How Oklahoma handles medical malpractice

Sadly, medical mistakes do happen. It is important for Oklahoma residents to understand the basics of the state’s laws on medical malpractice claims.

The Patient Safety Movement Foundation reports that the United States experiences at least 200,000 deaths attributed to some form of medical error per year. U.S. News and World Report indicates that as many as four million people are estimated to suffer injuries related to medical errors every year. With statistics like these, it is no wonder that Oklahoma residents may have concerns about the quality of their medical care. How can people truly know they are getting the best care? What can they do if they suspect an error has been made?

How is medical malpractice defined?

It is important for people to delineate between an undesirable medical outcome and actual negligence or malpractice. Forbes explains that cases in which providers deviate from what the health care industry identifies as the standard of care may be considered medical malpractice. Such a deviation may be identified as failing to provide the level of care or take an action that another professional may do or would consider reasonable under the same circumstances.

At any time, patients should know that they have the right to obtain second opinions. This can be done even if they are unsure whether or not an error has been made.

What forms of errors can occur?

There are many types of medical errors that can occur. According to U.S. News and World Report, problems associated with medications are some of the most frequently experienced medical mistakes. Some examples of these errors include giving the wrong medication to a patient, administering an incorrect dose of a drug or prescribing a medication that negatively interacts with another drug taken by the patient.

Another problem involves patients contracting infections due to negligence of health care providers. Failure to properly wash hands, for example, can allow the transmission of germs to patients. This can be via touch or even via tubes, needles and lines inserted into patients' bodies.

Is there a statute of limitations in Oklahoma?

The National Conference of State Legislatures indicates that medical malpractice claims must be filed within two years of the date that an injury was discovered. This may be more than two years after an injury actually occurred because some injuries are not known about immediately. There are different parameters for injuries to minors based upon their ages.

Are the limits on damage awards in Oklahoma?

Oklahoma breaks out the types of damages allowed in medical malpractice cases into three categories-economic, non-economic, and punitive. There are no limits on economic damages.

There are parameters on non-economic and punitive damages. For both categories, the amount that may be awarded varies based upon the jury or the court findings. For example, if reckless disregard for others, intention with malice, or fraud were identified, the level of damages that can be awarded may increase.

What can Oklahoma residents do when an error happens?

It can be difficult to know if a situation involves an actual medical mistake or not. In addition to getting a second medical opinion, speaking with an attorney is recommended. With a two-year statute of limitations, it is always better to get help as soon as an issue is suspected to avoid. This can prevent missing the opportunity to seek compensation when necessary.