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Patient Advocates as Witnesses in Professional Negligence Lawsuits

People who are hospitalized with serious illnesses and injuries often can benefit from having an advocate—a family member, friend, or even a paid professional—who looks out for the patient’s interests. Advocate can help to improve patient care in a number of ways. They serve as intermediaries between hospital staff and the patient, helping to resolve confusion and answer questions that the patient may not be able to answer. They help the patient evaluate treatment options. And they keep an eye on how well the patient is being treated. If a patient is injured during a hospital stay the advocate may also become an important witness in any ensuing litigation against the hospital or its doctors for professional negligence (a.k.a. medical malpractice). An advocate need not have medical training to offer essential insights into events leading to the patient’s injury. This is especially true if the patient is not capable of testifying to the facts of the case, for example because the patient has severe dementia. For a patient advocate the focus of time in the hospital should naturally be on ensuring that the patient is getting the best care possible. Anticipating litigation isn’t the advocate’s job. But there are things advocates routinely do that can help attorneys should the need arise. Keeping good notes is a valuable step. Notes can record the treatment options that have been offered, diagnoses, medications, and so on. They can also include the names of the people involved in the patient’s care. Some of these details will be reflected in the hospital’s formal logs, but other details may slip through and only be available in the advocate’s notes. If litigation becomes necessary the advocate’s role as a witness likely will focus on the facts surrounding the patient’s care. The advocate who has served as the patient’s eyes, ears, and voice during the treatment process now serves, in a sense, as the patient’s memory.  Who made decisions, and when? How did staff respond to emergencies? What questions were asked? Having access to answers like these from a witness who is not tied to the hospital or other defendants can be extremely valuable in developing a case. An advocate isn’t going to be asked to give opinions about medical matters. A professional negligence claim often rests on failures by defendants to follow established protocols. The claims need to be backed up with affidavits and testimony from experts who are qualified to speak about the defendant’s specific field of practice. The advocate may be asked to help an expert witness analyze the case to determine if negligence has happened. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury cases. We are happy to answer your questions about potential professional negligence in a hospital setting. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.