For most of us here in Seattle, one of the only times we ever truly place our lives in the hands of another person is when we seek medical care. It’s difficult to overstate how deeply we trust in doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals…and how devastating it can be when that trust is broken.
Healthcare providers make mistakes. They’re only human. If we’re lucky, a doctor’s mistake won’t do us harm. But, unfortunately, sometimes the treatment we receive in a healthcare setting hurts us more than it helps. When Washington medical professionals fail to deliver the standard of care they owe to each and every one of their patients and a patient ends up injured, the law gives the patient the legal right to pursue a civil action for medical malpractice.
The skilled Seattle medical malpractice attorneys at Boohoff Law have the resources and experience to investigate and litigate even the most complex Seattle medical malpractice claims. If you or a loved one suffered an injury because of a medical professional’s mistake, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. Contact us today to learn more.
Contact us today – call (877) 999-9999 or email us. We’re available 24/7!
About Boohoff Law
Attorney Tatiana Boohoff and her team of accomplished attorneys have years of combined experience representing victims of all manner of personal injuries, including medical malpractice. She gained a sterling reputation among her colleagues and clients alike as a lawyer committed to serving the needs of her clients with a personal touch. She prides herself and her team on being accessible, compassionate, and willing to go the extra mile to ensure every client stays updated and in touch with the lawyer in charge of their case.
Tatiana earned her law degree from Boston University School of Law, which is consistently ranked among the top-25 law schools in the United States by U.S. News and World Report. In her 12-plus years of legal practice since graduating, she and her team have distinguished themselves as skilled, aggressive trial lawyers and passionate advocates for the rights clients struggling to recover from injuries that happened through no fault of their own.
About Medical Malpractice Generally
Typically, when we talk about medical malpractice under Washington law, we mean any circumstance in which a medical services provider—which could be a doctor, a nurse practitioner, a surgical tech, a pharmacist, a physical therapist, or any other person or entity providing services in a medical or para-medical setting– fails to deliver the accepted standard of care to a patient, and the patient suffers harm as a result. Less frequently, medical malpractice takes the form of a medical provider causing an injury that the provider had promised the patient would not occur, or in a medical provider delivering health care to which the patient and/or patient’s representative didn’t consent.
The Standard of Care Explained
What is the standard of care? Washington statutes explain it as:
“[T]hat degree of care, skill, and learning expected of a reasonably prudent health care provider at that time in the profession or class to which he or she belongs, in the state of Washington, acting in the same or similar circumstances.”
In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the patient who suffered an injury caused by a provider’s failure to provide the standard of care must present evidence to establish what the standard of care was in the patient’s case, the ways in which the provider didn’t meet it, and how the patient’s injury was the result.
Types of Medical Malpractice
As the laws linked above suggest, medical malpractice can happen in a variety of settings and situations. It would be impossible to list all of those here. But, it is possible to group some of the most common medical malpractice types into two broad categories to help show how they can occur.
Mistakes in Collecting or Communicating Medical Information
One way in which medical providers regularly fail to provide a standard of care is by making mistakes in obtaining and transmitting information that is critical to the patient’s care. This can happen, for example, when providers:
- Fail to obtain a health history from a patient;
- Make mistakes entering health information into computer systems; or
- Forget to tell another provider about health information that the other provider needs.
It’s not hard to imagine how these mistakes can result in a patient getting hurt. When providers make mistakes getting and passing along information, they put patients at risk of not getting the care they need. Health care providers who lack the necessary information to provide the standard of care can give incorrect medical diagnoses, prescribe the wrong medication, and even perform the wrong type of surgery on a patient.
Mistakes in Deciding On or Giving Health Care
Even when medical service providers have the information they need to provide the standard of care, sometimes they still fail to do so. There are many reasons this can happen. Sometimes, doctors and other health care professionals have poor judgment. Sometimes they’re tired or overworked or feel rushed. Sometimes they’re just having a bad day.
Whatever the reasons, lapses in judgment, concentration, or skill can lead to devastating results for the patients on the receiving end of this sort of inadequate care. For example, mistakes like these can cause a provider to:
- Forget or decide against a critical step in a surgery;
- Fail to order tests necessary for proper diagnosis;
- Decide not to follow-up with a patient; or
- Misread a test result.
These are just a few examples. As we said above, medical providers are human. They make mistakes. The vast majority of the time, they don’t intend to hurt anyone. But, just because they are good people who provide an important service doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be held to account when they make mistakes that result in life-altering injury and illness to their patient.
Pursuing a Medical Malpractice Claim in Washington
Like many other states, in recent years Washington has implemented laws and rules that add complication to pursuing a medical malpractice claim. The supposed goal of these measures was to reduce the cost of medical malpractice insurance and to shield medical providers from baseless claims. In practice, they can make it harder to recover damages from a medical provider if you don’t have a lawyer who understands how to investigate and litigate your claim.
Certificate of Merit Required in Standard of Care Action
One such provision of Washington law is the requirement that a plaintiff includes a certificate of merit with any claim alleging medical providers failed to provide the standard of care. A qualified expert must sign the certificate of merit. It must also state that, based on available information, the defendant probably didn’t provide the patient with the standard of care.
Boohoff Law regularly works with experts in the medical field who have the credentials and experience to issue a certificate of merit that will stand up to scrutiny by Washington courts and defense attorneys.
Medical malpractice claims in Washington are also subject to mandatory mediation, which is a form of non-binding alternative dispute resolution. In mediation, a mediator attempts to resolve a matter through agreement, rather than a trial. The mediator does not have the power to force either party to settle, or to issue an award the way a judge can. But, mediation can frequently result in a favorable settlement of a personal injury matter when handled properly by an experienced lawyer.
Boohoff Law attorneys have participated in hundreds of mediations. They understand the dynamics of the mediation process, and how to approach a mediation so as to give a client the best chance of achieving a favorable outcome of a medical malpractice matter through a mediated settlement.
Attorney Certification of Reasonable Inquiry
Washington law also imposes an obligation on attorneys who file medical malpractice claims on behalf of their clients to conduct a reasonable inquiry into the matter before filing suit. The attorney’s signature on any filing acts as a certification that the inquiry has been done and that the attorney believes the suit is not frivolous.
Conducting a reasonable inquiry into a client’s cases is something an attorney should always do. The law in Washington, however, makes it especially important for the attorney to have the knowledge and skill to conduct a medical malpractice inquiry. Without experience investigating and litigating medical malpractice matters, an attorney could put a client’s case at risk.
At Boohoff Law, we have in-depth knowledge of medical malpractice issues. When our attorneys sign their names to legal filings, they do so with the confidence that comes from years of experience fighting on behalf of injured clients and achieving results.
Potential Damages for Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice can cause terrible harm. Some patients die as a result of medical malpractice. Even when they live, patients who receive sub-standard care from a medical service provider can end up:
- Suffering from the debilitating side effects of improper medication
- Battling an illness that, because it went undiagnosed, has progressed to the point that it cannot be fully treated
- Contending with long-term physical disabilities caused by inadequate care
- Facing a lifetime with a disfigurement or chronic illness
Categories of Damages
Washington law permits injured patients to recover compensatory damages in such cases. Damages generally fall into two categories: economic (or special) damages, and non-economic (or general) damages.
Economic damages generally compensate an injured patient for out-of-pocket costs associated with an act of malpractice, such as for:
- Un-reimbursed medical bills
- Chronic or long-term care
- Physical therapy
- Assistive equipment and home modifications
- Lost wages from time-off from work recovering
- Lost earning capacity because of an injury that limits the patient’s ability to work
In some cases, a Washington court may allow a party to make periodic payments of economic damages, rather than a lump sum payment.
Non-economic damages seek to compensate subjective harm that is more difficult to calculate. The types of non-economic damages an injured patient can pursue include:
- Pain and suffering
- Damage to personal relationships
- Negative impacts on quality of life
- The difficulty of contending with disabilities and impairments
Under Washington law, non-economic damages are subject to a limitation, however. They cannot exceed 43 percent of the average annual wage in Washington multiplied by the plaintiff’s life expectancy (which can be no less than 15 years). Unlike most states, Washington does not allow for punitive damages in most cases.
Medical Malpractice FAQ
How does our state define medical malpractice?
Washington State recognizes medical malpractice and healthcare-related torts. Torts refer to civil wrongs committed by one party that entitle another party to money damages. Medical malpractice, also referred to as medical negligence, generally occurs when a health care provider carelessly causes personal injuries to or kills a patient.
Unlike ordinarily negligence claims, plaintiffs must prove that the liable health care provider deviated from the accepted medical standard of care. These care-based norms change with current medical trends, and similar doctors must typically testify about proper treatment. If a health care provider treated a patient with less skill or care than her colleagues, and this carelessness caused an injury or illness, you may have a medical negligence claim.
What are the elements of medical malpractice in Seattle?
Because medical providers often treat claimants already suffering from an injury or illness, the law requires plaintiffs to prove all of the following to recover damages for medical negligence:
- Legally recognized and licensed health care providers, including certain medical facilities, treated the patient
- The healthcare provider breached the prevailing standards of care in his/her specific field
- The breach proximately caused the claimant’s death, injury, or illness
- The injuries did not result from the condition for which the plaintiff sought treatment or from reasonably foreseeable risks of treatment if the patient had received care for another provider
RCW 7.70.030 states that claimants have the burden of proving the treating healthcare provider acted negligently—this means with less skill and care than generally required by similarly situated medical professionals. Proving medical malpractice claims in Seattle almost always requires expert witnesses to testify about the skill, care, and treatment a doctor should have provided considering all the circumstances. Experts must generally be other local medical professionals of similar experience in the same field of care. Retaining the right experts with the help of Boohoff Law is critical to proving medical negligence claims as specific qualifications apply to medical witnesses in Seattle.
What is the prevailing standard of medical care in Seattle?
Medical malpractice cases often revolve around determining whether a health care provider delivered subpar care. No single standard of care exists for every medical negligence case. Instead, courts look to all the surrounding circumstances, including the provider’s medical specialty, when determining the applicable standard. These standards may differ in every medical malpractice case but typically require expert statements.
Dueling experts often dictate the evidence needed in medical negligence cases, but Washington courts generally consider the following factors in adopting a standard of care:
- How most similarly situated professionals would have administered care under the circumstances
- Whether the treatment was ordinary or emergency-based
- Specific care guidelines outlined by medical textbooks, treatises, and facility policies
- The treating location, i.e., rural field hospital or advanced university facility
- The availability and acceptability of alternative forms of treatment
- Any exigent circumstances, such as COVID-19, or a patient’s religious or personal treatment requests
Emergency providers, including E.R. doctors, nurses, and paramedics, often make split-second decisions. In emergency response cases, the central question usually involves whether medical professionals prevented more significant harm. Failing to sanitize a scalpel during an emergency amputation might not give rise to a subsequent medical negligence claim for an infection. However, inflections may qualify as medical negligence if developed during routine surgery.
How do Seattle courts decide whether an injury was reasonably foreseeable or resulted from medical malpractice?
Even negligent healthcare providers defend against medical malpractice lawsuits by arguing the damages resulted from the plaintiff’s initial condition or treatment protocol. Doctors often warn patients of certain surgical or prescription drug risks before administering treatment. Even if a rare side effect occurred, this isn’t generally medical malpractice.
When medical providers raise this defense, other health care workers should testify about how they would have treated your condition. If four out of five doctors agree they would not have prescribed a risky medication, this may support a medical malpractice claim. The reverse might also hold. If four out of five doctors would have prescribed the same drug, you may not have a claim for medical negligence from foreseeable side effects.
Are only doctors liable for medical malpractice in Seattle?
No. Claimants may bring viable medical negligence claims against any licensed person or entity defined as a health care provider under RCW 4.16.350.
Health care providers include any or all of the following:
- Osteopathic physicians
- Podiatric physician and surgeons
- Physical therapists
- Physician’s assistants
- Osteopathic physician’s assistants
- Nurse practitioners
- Physician’s trained mobile intensive care paramedic
Nursing homes and facilities employing covered health care providers may be vicariously (automatically) liable for an employee’s medical malpractice. Even if a person or entity does not qualify as a health care provider, you could demand damages for personal injuries by making a general negligence claim.
What are the most common Seattle medical malpractice claims?
Most medical malpractice cases arise when doctors fail to thoroughly evaluate your condition or make preventable administrative errors.
Some of the most frequent types of medical negligence in Seattle include:
- Anesthesia errors – Administering anesthesia and powerful pain medication requires precise mathematical calculations and diligent patient monitoring. Anesthesiologists need substantial training, but overworked doctors may make fatal errors while administering anesthesia and intubating patients
- Misdiagnoses – Negligent diagnostics account for the highest percentage of medical malpractice lawsuits in most states. Missing signs of breast cancer during annual screenings or attributing COVID-19 to seasonal allergies might result in preventable injuries or fatalities. Patients may generally rely on doctors to accurately diagnose common conditions without having to seek a second opinion
- OBGYN and childbirth claims – Birth may result in hemorrhaging, an unanticipated hysterectomy, or infant injuries. Even a few minutes of lost oxygen could cause brain damage to a child. Improperly reading ultrasounds or failing to recognize signs of dangerous prenatal conditions, such as diabetes and preeclampsia, might also give rise to medical negligence claims in Seattle
- Prescription drug errors – Medical professionals may prescribe patients the wrong dosage or class of drugs. These errors may cause brain damage, liver failure, or even death. Missing a single decimal point or allergy when prescribing medication might result in death
- Surgical mistakes – Doctors have operated on the wrong patient, amputated the incorrect body part, and left surgical tools inside patients during surgery. Infections and other surgical errors may also give rise to malpractice claims
- Nursing home neglect – Bedsores, broken hips, malnourishment, and even sexual abuse habitually occur in eldercare facilities. Overworked nurses, underpaid medical aids, and apathetic geriatric physicians might engage in medical negligence. Many nursing home cases often involve additional claims such as general negligence, premises liability, battery, and negligent supervision
Can I sue a hospital or healthcare facility for medical malpractice in Seattle?
Yes. RCW 4.16.350(3) specifically authorizes malpractice lawsuits action against “a hospital, clinic, health maintenance organization, or nursing home; or an officer, director, employee, or agent thereof.”
Hospitals and most licensed medical facilities may be directly liable for medical malpractice. They may also be vicariously liable for the medical negligence of an employee, including a nurse. However, hospitals do not employ most doctors with admitting privileges. These legal distinctions seem minor, but failing to sue the right defendant under the correct legal theory may terminate your claims.
The experienced Seattle medical negligence lawyers at Boohoff Law carefully analyze each case before filing a lawsuit or demanding settlement to maximize the availability of compensation for viable malpractice claims.
Can wrongful death claims arise from medical malpractice in Seattle?
Wrongful deaths resulting from medical malpractice still generally require proof of medical negligence. If the deceased person could have brought a medical malpractice claim, his or her legal representative may recover damages payable to the estate or loved ones. Cases for medical negligence include claims that such negligence resulted in a death; thus, the general two-year statute of limitations applicable to medical malpractice claims applies to wrongful deaths.
How long do I have to bring a Seattle lawsuit for medical malpractice?
Complicated time limits apply to medical malpractice claims in Seattle. Parties should generally bring a lawsuit for medical negligence within three years of the injuring event or one year after they reasonably should have discovered the malpractice. However, calculating when the malpractice occurred, especially if patients were continuously under the negligent doctor’s care, often presents difficulties.
Furthermore, exceptions exist—for example, if the doctor or healthcare provider committed fraud or intentionally concealed the malpractice from the patient.
Contact an experienced Seattle med mal lawyer at Boohoff Law immediately if you suspect medical negligence. Filling litigation now might preserve your claims while you investigate the negligent cause of your injuries.
What damages may I recover for medical malpractice?
Patients injured by a treating health care provider may recover both economic and non-economic damage for medical negligence.
These damages include compensation for the following direct and indirect losses:
- Additional medical bills
- Reimbursement for negligent treatment
- Corrective surgeries
- Lost income, including salaries, commissions, and bonuses
- Lost career opportunities
- Medical equipment and transportation costs
- Prescription drug costs
- Pain, suffering, and mental anguish
- Loss of spousal companionship and comfort
- Inability to perform daily activities such as driving, cooking, or cleaning
- Frustration, such as difficulties sleeping and emotional changes
- Home nursing and companionship care
Serious injuries caused by medical negligence often result in years of pain and continuous treatment. Claimants may recover damages for past and anticipated future losses in successful medical malpractice actions. Expert economics may work with your doctors to determine the overall financial impact of injuries and illnesses caused by negligent healthcare providers.
How much is my medical malpractice case worth in Seattle?
Scheduling a free case review with an experienced medical malpractice litigator at Boohoff Law is the best way to determine the potential value of your claims. Every case differs, and no average verdict or settlement exists for med mal claims. Successful claimants may recover the past and anticipated future losses, including lost enjoyment of life and pain.
Factors that might affect your overall financial recovery include:
- Your age and overall health
- Your degree, salary, and work history
- The severity of the injuries
- Head of household status
- Any fraud or unlawful medical conduct
Doctors and health care facilities often carry substantial liability insurance policies. Realistically, most insurers settle medical negligence cases with the applicable policy limits. Working with attorneys who build respectful relationships with insurance adjusters often results in an agreeable settlement for viable medical malpractice claims. Do not accept a settlement, even one disguised as medical compensation, without running it by one of our lawyers. You may inadvertently and permanently be signing away your rights to needed future benefits.
Are prescription-drug based claims also medical malpractice claims?
Prescription errors, such as prescribing the wrong medication or dosage, often qualify as medical negligence. Actual injuries or illnesses caused by prescription drugs, including addiction to pain medication, are product liability actions. You may bring both medical malpractice and product liability claims together if health care providers and pharmaceutical companies negligently contributed to your injuries.
Is nursing home negligence a medical malpractice claim?
Possibly. Elder abuse and medical negligence claims against nursing homes and assisted living facilities commonly arise in Seattle. Some nursing homes might provide services rendering them directly liable for medical malpractice under Washington law. Other facilities might not qualify as healthcare providers. In such cases, an experienced personal injury lawyer may still bring a negligence, premise liability, or wrongful death claim against the entity if their negligence resulted in harm to a resident.
Choosing a Seattle Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you or a loved one suffered injuries or losses as a result of a Seattle medical provider’s mistake, broken promise, or provision of care to which consent was never given, you may have a claim for medical malpractice damages. As the discussion above shows, however, you cannot just pick any old attorney for the job if you want to give yourself the best chance of recovering the compensation you deserve.
To pursue a medical malpractice claim with skill, a lawyer needs to possess a large body of legal and subject-matter knowledge. The lawyer should be familiar in medical terminology, record-keeping practices, and delivery-of-care protocols, but that’s not all. The lawyer should also have a strong commitment to listening to and serving clients’ needs, and to communicating with clients in a way that makes the complicated process of pursuing a medical malpractice claim understandable and unintimidating.
How do you find this attorney? At Boohoff Law we encourage our potential clients to meet with us one-on-one. We offer a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation with a member of our team at which we welcome questions about how we can help. If you decide we aren’t the right fit for you, we will happily try to point you in the direction of someone who would be.
If a Doctor Injured You, Get in Touch With Boohoff Law Seattle Medical Malpractice Lawyers Now
Do not wait to seek legal help if you or a loved one have sustained an injury or loss because of a medical provider’s mistake. In Washington, the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim is three years in most cases. The sooner you consult with an experienced, skilled medical malpractice attorney, the better your chances of obtaining the compensation you need.
To schedule a free consultation with Boohoff Law, call (877) 999-9999 or contact us today.
“Everyone here is so helpful. They jumped through every hoop necessary to get me the settlement I rightfully deserved. Tracey and Maria are super sweet. They made me feel right at home. I absolutely recommend Boohooff Law and will use them again in the future if I am ever in a similar situation. Thank you all at Boohooff who helped me with my case. 10/10 stars hands down!”
– Brandy K.