Until early 2020, the Feres Doctrine typically blocked servicemembers from suing the U.S. government for injuries related to their military service. This meant that even if the injury victims were assaulted by other servicemembers or injured because of serious mistakes in judgment, they could not receive damages. In the realm of medical malpractice, this means that even if a doctor caused you serious injuries – or intentional injuries – you could not sue the government for their employee’s mistakes.
Fortunately, a new system authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 sets up options for servicemembers injured by medical malpractice committed by military doctors to get compensation for their injuries. Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A.’s military medical malpractice attorneys offer free legal consultations to help you and your family understand how to proceed with your case and what compensation you might be entitled to. For a free legal consultation, call us today at (866) 386-1762.
Suing the Government for Medical Malpractice by Military Doctors
Since 1950, the Feres Doctrine has kept victims of injuries in the line of duty from suing the U.S. government for their injuries. This makes sense in some situations, as it would be difficult for the military to function if injured servicemembers could sue for injuries sustained in battle or for the loss of a loved one in the line of duty. However, this restriction is often quite unfair in some contexts, including in medical malpractice cases.
Injuries sustained in the military typically include accidents in the line of duty or injuries from an aggressive enemy combatant, not a friendly doctor. Medical malpractice injuries are in another category altogether, since they are usually caused by negligence on the part of a friendly caregiver. If you needed emergency medical care or surgery for an injury sustained during service, you should be entitled to safe medical care that will help you get better. If the government doctors that treated you did not provide that – and especially if your injuries got worse – you should be entitled to compensation.
The new system authorized in 2020 allows the Department of Defense (DOD) to set up a system for medical malpractice victims in the military and their families to claim financial compensation for the injuries they faced. This typically means that, even though they are not filed through a lawsuit, victims will be able to file claims with the DOD to get the help they need after suffering from medical negligence in the military.
Examples of Military Medical Malpractice
“Medical malpractice” refers to any mistakes or issues that doctors commit that fall below the “standard of care.” Doctors must use a certain level of skill and care when treating patients, and they should be held accountable for any mistakes that they commit that cause the care to dip below these standards.
Just because there was injury or a negative outcome is not, by itself, proof of medical malpractice. Instead, the care must have been so negligent that it is considered unreasonable for a doctor to provide such care. Typically, medical malpractice claims will revolve around testimony from other doctors with similar training and experience who can, as experts on the subject, state that the care was indeed unreasonable and negligent.
Some cases of medical malpractice involve obvious errors, such as performing the wrong procedure, performing a procedure on the wrong patient, performing surgery or an amputation on the wrong part of the body, or doing non-emergency surgery without the patient’s permission. During surgery, malpractice can involve accidents where the doctor cuts too deep, causes excessive bleeding, commits anesthesia errors, fails to complete the procedure, or leaves surgical tools inside the victim. Malpractice can also refer to issues in treatment and diagnosis, such as misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or other negligent treatment apart from surgical mistakes.
Damages for Medical Malpractice Injuries in the Military
If you file a claim for medical malpractice compensation through the DOD’s new process, you might not be able to claim the same damages you would normally be able to claim against a private doctor or hospital. In those cases, you can usually claim damages for any additional medical care needs you face because of the malpractice, compensation for any lost wages you suffer because of the injuries or conditions you now face, and compensation for any pain and suffering the injury causes.
In the context of medical malpractice by a military doctor, the damages you face might already be paid for to some extent. For instance, if you require additional medical care and that care is provided to you by other military doctors, there are no additional medical care costs to cover. Similarly, if treatment at a VA hospital covers the care without additional medical bills, there are fewer medical expenses you personally paid. However, we will fight for any medical expenses that have not been covered.
Similarly, if you receive compensation for your lost wages while you are on medical leave, then there is no need to have these damages compensated either. If the military covers only your basic needs while you recover from your medical malpractice injury, there might still be ongoing lost wages or reduced earning capacity that needs to be compensated, and we will claim these damages in your case.
In any case, the government will not have already covered your pain and suffering damages, and this is often one of the core areas of damages we will claim in your case, if possible. These damages could be substantial since many medical malpractice injuries involve serious physical pain, emotional suffering, and mental anguish.
In some cases, damages might be capped or limited by the DOD’s rules. Our lawyers will help maximize the damages you can claim and advise you on any limitations.
Call Our Attorneys for Military Medical Malpractice Claims for a Free Case Consultation
If you or a loved one received negligent medical care from a military physician, contact Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A. today. Our military medical malpractice attorneys represent injured servicemembers in the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and National Guard in claims against military doctors for medical malpractice. For a free legal consultation on your potential claim, call our lawyers today at (866) 386-1762 to set up a free legal consultation on your case.