“I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of over treatment and therapeutic nihilism.”
– Hippocratic Oath, Modern Version
Despite their best intentions and the oaths taken after completing their schooling; doctors, surgeons, nurses and other medical professionals occasionally subject their patients to serious injury or death as a result of a mistake, negligence or intentional actions. At the Marcarian Law Firm we understand that if you or a loved one has been injured or died as a result of a medical malpractice, you may be very confused about what steps to take next. While we understand that consulting with an attorney may be the furthest thing from your mind, we encourage you to reach out to our experienced attorneys to discuss your situation and protect your rights.
Unfortunately, medical malpractice cases arise in a number of situations including:
- Failure to administer proper treatment
- Misuse of anesthesia
- Surgical errors
- Medication errors
- Birth Injuries
Working with an experienced, knowledgeable and local attorney can help you understand what happened leading up to your injury or the death of your loved one. The attorneys at the Marcarian Law Firm will help you understand the legal process and will provide you with the personalized attention you need to protect your rights and move past this unfortunate event.
Types of Medical Malpractice Cases
As mentioned above, medical malpractice cases in California often fall into one of two categories:
At the Marcarian Law Firm we handle both types of medical malpractice cases and often handle them on a contingency fee basis. That means that if we accept the case, we will handle all or most of the upfront costs associated with it and will wait to get paid until we have obtained a settlement or verdict on your behalf. We handle medical malpractice cases on a contingency fee basis because we understand that after you have lost a loved one or suffered an injury as a result of a doctor’s or medical professional’s wrongful actions, the last thing you want to worry about is paying for an attorney.
We offer no obligation consultations to individuals who have been injured or lost a loved one as a result of medical negligence and encourage you to contact us or call us at (800) 924-3784 to discuss the specifics of your case. Let us help you decide what step to take next.
Q&A with Armond Marcarian
Interviewer: What are the most common forms of medical malpractice, and what are some of the misconceptions?
Armond Marcarian: One of the more common forms of medical malpractice is what I call failure to timely or adequately diagnose a medical condition. Unfortunately, that happens fairly routinely. You typically see that in cancer cases. For instance, a patient with breast cancer goes in for an imaging or testing and the radiologist reads the images as normal. Six or nine months later the patient presents with a lump in the breast which turns out to be a cancerous mass. Now, the first question is: Did the first radiologist miss it? Another example is ovarian cancer and other forms of cancer cases. Unfortunately, failure to timely diagnose cancer cases occur frequently. There are other forms of medical malpractice. For instance, a heart patient with coronary vessel disease who receives the wrong treatment. Instead of an open heart surgery to treat his heart vessels, he gets one or more stents placed in some of his blocked vessels. The patient dies because not all of his heart vessels were treated. A great majority of calls we receive are where the patient is angry and did not get a good result. It is sometimes difficult to convince these callers that a bad result does not equate to malpractice. There has to be a deviation from the standard of care. There has to be a breach of the standard of care. Not only that, the breach of the standard of care has to be a substantial cause of the patient’s harm. Without either one of those components, there is no medical malpractice claim.
Interviewer: What if someone actually dies because of medical malpractice? Is there anything that their surviving family members can do?
Armond Marcarian Absolutely. This is a special type of medical malpractice lawsuit called a wrongful death claim. If the patient dies because of a health care provider’s medical negligence, there is a claim for wrongful death. The law allows the deceased patient’s survivors to sue on their own behalf for both economic damages (loss of income, etc.) and non-economic damages (loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support).
Interviewer: What are the legal requirements to file a lawsuit for medical malpractice in California?
Armond Marcarian: After an attorney is provided with a complete set of the medical records for the victim of malpractice or the deceased, the attorney and his medical consultants review and analyze the medical records to make an evaluation or assessment to see if there was negligence. Once that is done and the attorney has good-faith basis that there is a potential claim, one of the first things he is required to do is to send out what is called “a notice of intent to sue” letter to the medical provider who was negligent before filing a lawsuit. Generally, medical malpractice cases in California are governed by a one year statute of limitations. If the notice of intent to sue letter is sent out within the last 90 days of the running of the statute of limitations, it tolls (or suspends) the statute for a brief period of time. The purpose of the intent to sue letter is to provide the medical provider a reasonable opportunity to respond. If you do not get an adequate response or you do not get a response from the medical provider, then a lawsuit may be filed, or, as the case may be, a demand for arbitration may be initiated as in Kaiser cases.
Interviewer: How do I know if I need an attorney to help with my medical malpractice case?
Armond Marcarian: Once there are clinical signs or symptoms suggesting that something is not right following a procedure or surgery, the individual needs to seek additional medical help, perhaps to obtain a second opinion from a doctor to find out why he or she is experiencing those clinical symptoms or why the patient died. Once that is done, and depending on the information he or she obtains from the second medical provider, the potential client should contact a lawyer to discuss the matter. The first thing I tell individuals who contact me is that a bad result does not mean malpractice. For us to assess and evaluate your case, we need your full set of medical records. We will then review them internally, in-house, and will send them out for review to the appropriate medical professional.
Interviewer: What are common obstacles that victims face?
Armond Marcarian: There are two main elements to any medical malpractice claim. They are standard of care and causation. Causation is a major obstacle in the substantial majority of medical malpractice cases. Another very common obstacle is to find a law firm or attorney who is willing to accept a medical malpractice case. There are a couple of main reasons for that. One, those attorneys who do medical malpractice cases understand the significance of being able to establish the causation element in medical malpractice cases. They understand that the cards are generally stacked against them when it comes to causation. So there are fewer and fewer attorneys and law firms willing to sign up a victim of a medical malpractice case. The second reason is the cap on general damages placed by the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. As a major component of MICRA, which was enacted in 1975, the California legislature placed a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages. The cap amount has not changed since l975. It is very significant in cases where the patient has presented his full medical records to a law firm for evaluation and assessment; the law firm has done its work and has sent it out for review; and the law firm’s experts are saying that yes, it is a pretty good medical malpractice case. But the lawyers know that it is going to cost them about $100,000 to prosecute the case, which comes out of the lawyer’s pocket. This means that if he or she is successful and gets the full $250,000, there is only $150,000 left for the victim and the law firm. The MICRA limitation is a sad reality and is the reason decent cases are turned down because of the fact that the maximum recovery for non-economic damages under MICRA is $250,000. At the Marcarian Law Firm, we have done a number of these MICRA cases. We do not decline a case only because it is a MICRA case, but we certainly consider that as one of the factors before we make a decision to sign up a client. Those are the two major obstacles.
Interviewer: What is hospital malpractice?
Armond Marcarian: Most medical provider physicians are independent contractors. They are not “employees” of the hospital where the alleged malpractice takes place. In a case where the malpractice took place in a hospital, the law firm, after analyzing all the facts to make an evaluation, will typically name the hospital as one of the potential defendants because the acts or omissions that formed the basis of the lawsuit occurred in the hospital. Hospital malpractice is just another variation or form of medical negligence, in this case against the hospital, as well as the physicians who participated in the patient’s care as the case may be. We had a case where a patient was admitted to a hospital with symptoms of stroke and, because of the negligence of a registered nurse employed by the hospital, the patient was left on a gurney for almost ten hours. The nurse’s negligence resulted in the death of the patient, and the hospital was determined to be the entity fully responsible for her death.
Interviewer: What makes you the best choice for a medical malpractice attorney?
Armond Marcarian: There are a number of fine lawyers who do medical malpractice cases, and we are right up there with them. One of the things we do at our office is we generally start and finish with the client. This means we are very involved from the initial client interview all the way through to trial or arbitration. To our firm, doing that is a major benefit because we learn about the case as we go along. At some of the other firms, associates and paralegals do the legwork up until the time the case is coming up to trial. There are some very great trial lawyers with great skills and experience, but those lawyers are at a major disadvantage because they have not been intimately involved with the case. They do not know the minutia facts. That is one reason we feel we are a very good choice. I [Armond Marcarian] have over 27 years of experience as a registered pharmacist in addition to my legal experience. I have done a number of these cases, and because of my background in pharmacy, I understand medical records and I am not intimidated by them. At the Marcarian Law Firm, we can perform an initial in-house review and analysis of the medical records, thereby saving the client some money and saving time before we turn to the experts for analysis of the issues. The fourth reason is that we are tenacious.