What You Should Do After A Car Accident

A car crash can happen at any time. Even when you are careful, other drivers unexpectedly break the rules of the road. When this happens, and you are a victim of their negligence, you can take important steps to protect your rights.

If you have been in a crash or are being proactive, these bullet points are important:

  1. Call 911 to have police and EMS respond. Having police reports and EMS assessments will help prove your case.
  2. Take photos of all the vehicles involved in the crash, front and back. The damage to your car only tells part of the story.
  3. Take photos of the area where the crash occurred. This helps paint a picture of the events.
  4. Take photos of the people involved in the crash and any insurance documents they share. It might be necessary for identification purposes later.
  5. Take photos of your injuries: right after the crash and periodically to show the progression. A picture will better show a jury your injuries.
  6. Record any information you receive, either by photo, video, email, electronic note, or on paper.
  7. Try to identify potential witnesses and obtain their contact information.
  8. Go to urgent care or the hospital to make sure you are not seriously injured.
  9. Contact your car insurance company to begin the process of getting your car repaired and opening up claims for bodily injury.
  10. Contact a real trial lawyer to begin taking steps to protect your rights and obtain the money you deserve.
  11. Follow up with your primary doctor, a physical therapist, chiropractor, or other medical specialist to ensure you get the medical attention you need.
  12. Try to see health care providers who accept your health insurance and make sure they bill your health insurance. Many providers use state law to try and extract more money from you than they are entitled to receive through your health insurance.
  13. You should consider obtaining medical payment coverage or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to protect yourself from inadequately insured drivers.

It is important to note that many car crashes are minor and do not cause injuries; however, even minor impacts can cause injuries, especially if you have a pre-existing condition or unusual susceptibility to injury. Also, your heart will be pounding and adrenaline rushing, so you might not feel the injuries until hours or days after the crash.

Also, don’t sign anything. Sometimes insurance companies try to trick drivers into signing documents that release them and their negligence drivers from liability. Before signing anything, contact Gage Mathers.

Medical malpractice is an epidemic.  Preventable medical errors kill more than 400,000 people per year.  Despite this, federal lawmakers are quietly trying to push through legislation that will create a $250,000 federal cap on the amount a jury can award in a medical malpractice case.  Virtually every state already has some form of medical malpractice reform, with more than 30 states having caps on damages.

Through this legislation, the federal government wants to take away the freedom of choice our Founders ensured would belong to the states and its citizens.  The citizens have the freedom of choice as to systems of government and the law under which they prefer to live, but the federal government wants to take this freedom away.  Essentially, laws like this will protect unsafe health care providers and limit your ability to hold them accountable for their preventable medical errors.  The proposed legislation would violate the Arizona Constitution.

Many conservative organizations and their leaders oppose this legislation and have written to Congress urging it to reject “the ‘federalization’ of state tort law that is contrary to constitutional principles and represents an undue restriction on freedom.”  You should too.  Reach out to your Congressional representatives and senators and let them know you oppose any federal restriction on freedom.

Medical malpractice is an epidemic in the U.S.  Preventable medical errors kill more than 400,000 people per year.  That means, every day, 1,100 people have their lives cut short by medical malpractice.  Estimates suggest, at least another 1,000 people are injured every day from their health care provider’s negligence.  The biggest problem for many victims of medical malpractice is that they cannot find a lawyer to take their case because the ultimate recovery will barely cover litigation costs.  Thus, the negligent health care provider is never held accountable for their malpractice.

In Arizona, people have the right to sue their health care providers for medical malpractice.  Regardless of the false narratives about how these cases impact the delivery of health care, you have a constitutional right to hold health care providers accountable for their negligence.

Historically, medical malpractice laws were  designed to accomplish certain specific social objectives, including addressing poor quality care, fairly compensating patients for injuries resulting from negligence, and imposing justice in a manner that would make future occurrences less likely.

The requirements of a medical malpractice claim.

As the injured person, you have a burden.  You must prove three things.  In basic terms, you must prove: (1) the health care provider either did something they should not have (negligent act) or did not do something they should have (negligent omission), (2) that the negligent conduct caused an injury, and (3) your damages.

A bad or suboptimal outcome does not mean the health care provider committed malpractice.  The health care provider must have been negligent.  This could be a doctor, chiropractor, nurse, or some other health care provider (but we will refer to doctors).  You must prove the doctor failed to act as a reasonably prudent practitioner under the circumstances.  In other words, did the doctor deviate from the standard of care?  This must be proven by presenting a medical expert within the same specialty as the defendant doctor.

The second element is proving that the doctor’s negligence caused or contributed to injury or death.   The key is that the specific negligent act is causally linked to the injury or death.  This again must be proven through expert testimony.

Finally, you must prove the injury led to specific damages.  Even if it is clear that the doctor was negligent, you cannot sue for malpractice if you did not suffer any harm.  Collectable damages may include:

  • physical pain,
  • disability,
  • mental anguish and suffering,
  • past and future medical bills, and
  • lost wages and earning capacity.

In most cases, you must prove these three elements by a preponderance of the evidence.  Arizona’s lawmakers raised the burden of proof in cases involving emergency room care and emergency medical services to clear and convincing evidence.   Frankly, with the conservative nature of Arizona jurors and general deference given to health care providers, you might want to view every case as requiring clear and convincing evidence.

Types of medical malpractice claims.

There are many ways that health care providers can negligently cause injuries. For instance:

  • surgical errors, including unnecessary or incorrect surgery,
  • surgical errors, including leaving things inside the patient’s body after surgery,
  • medication errors,
  • premature discharge,
  • failure to order appropriate tests or to act on results,
  • failure to follow up,
  • poor infection control, including potentially fatal infections acquired in the hospital, and
  • general negligence.

Impediments to a medical malpractice claim. 

In addition to raising the burden of proof, Arizona’s lawmakers have worked hard to interfere with your constitutional rights and impede your ability to hold health care providers accountable.  These obstacles will be addressed in future blog posts, but just know that Arizona’s lawmakers enacted several obstructionist laws that aim to limit your right to sue, limit your right to obtain full and fair compensation, and limit your right to the truth about what happened to you.

These cases rarely, if ever, resolve without hiring a lawyer.  Doctors who commit medical malpractice, and their liability insurers, will not knock on your door to settle a claim before you hire a lawyer.  Even after hiring a lawyer, negligent doctors are reluctant to admit their mistakes.  Most negligent doctors have egos and cannot accept that they made a preventable error.  They often will not allow their liability insurance carriers to settle their case without litigation.  Also, defense lawyers don’t get paid by settling cases quickly.  They bill by the hour.  I have a case with clear negligence that is now in its third year of litigation because of the scorched-earth defense.

Also, medical malpractice cases are very expensive.  Expert fees are the largest cost of medical malpractice cases, usually driving the total costs of these cases over $125,000 and, in some cases, as high as $250,000.  Doctors, especially local doctors, are not lining up to gratuitously provide their expert services to victims of medical negligence.  Just the opposite.  Most experts charge from $500/hr to $1,000/hr for their time, and local doctors will not testify against their colleagues.

The hits keep coming.

Many states have special rules and procedures for medical malpractice claims.  One of the most important rules is the time limit for filing a lawsuit.  In Arizona, a medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed within two years of the negligence, or within two years of when the person knew or should have known negligence occurred.  This is called the “statute of limitations.”  If you do not file the lawsuit within the allowed time, the Court will dismiss the case regardless of the facts.

However, in some instances, the statute of limitations is significantly shorter.  If the lawsuit involves a public entity (e.g., the State of Arizona, City, County, or school) or a public employee of one (e.g., a medical student, resident, or teacher), then a Notice of Claim must be served on the appropriate entity(-ies) within 180 days after the negligence.  After serving the Notice of Claim and allowing sixty days for a response, a lawsuit must be filed within one year of the alleged negligence.  These are strict deadlines with very few exceptions.  Failure to file a lawsuit within the allowed timeframe can result in permanently losing the ability to pursue the lawsuit. Similarly, if a Notice of Claim is required and not timely served, the claim will be lost.

Get help for a medical malpractice claim

Medical malpractice cases are complex with several nuances.  It is essential to get advice and representation from a lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice cases.  Contact us if you think someone you love was seriously and permanently injured by a careless health care provider.

There is an epidemic that is killing almost half-a-million Americas and injuring millions of others every year.  This epidemic is as bad as the top two killers of Americans, cancer and heart disease (each claiming over 550,000 lives each year), and is far worse than accidents (claiming over 120,000 lives each year).  What makes this epidemic more tragic than the most common causes of death in the U.S. is that these deaths are 100% preventable.  Preventable medical errors kill Americans at an alarming rate.

Preventable medical errors kill and injure Americans at an alarming rate.  A recent study printed in the Journal of Patient Safety, as reported by Scientific American, reports that “the true number of premature deaths associated with preventable harm to patients was estimated at more than 400,000 per year.  Serious harm seems to be 10- to 20-fold more common than lethal harm.”  This is a problem of epidemic proportions that must be fixed.

When was the last time you heard politicians or lobbyists address how to prevent medical errors?  Probably never.  Rather than publicly address ways to make health care safer, they pollute the airwaves with stories about “defensive medicine” and increased costs associated with “frivolous lawsuits.”  They suggest that doctors are afraid of lawsuits so they order more tests; however, the practical difference is looking for the problem versus taking a wait-and-see approach.  Do you want your cancer diagnosed now or later?

Americans are led to believe that medical negligence suits are an epidemic. However, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the total amount of money spent defending claims and compensating victims of medical negligence in 2010 was $5.8 billion, or just 0.3 percent of the $2.6 trillion spent on health care in the U.S. that same year.  Moreover, if hospitals were practicing defensive medicine, then why do over 400,000 Americans die from preventable medical errors in hospitals every year?

Every 1 minute and 15 seconds someone’s mother, father, spouse, sibling, grandparent, or child needlessly dies in the hospital because of a medical error.  In that same amount of time, 10 to 20 other hospital patients are being injured.  Frighteningly, these statistics do not include victims where the medical negligence occurs outside the hospital.

The epidemic of patient harm in hospitals must be taken more seriously if it is to be curtailed.  This is a pervasive problem that should demand decisive action on the part of providers, legislators, and people who will one day become patients.  Yet, the action and progress on patient safety is frustratingly slow.

The following case demonstrates how an innocent young woman, injured by improper care, was victimized by a hospital system that failed her.

A 26-year-old woman entered a Phoenix-Area Hospital for removal of an ovarian cyst.  The surgery was completed without complication; however, after entering the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), she had an adverse effect from the anesthesia that caused her to breathe less efficiently.  The anesthesiologist provided Narcan, a medication that blocks the effects of anesthesia and narcotic medications.  Her respiratory drive and vital signs returned to acceptable levels.

While still under the influence of Narcan, the PACU nurse continued to administer narcotic medications—based on the orders the anesthesiologist wrote before the patient ever experienced breathing problems.  The orders were never changed and the nurse never questioned whether it was appropriate to continue giving the patient medications that could cause breathing problems.  Neither provider had significant experience with using Narcan in this setting.

The problem for the patient is that as the Narcan wears off the narcotic medications are able to overwhelm the body, causing deeper sedation and stopping the patient from breathing.  In a groggy state, only 90 minutes after entering the PACU, the PACU nurse sent the patient home with her husband.  The PACU nurse never told the husband about the event that necessitated Narcan, and never warned the husband about the potential adverse effects of the narcotic medications she administered.

The patient’s husband brought her home and settled her into bed to rest, not knowing that she would never wake up.  Her death could have been prevented if any one of the health care providers took steps to monitor her condition for longer than 90 minutes.  They assumed she would be fine.

Sadly, no one has stepped up and admitted to their mistakes.  Instead, the health care providers argue that the husband is to blame because he should never have left her side once they arrived at home.

* This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.