Can I Sue the Government?
Yes. If you have been injured at a military hospital or health care facility and believe you may have a claim for medical malpractice, a military injury lawyer can help you determine what avenues of recovery are available. Active-duty members are able to bring medical malpractice claims against the government administratively under the Military Claims Act for malpractice occurring at military facilities within the US or overseas. Military family members, dependents, and retirees are able to bring lawsuits against the government under the Federal Torts Claims Act for malpractice occurring at military facilities within the U.S. or bring claims administratively under the Military Claims Act for malpractice occurring at military facilities overseas.
According to the New York Times, from 2006 to 2010, the government paid an annual average of more than $100 million in military malpractice claims from surgical, maternity, and neonatal care. This data comes from before the passing of the new provision to the Military Claims Act, allowing active-duty members to bring claims.
What’s the Difference Between the Military Claims Act and the Federal Torts Claims Act?
Military dependents and non-active-duty members who suffer medical malpractice at a military hospital or facility can bring their claims as lawsuits under the Federal Torts Claims Act. The Federal Torts Claims Act allows lawsuits, rather than administrative claims, to be brought against the government.
Since the passing of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, active-duty military members are now permitted to bring administrative medical malpractice claims under the Military Claims Act. Historically, this act has been unavailable to active-duty military. Now, active-duty members who suffer medical malpractice at a military facility, either at home or abroad, are able to bring medical malpractice claims as well.
The federal government has set aside money in the defense budget to allow individuals or families to recover compensation for medical negligence. If these funds are not utilized by those who suffered an injury at a military hospital, then they could be removed from next year’s defense budget.
Can I File My Own Case?
Bringing a claim under the Military Claims Act or the Federal Torts Claims Act necessitates strict compliance with the procedures put in place for recovery, to avoid forfeiting your rights to recourse. When clients file their own claim forms without a military injury lawyer, it can be easy to make a mistake and file the forms improperly, or in such a way that important details are overlooked, which can ultimately limit recovery. Because of the complexity of medical cases, even some attorneys who lack experience in this nuanced area of the law could risk filing these claim forms improperly.
It is crucial to have your case handled by an experienced attorney who understands the complexities of the Military Claims Act or Federal Torts Claims Act, whichever is the applicable statute for your case.
Our attorneys have experience filing claims under both the Military Claims Act and the Federal Torts Claims Act, and we can maximize your recovery by expertly evaluating your case. A military injury lawyer from our firm can save you money while providing expert analysis because our medical evaluations are done in house. Not every law firm has the resources to evaluate their cases in house, which can significantly increase the costs of filing a claim or bringing a lawsuit on behalf of the client.
What is a Catastrophic Injury?
A catastrophic injury is an injury so severe that it has permanent effects on the injured person. An injury serious enough to be debilitating or to require a long-term recovery can be considered catastrophic. The more serious an injury, the greater a patient’s medical expenses and recovery time will be. If the injury puts the patient out of work, lost wages can be considered another expense resulting from the injury. A patient or their family may be able to recover for any injury resulting from medical negligence.
What is Medical Negligence?
Medical negligence occurs when a healthcare provider fails to provide care to a patient in line with the standard of care. The standard of care is the level of care that a reasonably competent and skilled health care professional would have provided to a patient under the circumstances. A common example of medical negligence occurs when a health care provider makes a medical error in the course of treatment. A medical error could be a failure to administer the correct medication, or correct dose of medication for a patient’s treatment, a failure to properly sterilize equipment, performing the wrong surgical operation on a patient, or a failure to correctly and timely diagnose a patient’s condition. Medical negligence can result in prolonged pain and suffering for a patient, as well as mounting medical costs. Medical negligence in the context of Military Claims Act cases or Federal Torts Claims Act cases occurs at a military facility, where the health care provider is employed by the United States.
When medical negligence results in a catastrophic injury or fatality, the patient or their family may have legal recourse.
Is Medical Negligence More Common at Military Facilities?
According to the New York Times, the military health system has consistently higher than expected rates of harm and complications in surgical procedures and maternity care, when measured by crucial barometers of patient safety. Babies born at military hospitals are twice as likely to be injured during delivery than newborns nationwide and their mothers were more likely to hemorrhage after childbirth than mothers at civilian hospitals, according to a 2012 study conducted by the Pentagon.
The American College of Surgeons found that half of the military health system’s 16 largest hospitals had higher than expected rates of complications over a 12-month period, with four of these hospitals performing poorly year after year.
The Times highlights a few examples taken from the Pentagon’s 2011 and 2012 patient safety reports:
- A viable fetus died after a surgeon operated on the wrong part of the mother’s body.
- A 41-year-old woman’s healthy thyroid gland was removed because someone else’s biopsy result had been recorded on her chart.
- A 54-year-old retired officer suffered acute kidney failure and permanent hearing loss after an incorrect dose of chemotherapy.
While these types of easily preventable medical errors do not happen frequently, these mistakes could indicate a broader pattern of insufficient patient care, according to the New York Times.
Since 2001, the Defense Department has required military hospitals to conduct safety investigations when patients unexpectedly die or suffer a catastrophic injury. However, the Times analyzed the most recent safety reports available and found that in 2011, 50 unexpected deaths were identified by medical professionals but only 25 analyses were forwarded to the Pentagon’s patient-safety center to recommend how to improve care. In 2012, 110 unexpected deaths occurred but only 44 analyses were received. In 2013, 79 unexpected deaths were recorded with only 31 root-cause analyses were submitted. Cases involving permanent harm also often remain unexamined.
In a written response to questions from the Times, the Pentagon “acknowledged that it had taken a decade before the reporting system was ‘operational and collecting data in a uniform manner.’ Not until October of 2013, for instance, were the Army, Navy, and Air Force required to identify the facilities where patients were severely harmed or died.”
Some doctors and nurses at military facilities have complained that no one is responding to their safety warnings. One staff member interviewed anonymously by the Times recalled having filed roughly 50 reports of safety problems since 2007, each time providing contact information. The staff member said that only once did a supervisor respond, and then only to express irritation at the cascade of filings.
According to the Times, Pentagon officials cite some signs of progress. For instance, in 2008, the measured rates of 11 types of harm (those for pressure ulcers and postoperative hemorrhages, among others) were more than twice that of civilian hospitals, but in 2013, it was better than the civilian average. However, the Pentagon’s own analysts warn these results may be skewed by reporting problems. Additionally, the Army, Navy, and Air Force have each said that hospitals with above-average death rates treat older, sicker patients but has not produced statistical evidence to verify this.
What Damages Can I Recover for Military Medical Malpractice?
A person injured by medical malpractice can potentially recover a wide range of damages. If the injury results in death, the patient’s family can recover these damages on behalf of the patient. There are two general categories of damages available to those injured by medical malpractice:
1. General damages:referring to damages suffered as a result of the loss of enjoyment of life, physical and mental pain and suffering, and a loss of future earnings.
2.Special damages:referring to quantifiable expenses such as medical bills and a loss of past earnings.
Bringing a claim will not affect your military benefits such as Tricare or VA benefits, because there are laws in place to protect active-duty members, retirees, and their families against any retaliation from the government. The federal government has actually set aside money in the defense budget to allow active-duty members and military families to bring these claims for medical malpractice.
Our Military Injury Lawyers Can Help You File a Claim
Our attorneys have experience with medical malpractice claims brought under both the Military Claims Act and Federal Tort Claims Act.
A founding partner of Military Medical Malpractice Attorneys, Bruce J. Klores has recovered over 40 million dollars for military families. Scott Perry, another founding partner of Military Medical Malpractice Attorneys, has obtained 46 million dollars in medical malpractice verdicts, in 2019 alone. Our military injury lawyer are well-equipped to handle your military medical malpractice case because we understand the nuances of this unique area of the law.