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"MALPRACTICE" written in chalk, underneath a stethoscope and gavel

Partner with Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp Personal Injury Law Firm

The Joint Commission recently released its Sentinel Event Data on serious adverse events that occurred from Jan. 1 through June 30, 2023. Serious adverse medical events are a kind of a euphemism within the medical community that often refers to serious medical errors, never events, and the types of tragedies that usually trigger medical malpractice lawsuits in Virginia and in other states. For example, our firm has handled anesthesiology errors that have resulted in wrongful death medical malpractice lawsuits. We have also successfully handled a failure to diagnose an infection, which became sepsis, that also resulted in a wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit in Norfolk, Virginia. After examining the recent data, our Virginia Beach medical malpractice attorneys were alarmed to see that sentinel events are on track to surpass a record-high number of events that took place in 2022, and this is despite the threat of medical malpractice lawsuits against negligent doctors, and hospitals.

Sentinel events are serious adverse medical events or incidents that occur in outpatient, hospital, or any general healthcare settings. These events are called “sentinel” because they often indicate underlying systemic issues in patient care, safety, or hospital procedures. Sentinel events cause severe temporary harm, permanent harm, or death to patients. And in these circumstances, families often turn to medical malpractice attorneys for justice, at least in the civil courts.

The Joint Commission’s Report

There were 720 sentinel events that occurred between January 1 through June 30, 2023, that were included in the report, with the majority (88 percent) occurring in hospitals. Many of these events were completely preventable, yet 18 percent of these incidents caused the death of patients, 63 percent caused severe temporary harm to patients, and 7 percent caused permanent harm.

The most prevalent sentinel events were:

  • Falls – 47 percent
  • Unintended retention of foreign objects – 9 percent
  • Wrong surgery – 8 percent
  • Assault/rape/sexual assault/homicide – 8 percent
  • Delay in treatment – 5 percent
  • Suicide – 5 percent

Medical Malpractice

Not all medical errors amount to medical malpractice. Proving medical malpractice is a complex legal process that requires demonstrating specific elements to establish a valid claim and usually needs the skill and expertise of a Virginia Beach medical malpractice attorney.

In order to be successful in a malpractice lawsuit, the following elements need to be proven:

  • Duty of care – The healthcare provider owed a duty of care to the patient. This means that there was a relationship with the patient in which the healthcare provider had a legal obligation to provide a certain standard of care to the patient.
  • Breach of standard of care – The healthcare provider breached the standard of care by failing to provide the same care that a reasonable and competent healthcare professional in the same field would provide under similar circumstances.
  • Causation – That breach of standard care was the direct cause or substantially contributed to the patient’s adverse outcome.
  • Injury or harm – The patient suffered actual harm or injury. This can include physical suffering, worsened medical conditions, emotional distress, additional medical expenses, loss of income, or even death.

In most medical malpractice cases, expert testimony from qualified medical professionals is essential. These experts can help establish the standard of care, explain how it was breached, and demonstrate the causal relationship between the breach and the patient’s harm.

The attorney must also show that proximate cause existed. Proximate cause refers to the concept that the harm suffered by the patient must have been a foreseeable result of the healthcare provider’s breach of the standard of care. In other words, the harm should not be too remote or unrelated to the breach.

It is important to note that the state of Virginia has imposed a statute of limitation on how long patients have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. In most cases, that time limit is two years. There are some rare exceptions to this timeframe, however, it is best to speak to an attorney to determine when that window closes in your situation.

Call Our Personal Injury Law Office for Legal Assistance

Given the complex nature of malpractice cases, navigating the medical malpractice process in Virginia requires legal expertise, thorough investigation, and skilled negotiation skills. If you believe you have a medical malpractice claim, it’s essential to consult with an experienced Virginia Beach medical malpractice attorney who can guide you through the process, protect your rights, and advocate on your behalf to seek the compensation you deserve for your injuries and losses.

Our firm has obtained more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts for our clients, like the $1.275 million wrongful death medical malpractice settlement we obtained for the family of a young mother who died within hours of undergoing a heart catheterization procedure.

Contact Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp for a free and confidential case evaluation and find out what legal recourse you may have.




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