Medical device failure and medical malpractice are often lumped together. But while the 2 practice areas share some important similarities, it’s important to note their differences. Knowing the subtle distinctions can mean the difference between a lawsuit and a lifetime of pain and suffering.
Recently, Chris Gilreath was interviewed by AskTheLawyers™ on this very topic. Watch the video to see his response:
What is medical device failure?
A medical device is an instrument or piece of equipment used to treat patients. Medical devices can also be utilized to diagnose or prevent a medical condition. Devices are different from drugs in that they don’t use a chemical interaction to heal the patient.
Medical devices often play a critical role in helping heal a patient’s body and help the body function on a daily basis. Some examples of the most prevalent medical devices include:
- Artificial hips
- Pumps (i.e. intra-aortic balloon pump)
- Surgical staplers and staples
- Pelvic mesh
- Implants (i.e. dental, knee and breast)
Unfortunately, technology isn’t perfect.
Some of these devices are capable of failing due to flaws, and the risk has increased more as time has gone on. What’s more, the consequence of medical device failure can be life-threatening. If a pacemaker stops working or malfunctions, it could kill the patient.
If you’re the victim of medical device failure, our team at Gilreath & Associates can explore all your options for compensation.
What is medical malpractice?
Like medical device failure lawsuits, medical malpractice is a legal cause of action. When a healthcare professional strays from industry standards, this is considered negligence. Errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare or health management can result in an injury to the patient.
Most legal advisors will begin by looking at all the parties involved. The manufacturer and distributor may both be found liable for the product. To find out exactly what went wrong, an investigation of the faulty product will take place.
Doctors often claim they were unaware of the product’s defects. However, once they’re made aware, they have a duty of care they must follow. Breaching that care could mean they’re liable for negligence. For example, failing to warn patients that a device poses a risk to the patients might be considered a breach of duty. In this case, the patient may file a medical malpractice claim to seek damages.
If a doctor decides to use a defective medical device despite knowing it was defective, such as a faulty pacemaker, they would be personally liable under malpractice law. If the product was recommended and used as directed, but the device malfunctioned and caused injury, it might be grounds for a device failure lawsuit rather than a malpractice claim. In such a case, the doctor could sue the manufacturer, but the patient wouldn’t necessarily become involved.
What’s the statute of limitation for malpractice or product liability?
Tennessee Code section 29-26-116 gives victims of medical malpractice 1 year to file a lawsuit, usually 1 year from the date the malpractice occurred. While there are some cases where the clock doesn’t immediately start ticking and the deadline might be extended, such exceptions are rare.
One such exception is that if the patient’s injury isn’t discovered within a 1-year period, the statute of limitations period begins the date on which the injury is discovered. The injured party then has 1 year from that date to file a claim.
No matter when the injury is discovered, no legal action can be brought against the doctor or hospital more than 3 years from the date the underlying medical error occurred. In other words, even if you didn’t discover the injury until 5 years after the operation, the statute of limitations has already expired.
Product liability cases, on the other hand, which include cases involving medical device failure, have a much longer statute of limitations. Victims of a failed or defective medical device typically have 6 years from the date of injury to file a claim.
However, under a law known as the “statute of repose,” you have a maximum of 10 years from the date the defective device or product was first purchased to used (placed in your body) in which to file a claim, regardless of when you discovered the device was defective.
Whether your case falls under medical malpractice or product liability has a significant impact on how long you have to submit a claim.
The right Tennessee attorneys can help
It’s important to seek immediate legal counsel if you’ve been injured because of a defective medical device or because a family member has died from a doctor’s negligence. It’s also important to know what type of case you have so that you can get the right help.
Whether you think you have a medical malpractice or product liability case, our Tennessee attorneys at Gilreath & Associates are standing by. We can help you navigate the complexities of filing a claim and settling or taking it to court. We’ll fight to make sure you receive the best outcome possible.