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Is Patient Abandonment a Type of Medical Malpractice?

patient abandonment

Patient abandonment isn’t something that most people have ever heard of but those who are victims of it know the devastating consequences. Unlike other types of medical malpractice that involve errors made during treatment provided during a doctor-patient relationship, patient abandonment involves a sudden lack of care.

Patients who are abandoned by their health care providers may suffer relapse, worsening symptoms, or even death as a result of the abandonment. If you or a loved one was injured due to patient abandonment, you may be able to recover a settlement with the help of a medical malpractice lawyer.

What is Patient Abandonment?

Patient abandonment is a type of medical malpractice called breach of duty that occurs when a physician terminates the doctor-patient relationship without reasonable notice or a rational excuse, thus failing to give the patient an opportunity to find a qualified replacement care provider and putting them at risk for a worsening condition.

Patient abandonment can be avoided by giving the patient advanced warning that the relationship will be terminated so they have time to find a suitable replacement. The practitioner should also provide a recommendation for a new doctor and pass the patient’s medical records along to the new doctor.

Sometimes patient abandonment happens after a patient fails to pay their medical bills but it can happen for a variety of reasons. Patient abandonment may look like:

  • A doctor failing to respond within a reasonable time to a patient who needs medical care
  • The hospital having inadequate staffing to provide appropriate treatment
  • Medical staff failing to contact a patient who missed an important follow-up appointment
  • Medical staff failing to communicate time sensitive questions from the patient to the doctor
  • Medical staff failing to schedule a follow-up appointment to treat a rapidly developing health condition in a timely manner
  • Medical staff scheduling an appointment so far into the future that is causes preventable harm to the patient

A patient isn’t likely to have a claim if they:

  • Have acted threateningly to their doctor
  • Have missed several appointments and failed to reschedule them
  • Have failed to follow the doctor’s instructions
  • Have failed to follow the practice’s policies

Speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney for a case evaluation to determine whether a medical malpractice claim would be appropriate.

Proving a Patient Abandonment Claim

While each state has a slightly different interpretation of the laws, the following Elements of Patient Abandonment must be proved for a successful claim or patient abandonment lawsuit.

  1. The doctor-patient relationship must be established. This is easily proved by showing that the doctor had agreed to treat the patient and that treatment was being given before termination.
  2. The abandonment must have happened when the patient still needed medical attention, when they were in the “critical stage” of the treatment process.
  3. The abandonment must have happened very abruptly. So abruptly that the patient wasn’t given enough time or resources to find a suitable doctor to take over their medical care.
  4. The patient must have suffered an injury (damages) as a direct result of the patient abandonment.

The Seattle Personal Injury Attorneys You Want on Your Side

The personal injury attorneys at Tinker Law Firm have been winning birth injury, medical malpractice, and personal injury cases for individuals and their loved ones in Seattle and across Washington State since 1974. We seek justice for injury victims who have been harmed by preventable medical errors, and the negligent or abusive actions of another. Our clients pay no fees or expenses to file a personal injury claim; our firm advances out-of-pocket expenses and is only reimbursed when we recover a settlement on your behalf. Do not delay; personal injury claims in Washington State have a statute of limitations, which means they must be filed within a certain time from the date of the injury.

Call us now at (206) 752-4366 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled and experienced injury attorneys.

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