What You Need to Know About Medical Malpractice & VA Hospitals
Medical malpractice cases are never simple. Not only do you have the direct, physical impact of the medical error to cope with, the legal side of the case can be even more complex. Even when it seems so clear and so obvious that a doctor made a mistake, trying to hold them liable for it can really be a challenge. This is the case when the medical error occurs in regular hospitals or physician’s offices, but it’s even more true when malpractice happens in VA hospitals. There have been many cases of veterans who became medical malpractice victims after seeking treatment through the VA, but were unable to file a malpractice claim because of technicalities and loopholes.
In one case, a Marine Corps veteran went to the emergency room at a VA hospital with severe back pain and was told he simply had a sprain and was prescribed some painkillers. Months later, he found out that initial diagnosis was incorrect and he actually had a serious staph infection attacking his spine and needed urgent surgery. The correct diagnosis could have been made with a simple blood test, but it wasn’t done during that initial ER visit. He made a claim against the VA, which was denied because the person who diagnosed him with a sprain was an independent contractor, not an employee, and the statute of limitations had passed on being able to file a lawsuit against the individual contractor.
If you believe you were the victim of medical malpractice at a VA hospital, making a claim will be different from filing a lawsuit against a civilian hospital. In this situation, your medical malpractice claim is covered by the Federal Tort Claims Act and you will need to make your claim within two years.
To begin making your claim, you will need to fill out the VA’s Standard Form 95. Filling out and filing Standard Form 95 can be done on your own, but working with a medical malpractice lawyer is very highly recommended because it’s very easy to make mistakes that could result in your claim being denied. And since these types of negligence claims are ultimately handled by a federal court if they’re denied, it’s very important to make sure all of your damages are included in your initial administrative claim because federal courts are not able to award damages beyond those requested in your original claim.
After making your claim, the VA has a six-month period to investigate the claim. If the VA denies your claim, you will have six months to file a lawsuit against the VA. In some cases, the VA might not make a definitive decision on your claim after six months. When this happens, it’s considered a “constructive denial” and you’ll also have six months to file a lawsuit.
If you were the victim of medical malpractice at a VA hospital, don’t go it alone. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible to get the help with your case. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we have lawyers experienced in handling medical malpractice and personal injury cases. Contact us today to tell us about your situation.