Suing for Mistakes Made by Medical Students

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PERSONAL INJURY

Medical error accounts for between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths in the United States every year. Part of these errors are made by medical students on clinical runs as part of their training. These students go on daily rotation with physicians. They observe patient procedures geared towards giving them real-life experiences of what they learn in class. As part of these rounds, these students are expected to note charts and perform minor procedures. The policy is that these procedures are to be supervised by a licensed physician who is expected to sign off on what the student does. 

Oftentimes, hospitals will have to deal with a high student turnover rate. The result is that the hospitals and physicians end up being somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer number of students. Consequently, there is limited monitoring and rigorous training schedules, which could easily lead to medical student errors.

When Medical Errors Occur

Regardless of the amount of education, training, or skill level of a medical student, there is the likelihood that mistakes during the clinical rotations will occur. It is expected that when errors occur, these students will immediately disclose the same to the physician in charge. This attending resident is expected to disclose this information to the patient. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The attending physician or the student may not notice the medical errors that occur. In other scenarios, the student might fail to disclose the error to the resident, thus compounding an already tragic situation.

Common mistakes that transpire include:

  • Administering of the wrong medications
  • Incorrect dosage
  • Performing inappropriate surgeries on a patient who would have otherwise benefitted from a different course of treatment
  • The undertaking of the incorrect procedure of care

These errors could lead to severe injury and, in unfortunate situations, even death. When these occur, the law will first examine the standard of patient care to determine if there was any instance of negligence. Specific facets that will likely be investigated include the:

  • Patient’s health prior to treatment
  • Specific condition that the patient was to be treated for
  • Course of treatment was undertaken while the patient was being attended to

Can Medical Students be Sued for Patient Injuries?

medical students on the ward
Medical students learning from the attending physician.

Under vicarious liability, the hospital is responsible for patient injuries and fatalities that medical students and interns cause. There have been instances where someone sues the medical student, particularly when it can be proven that medical malpractice took place. However, the most common course of action is often suing the physician who was initially in charge of the patient who has suffered as a result of medical error.

Notably, when hospitals take on medical students and interns, they will often provide these individuals with liability insurance. The latter covers any legal defense costs and damage awards that might come up as a result of any malpractice claims. A look at the different liability policies offered points out that these policies are limited to a specified policy amount. If there is successful litigation and the patient ends up being awarded compensation higher than the student’s liability, the student is likely to be held personally liable for the difference.

While the hospital provides this liability insurance, this only covers medical activities that are within the scope of their training. What’s more, the law requires that these students be under the supervision of a physician, and in this case, the physician that was in charge of the patient.

Criteria

Depending on various factors, it is possible for a lawsuit to be filed against all three parties: the hospital, supervising doctor, and student trainee. This is quite rare and will require very specific criteria if there is to be success.

Note that negligence in supervision is often the most common cause of lawsuits filed against medical students. Specifically, these lawsuits are filed when the aggrieved party feels that the hospital and, by extension, the attending resident and the medical student failed to honor their commitment to excellent patient care.

Patients’ Rights 

The first right you have as a patient that goes to any hospital, including a training hospital, is quality care. This means that you should be able to receive the best care as it pertains to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of your condition. You should not have to be worried about negligence in your care. Additionally, as a patient, you have the right to have any errors disclosed to you. Particularly, fidelity demands truth-telling throughout the care pipeline. When you feel that the caregivers failed to disclose a mistake that occurred as they took care of you, you have the right to file a lawsuit.

When you feel that you received a medical student who made a mistake, file a malpractice lawsuit within two years. This statute of limitation also applies in the event that you file a wrongful death lawsuit if the patient passed away. Admittedly, following the medical error by a medical student, you have to grapple with the resulting serious and sometimes irreversible harm. When contemplating the appropriate course of action, first consider getting a legal team as going at a malpractice lawsuit on your own will likely end up with you losing out on a positive outcome.

Learn More About Suing for Mistakes Made by Medical Students

At Weltchek, Mallahan, and Weltchek, we have carved ourselves out as one of the nation’s premier medical malpractice firms. We have a proven track record with over $600 million paid out as settlement for our clients. We work with various medical practitioners to help with presenting compelling evidence of errors made by medical students. From the moment you present your case, our experienced medical malpractice attorneys embark on collecting evidence of medical malpractice. We are committed to getting a detailed repository of your medical records. Overall, we do all the heavy lifting for you. Contact us today for a free, non-committal consultation.

Who Can You Trust with Your Case?

Have you or a loved one been injured due to negligence? We want to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you believe you have a case; time is an important factor. Interested in learning more? Get in touch with us so we can better evaluate and serve your needs in getting the justice your loved one deserves. You may very well be entitled to compensation.

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