We could all imagine it happening to us: You go in to a laparoscopic surgical clinic for a routine outpatient procedure and you end up with a severe infection due to provable negligence that leaves you laid up for months and unable to work. What was going to be something quick, easy and necessary becomes the cause of all new financial problems that leave you destitute.
Imagine putting aside money for years to finally spring for the facelift your wife has been begging for, only for her to come out of surgery disfigured by the careless hand of a negligent cosmetic surgeon, hardly recognizable to you and the kids.
This what medical malpractice looks like, and this is how it can impact people’s lives.
Faced with the frightening prospect of mounting a medical malpractice lawsuit against a wealthy doctor or major hospital system – and the legal teams they keep on retainer for just these kinds of situations – more and more people are forced to hire private investigators that specialize in uncovering facts and proving fault in medical malpractice suits.
To fully understand the gravity of medical malpractice in the United States and the escalating need for medical malpractice investigators, consider these sobering facts from the Medical Malpractice Center:
- The 3rd leading cause of death in the US is medical negligence.
- Erroneous diagnosis results in 80,000 to 100,000 deaths annually in the US.
- Between 1986 and 2010 the misdiagnosis of patients generated $38.8 billion in payouts.
- Every year there are roughly 15,000 to 19,000 medical malpractice suits filed in the US.
- 80% of all medical malpractice lawsuits that land in court result in no payouts.
- 1 out of every 3 patients will fall victim to a medical error during their hospitalization.
- A 2009 study by Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Medicine found that the majority medical doctors will get hit with a medical malpractice lawsuit during their career.
Private investigators hoping to break into the challenging world of medical malpractice need plenty of preparation.
Gaining widespread knowledge and experience in these fields will help solidify your competency and attract the eye of future employers:
- Insurance investigation
- Fraud investigation
- Healthcare industry
- Medical malpractice law
Obtaining a Certified Legal Investigator (CLI) certificate from the National Association of Legal Investigators will help give your résumé the final punch to the top.
Why People Hire Medical Malpractice Investigators
We live in a time when medical malpractice is almost as common as frivolous law suits aimed at medical staff simply trying to do
In most cases, a person, company or government agency will hire medical malpractice investigators over suspicion that a healthcare worker has committed an error that resulted in avoidable harm, injury or death. Entire medical facilities or medical staff teams can also stand accused of malpractice.
Although not as common, hospitals or healthcare workers accused of medical malpractice will hire investigators to discredit claims against them. For example:
- In 2005, the Legal Support Investigative Service was hired by a doctor accused of medical malpractice after a former patient claimed loss of function in her right arm after surgery. Through surveillance footage, investigators exhibited the plaintiff’s unhindered use of her right arm, rendering the claim unequivocally baseless.
Both sides of medical malpractice disputes may also hire medical malpractice investigators as a preliminary step before filing an insurance claim, civil lawsuit or criminal lawsuit.
Legal suits are particularly expensive. Plaintiffs are responsible for paying court filing fees, compensating expert witnesses, and procuring medical records. And even if they do win their case, a substantial percentage is typically absorbed by attorney contingency fees.
As a result, most people will hire medical malpractice investigators because its more cost effective than hiring an attorney. By determining the legitimacy of a client’s medical malpractice dispute investigators will either:
- Provide evidentiary credibility of medical malpractice thereby supporting impending or pending insurance claims or legal suits.
- Find insubstantial proof of medical malpractice thereby discouraging the pursuit of further legal action.
Attorneys themselves may also to hire medical malpractice investigators as part of their litigation team in order to save time and money during a pending lawsuits.
The Many Faces of Medical Malpractice
Hard-hitting medical malpractice investigators don’t just find evidence that a medical error happened. They uncover which medical error happened. Since medical malpractice can happen at any stage of the patient experience, pinning down the exact error can be arduous.
According to private-investigator-info.org the most common medical malpractice investigations revolve around:
- Misdiagnosis or iatrogenesis resulting in patient death
- Surgery or hospitalization resulting in infection or treatment failures
- Illegal billing procedures or insurance fraud
- Medical errors resulting in disability or other injury
- Rejection of care due to patient’s financial instability
- Medical negligence in refusing to provide care or providing defective care
- Negligent prescription treatments leading to addiction or drug contact
Some medical malpractice cases become more sinister if investigators discover that healthcare workers subjected patients to reckless disregard, abusive practices or acted with indecent motivation. These acts are considered so far removed from the accepted standard of care that they are no longer medical malpractice, but criminal in nature.
Common Tasks Involved in Performing Medical Malpractice Investigations
Since the private investigator profession is not closely regulated, their scope of practice is much more limited than an attorney’s. However, there are still many ways that medical malpractice investigators can legally obtain information to prove or disprove a potential claim.
Ideally a client will hire an investigator as soon as medical malpractice is suspected, because:
- The incident is relatively fresh in the memories of all parties involved.
- Records and documents of the incident are reasonably current and assessable.
- There is less time to alter reports or versions of the incident.
Once hired, medical malpractice investigators will attempt to gather as much information about the incident to establish facts. This process usually includes:
- Collecting client medical records pertaining to the incident in question.
- Obtaining all other past medical records involving diagnosis and treatment.
- Researching the healthcare worker’s history of medical malpractice.
- Interviewing all witnesses that were involved in the incident.
- Taking witness statements to cement testimonial findings.
- Researching specific prescription drugs, procedures, and products used during the client’s diagnosis and treatment.
- Consulting legal experts to determine if any laws were breached.
- Assembling a team of medical professionals for guidance.
- Establishing an accurate timeline of events
- Using surveillance tools to monitor individuals.