earning Capacity
Questions For An Attorney
If you or a loved one have been the victim of what you believe to be medical malpractice, or if you have further questions for an attorney on a medical situation, then call the attorneys at Brogdon Champion, LLC at (404) 596-8044.