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Jim Lewis
Jim Lewis
Attorney • (800) 752-0042

One Bad Doctor Can Ruin a Medical Practice

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I have been an injury lawyer and resident of Virginia Beach, Virginia (VA) for over 25 years. During that time, my family, including my two daughters, and I have been treated by some great doctors and other healthcare providers here in Hampton Roads, Virginia. We are blessed with lots of good access to medical care in Virginia Beach, particularly when compared to more rural parts of Virginia like the Eastern Shore, Southside, Virginia, and Caroline County where I grew up.

As I often say, the doctor/patient relationship is usually a good one. However, sometimes doctors do make mistakes. Over the decades that I have been doing medical malpractice cases, I have come to realize that it is rare that you have a doctor, even a terrible one, who is deliberately harming patients. It is much more common that medical malpractice results from an error, a mistake, or an accident. In a medical negligence case, it is not necessary to prove that the doctor intended to harm, but only that they were negligent and that their negligence violated the applicable standard of care in Virginia (VA). So, for example, even the very best surgeon can have a bad day where he misjudges something and cuts, punctures or perforates an internal organ during an operation. This kind of surgical complication is not necessarily grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. More commonly it is the failure of the surgeon to realize that something has gone wrong on the operating table and to respond accordingly. So, if a doctor does hit your bile duct or your urethra during abdominal surgery and closes you up without even realizing it, that is the kind of medical mistake that may lead to a valid claim against the doctor’s insurance company.

Medical or surgical mistakes which lead to catastrophic injuries or death of the patient can occur even to the top doctors with the best training. The biggest danger is where the same doctor makes a series of harmful mistakes. This often occurs not because the doctor is unskilled but because he or she has some kind of personal problem such as a drug or alcohol addiction which is impairing their functioning. When this happens, it is up to the doctor’s peers within his medical group to get him help and get him out of the operating suite. The medical profession, like the legal profession, is largely self-regulating. This means it is up to fellow doctors and the hospitals to get rid of the bad apples, the ones prone to repeated mistakes harming patients’ health. Hospitals have peer review systems where they evaluate mistakes made by doctors to try to improve care. By the way, the hospital risk managers and insurers try very hard not to ever let the injured person’s medical malpractice lawyers or the public get access to these records. However, hospital administrators and hospital staff, like the nurses and techs who work with the doctors, know very well who the problem physicians are. After enough medical malpractice leading to dead or seriously injured patients, a hospital will eventually pull the privileges of a given doctor. Sadly, this may not happen until after one or more patients have had something terrible happen to them like the loss of a husband or wife, or the amputation of a leg or even two. Because the law of Virginia makes the medical group responsible for the medical mistakes of an individual member, you would think that any group of doctors would have good reason to get rid of the bad actors among them. Sometimes however this takes longer than it should before the medical group or hospital realizes that it has a doctor on staff who is accident prone and hurting patients and needs to move on to another line of work.

Shapiro, Cooper Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm is based in Virginia, with offices in northeast NC and Virginia Beach (VA), practicing primarily in the southeastern U.S. and handles only injury law, including car, truck, railroad, and medical negligence cases and more. The firm’s website is: hsinjurylaw.com, the firm edits three injury law blogs: Virginia Beach Injuryboard & Norfolk Injuryboard, as well as the Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard and also hosts a video library covering many FAQ’s on personal injury subjects