Practicing medicine in Wisconsin can be a rewarding experience, but in the back of every doctor’s mind must be that nagging fear that today will be the day that something goes wrong. Many doctors joke, it’s not if you get sued for malpractice, it’s when you get sued for medical malpractice. Knowing exactly what can constitute medical malpractice can help alleviate some of that fear.
Wisconsin Medical Malpractice Basics
At the most basic level, there must be a duty owed to someone. This means that the person bringing the suit must actually be your patient. Keeping accurate records for patient encounters is a must.
Beyond the existence of a duty, there must also be a breach of that duty. For example, if you performed an exam on a patient and failed to diagnose an obvious case of MRSA infection, this may be considered malpractice
you did not perform the exam according to the standards of the medical profession.
Finally, the breach of duty must have resulted in harm or damage that was proximately caused by the breach. Using our example above, this would mean that the patient must have suffered some type of injury, like a loss of a limb, because you did not diagnose and treat the infection.
Wisconsin Physician Duty of Care
Once a doctor establishes a relationship with the patient, that doctor owes a particular duty of care to that patient. At that point, the doctor owes the patient the duty of care and treatment “with the degree of skill, care, and diligence as possessed by, or expected of, a reasonably competent doctor under the same or similar circumstances.”
This duty of care applies not only to what is done, but also to what is not done in treating a patient. If there are treatment options or diagnostic tests that are not carried out, a doctor must show that the patient was adequately informed of such treatments and given the reasons why the doctor is not opting to perform the treatment or test.
Wisconsin Tort Reform
Malpractice lawsuit rates have dropped dramatically in the past few years due to Wisconsin tort reform laws, but they do still happen. Wisconsin developed a malpractice insurance fund called the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund, which doctors and hospitals are required to pay into. The purpose of the fund is to reimburse victims of medical malpractice and is currently valued at about $1.5 billion. However, the board that manages this fund rarely pays out of it, and limits are placed on how much can be recovered.
Wisconsin Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
If a patient or estate suspect medical malpractice and wish to seek redress for it, they must file their claim within three years from the date of the injury or one year from the date the injury was discovered or, reasonably should have been discovered. In any case, no action may be brought more than 5 years from the date of the act or omission.
If you have received notice of a medical malpractice claim, contact the Wisconsin medical malpractice attorneys at Kerkman Wagner & Dunn today.