Can I Sue if a Doctor-in-Training Causes Me Harm?

Can I Sue if a Doctor-in-Training Causes Me Harm?When you go to a hospital for any reason, such as to undergo surgery or receive treatment for a serious injury, you expect the physicians and other staff to provide the best care possible. Unfortunately, medical malpractice can occur, resulting in physical harm and possibly psychological trauma.

And while physicians, surgeons, and nurses often come to mind when people hear of medical malpractice claims, doctors-in-training can also be to blame. These doctors are in residency, meaning they are training with physicians and surgeons after completing medical school. If you sustained physical harm because of “resident,” learn whether suing is possible.

What is a teaching hospital?

Some hospitals are teaching hospitals, meaning they continually work with medical students and interns. These hospitals allow students and interns to observe doctors and surgeons while they work with patients and complete other daily tasks. Teaching hospitals might also host medical classes.

Completing a medical residency is part of any medical student’s journey, as they cannot practice medicine or perform surgeries without it. Residencies allow students to get hands-on training, with the length of each residency varying in light of the students’ chosen field. For example, a surgical residency typically lasts five years or more, while a family practice residency is rarely more than two years.

The first year of a medical residency for any resident consists of either learning about the many aspects of one discipline or observing doctors who specialize in different fields. The idea is to help the resident decide what field to focus on, with this first year of residency known as the internship.

How teaching hospitals avoid medical malpractice issues

Teaching hospitals take measures to keep patients safe when residents provide various treatments or perform assorted, usually minor, procedures. As a general rule, at least one physician or surgeon is present while the doctor-in-training works. This allows the medical professional to intervene as necessary and therefore prevent the resident from making critical errors. The physician or other medical professional also signs off on any procedures or medications the resident performs or prescribes, meaning they approve of the student’s treatment choices.

Why medical malpractice occurs in teaching hospitals in Mississippi

Unfortunately, medical malpractice resulting in patient harm can occur in teaching hospitals and similar institutions, such as dental schools. In most cases like these, the teaching hospital is understaffed and cannot accommodate the number of patients. In some cases, however, the resident or medical student makes an error or acts in a negligent manner, which in turn causes harm to the patient.

Cases like these provide grounds for medical malpractice lawsuits. Depending on the nature of the case, it is possible to sue the medical student for damages. However, it is generally the hospital named in the resulting lawsuit, under the doctrine of respondeat superior – a rule which says “an employer is responsible for the actions of its employees performed during the course of their employment.” Residents are typically considered employees (or agents) of the hospital in which they work, meaning the hospital could be held liable for any losses a patient sustains.

Proving medical malpractice in Mississippi

For a plaintiff and their attorney to prove medical malpractice, they must show that a doctor-patient relationship was in place, or when a doctor agrees to provide treatment of some kind. Next, the lawyer must show that negligence occurred, such as the medical resident’s error. Medical practice standards of care were violated as a result, which directly resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries. Proof of damages must be submitted and can include the supervising physician signing off on the medical student’s treatment, despite the errors. Photos of the injury or injuries, assuming they are not internal, also provide proof. If the issue is internal, x-rays might be able to provide evidence.

If all of the elements necessary to prove medical malpractice are in place, it is possible for the attorney to show negligence “by a preponderance of the evidence.”

Filing a medical malpractice claim in Mississippi

When a medical resident causes a patient physical harm, talking to a lawyer is strongly recommended. The supervising physician and hospital failed to provide duty of care, resulting in potentially long-lasting injuries or ailments requiring prescription medication, physical therapy, or other treatment.

If your injury occurs in Mississippi, you have two years from the date of the incident to file as per state laws. However, it is also possible to file based on the date which the medical malpractice “might have been first known or discovered” using “reasonable diligence.” This is known as the “discovery rule.” No medical malpractice claim in Mississippi can be filed if it has been over seven years since the physical harm occurred. Additionally, the attorney must swear under oath that they reviewed the case with at least one objective medical expert and grounds for negligence were found.

To move forward with a medical malpractice claim in Mississippi, contact Merkel & Cocke, P.A. today. We have locations in Jackson, Clarksdale, Greenville, and Oxford, and have provided dedicated counsel and representation to clients since 1982. Call the team with nearly 200 years of combined experience at our offices or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation.