Medical professionals have stressful jobs, so it's understandable they would want to take a break every once in awhile to get away from the pressures of the workplace. If your doctor goes on vacation at the wrong moment and doesn't make proper arrangements, however, that may constitute patient abandonment if you suffer damages and losses as a result. Here's more information about this issue.
The Elements of Patient Abandonment
In the legal world, patient abandonment occurs when a healthcare professional terminates his or her relationship with a patient without notice and/or providing the person with adequate time to seek treatment elsewhere. To successfully win a case for patient abandonment, you must show the following are true:
- There was a doctor/patient relationship (i.e. the doctor agreed to treat you)
- The doctor left when you were in a critical stage of treatment (i.e. still required treatment, essentially)
- The doctor ended the relationship so abruptly, you didn't have time or resources to obtain alternative care
- You suffered injury as a result (e.g. your condition worsened)
A doctor going on vacation in the middle of your treatment isn't patient abandonment per se, because the healthcare provider didn't actually end the relationship. However, it may qualify as such if the doctor failed to notify you about his or her absence and/or did not make arrangements to have your case taken over by a suitable replacement.
To make this case, you must show the doctor didn't take the necessary steps to transfer his or her responsibility to another healthcare provider. For instance, many doctors believe simply leaving a message on their answering machines telling clients to contact the backup doctor or go to the hospital is enough to absolve them of liability, but this isn't true.
The doctor must make an effort to find someone in the same profession who is adequately skilled and experienced enough to handle the case. The doctor must tell you who this person is, make sure the doctor is up to speed on your case, and ensure the person is available to handle emergencies. If the doctor fails to take these precautions, you may have a case for abandonment.
While you can win compensation for damages from a patient abandonment case alone, the situation may be upgraded to medical malpractice if you suffer injury because you failed to receive the standard of care required by the situation.
For example, the substitute doctor wasn't skilled enough to catch a complication of your treatment and you suffered long-term disability as a result. Your primary care doctor would be liable for medical malpractice—as well as the replacement physician—because he or she failed to ensure the replacement doctor could provide the standard of care required by your case.
Typically, you would need to have a medical expert testify in person or in writing what occurred in your case and why the treatment failed to meet the standard. These types of cases can be challenging to litigate, so it's best to hire a personal injury attorney who can help you maximize your chances of winning. For more information about this issue, call an local lawyer. For more information, contact companies like http://www.cohenandsiegellaw.com.