Pursuing Medical Malpractice Cases During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Beginning in February of 2020, the novel coronavirus began to spread in the United States. It has led to over 3 million infections and more than 135,000 deaths. While many people exhibit mild symptoms, some individuals who recover will have long-term health issues. Medical malpractice can lead to issues that could have been avoided.
An Overwhelmed Medical System
The first wave of the coronavirus stressed medical facilities on both coasts. New York City and parts of New Jersey struggled with shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and hospital space. Keeping enough intensive care beds open was especially difficult. Because the virus was new, there was limited information available, and options for coronavirus treatments were not clear. In addition, a lack of testing equipment added another diagnostic challenge.
Temporary Protections for the Medical Field
Several state legislatures recognized the burden on doctors, nurses and hospital staff. They did not want an already stressful situation to be made worse by the threat of malpractice lawsuits. In some places, the legislature passed laws that protected hospitals from suits stemming from a lack of PPE. Other states passed laws protecting doctors from lawsuits for unintentional mistakes and oversights during the pandemic. To increase available medical staff, the New Jersey governor’s office passed an order allowing recently retired doctors to return to practice and removing scope of practice restrictions from some medical staff.
Changes in Medical Practices
Outside of the care and treatment of COVID-19 patients, other medical practices changed during the pandemic. Many doctors and facilities had to cancel elective procedures to keep hospital space open. Several doctors began doing most of their consultations using remote telehealth solutions. While there was still face-to-face contact between doctors and patients, remote medicine made examinations difficult.
Medical Malpractice and a Reasonable Standard of Care
As the pandemic winds down, there are certain to be malpractice cases. The challenge for the court system is determining whether medical staff provided a reasonable standard of care. This pandemic has been an unprecedented situation for both medical and legal professionals. It is difficult to determine the appropriate guidelines for care when information about the virus changes regularly. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, many researchers believed that face masks were ineffective. As they learned more about viral transmission, the call for face coverings in public spaces became standard.
To prove malpractice, a victim’s personal injury attorney will have to prove that a medical professional did not exercise a reasonable standard of care given the knowledge and circumstances at the time of the incident. To do this, the lawyer will need to determine the state of coronavirus information and advice when the victim was affected. If a doctor spread the virus by ignoring a hospital’s coronavirus safety protocols, it could result in a COVID-19 lawsuit.
Malpractice in other medical fields during this time may also be difficult to prove. Doctors cannot be held responsible for elective surgeries that they were not allowed to perform. A missed diagnosis during a telehealth conference may fall under the category of simple negligence due to the unfamiliar format. However, if a doctor rushes through the examination or ignores information a patient provides during a teleconference, it may be a different story.
Personal Injury Attorneys Who Listen
At RAM Law, we are ready to listen. We understand the pain and suffering that improper medical care can cause. The first step in our process is hearing your story. When we get a better sense of the circumstances around your injury, we can help determine whether you have a valid case. We know that the pandemic has created many tragic stories in our area, and we are ready to help when it is appropriate to get the legal system involved. If you think you or a loved one is the victim of malpractice, contact RAM Law in New Brunswick or Somerville by calling (732) 247-3600 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.