An OB-GYN is an Obstetrician-Gynecologist doctor specializing in the birthing of babies and the care of female reproductive systems generally. As with all types of medical care provided by licensed professionals, there are minimum standards of performance expected of those physicians who practice within the specialty.
When an OB-GYN doctor’s performance fails to adhere to the appropriate standard and a patient is injured as a result, medical malpractice may have occurred. In such situations, the injured patient (or the injured patient’s baby) may be entitled to compensation.
The OB-GYN malpractice lawyers at Berman & Simmons understand how devastating a medical mistake can be when it involves reproductive health or childbirth. Our experienced attorneys make sure healthcare professionals are held accountable to their own standards of performance and ensure our clients get the justice they are entitled to.
Medical Services Typically Provided by OB-GYN Doctors
OB-GYN doctors treat patients in both outpatient and hospital settings. They carry out a wide range of health services, from wellness examinations to surgeries. Some of the more frequent reasons patients are seen by OB-GYNs include:
- Reproductive wellness exams
- Cancer screening, such as “PAP smears”
- Birth control options
- Prenatal care
- Pelvic pain disorders
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Irregular periods
- Uterine or cervical issues
- Vaginal pain
- Urinary problems
Much of the routine treatment provided by OB-GYNs can be administered in a clinical setting.
How Often OB-GYN Doctors Get Sued for Malpractice
Medical errors by OB-GYNs can have disastrous consequences. The types of life-altering injuries that can result from malpractice by an OB-GYN means that medical malpractice lawsuits are twice as common against practitioners of this specialty. According to an article published by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), almost 83% of OB-GYN physicians will be sued for medical malpractice at least once in their careers.
Many times an OB-GYN doctor is attending to the health of both a mother and her unborn child and must consider the well-being of both when making medical decisions. In other words, there is often twice the opportunity for medical errors to occur in the context of obstetrical care. Just over half of the OB-GYN medical malpractice cases studied over a 10-year period arose from obstetrics, with the following issues being the most common complaints:
- Negligent assessment of pregnant mother
- Failure to properly manage the pregnancy
- Failure to recognize possible complications during labor and delivery
- Failing to detect postpartum risks to the health of the mother or baby
Common Mistakes Made by OB-GYNs
An OB-GYN doctor must evaluate and diagnose a number of serious conditions that can affect the health of a woman and baby. Life-threatening conditions can develop during pregnancy if not recognized and treated. Errors made during delivery can cause permanent damage or death to a baby.
- Failure to accurately evaluate a patient’s symptoms
- Failure to make the right diagnosis
- Failure to order the appropriate tests or to correctly interpret the test results
- Improper or incorrect surgical procedure
- Prescribing the wrong medication or the wrong dose of a medication
- Errors during the birthing process
- Delay acting on signs of fetal distress
What Happens When an OB-GYN Misdiagnoses a Problem?
A misdiagnosis is a significant medical mistake because a diagnosis is the starting point for determining a course of treatment to resolve a health problem. Misdiagnosing a medical condition can delay the implementation of a beneficial treatment causing the condition to worsen and possibly inflicting further harm from inappropriate treatment.
Cancer is a known risk to reproductive health, which can worsen if a prompt diagnosis is missed or delayed.
- Endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus) is the most common cancer of the female reproductive organs. Each year, more than 66,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with uterine cancer.
- Cervical cancer that is not caught through early screening impacts more than 13,000 women each year in the United States.
- Ovarian cancer accounts for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
Types of Injuries Caused by OB-GYN Malpractice
The injuries caused by OB-GYN malpractice can result in illness, impairment of function, disfigurement, and even death. The following are types of injuries OB-GYN doctors are known to have caused:
- Loss of pregnancy
- Loss of fertility
- Worsening of illness/disease due to misdiagnosis and/or improper treatment
- Bleeding or internal damage from cesarean (C) section or hysterectomy surgeries
- Physical injury to mother or child during the birthing process
- Brain damage to the baby due to oxygen deprivation during birth
- Wrongful death to mother or child
How to Determine When an OB-GYN Has Committed Malpractice
Not every injury a patient sustains under a doctor’s care is medical malpractice. It must be proven that there was a generally accepted way things should have been done, the doctor acted inconsistently with the appropriate standard of performance, and the patient was injured as a result of the doctor’s actions.
Although some patients may expect it, doctors are not required to guarantee a successful result when they provide medical care. They are only required to provide the same level of care as an ordinarily competent doctor practicing the same area of medicine would provide when treating a patient under similar circumstances.
Making an error in professional judgment is not usually considered a deviation from the standard of care when ordinarily competent doctors might have differing opinions on the appropriate action to be taken given the situation of a particular patient.
Expert testimony by medical professionals is required both to establish what the appropriate standard of care should be and how an OB-GYN doctor’s actions did not meet the standard. Expert authority is also necessary to demonstrate how the doctor’s actions resulted in the injury to the patient.
Damages Available for OB-GYN Malpractice
Damages for medical malpractice can be recovered by an injured patient or by the family of a patient who died as a result of their injuries. Compensation may be awarded to cover the cost of medical treatment and other out-of-pocket expenses related to the injury. Current and future lost income may also be recovered.
Persons injured by OB-GYN malpractice can also be compensated for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering, mental distress, diminished ability to enjoy life, and loss of companionship.
Cap on Damages for Medical Malpractice
When medical malpractice results in a wrongful death claim, certain types of damages are limited to maximum amounts.
Until recently, non-economic damages were limited to $750,000, in wrongful death cases. A new law taking effect in July 2023 will raise this damages cap for wrongful death damages for deaths beginning in 2024. The $750,000 cap on non-economic damages will be adjusted annually for inflation.
Time Limit for Making a Medical Malpractice Claims in Maine
Maine law sets much shorter time limits for pursuing medical malpractice claims than other types of personal injury cases. In most instances, an adult’s malpractice claim against a non-governmental health care provider must be brought within 3 years of the date the medical error occurred. Claims against governmental health care providers have even shorter deadlines. Claims against federal healthcare providers, such as providers who work for the VA or federally-qualified healthcare centers, must be noticed within two years. Claims against healthcare providers who work for the state or municipal government, such as a state-owned or city-owned hospital, must be pursued within 365 days.
Who is Legally Responsible for OB-GYN Malpractice?
Generally, any professional who provided substandard healthcare and injured a patient is liable for the injuries. That could include doctors, nurses, and various people in other technical or supportive capacities.
The facility employing the professional who makes the error can be liable because the law presumes employers have control over employees and thus responsibility for their actions.
Sometimes, a medical facility may also be directly liable for its policies and procedures if these are found to have contributed to the circumstances that caused a patient’s injuries.
A more complicated situation arises when the healthcare providers who work at a facility are not actually employees of the facility. For example, many hospitals subcontract to private medical groups to staff emergency rooms, intensive care units, and radiology departments. This means that the doctor who treats a patient at a hospital may not actually be a hospital employee, even though the patient is never told this. Often, lengthy hospital consent forms will contain fine print disclosing that all people who work in the facility may not actually be employed by the hospital.
The trial attorneys at Berman & Simmons have obtained successful results for their clients in medical malpractice lawsuits involving healthcare providers who were not hospital employees.
A Cumberland County jury awarded a Maine man $5 million in September of 2022 after finding that Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick was legally responsible for the medical negligence by a non-employee healthcare provider at the Mid Coast Hospital Walk-In Clinic, even though that healthcare provider was employed by subcontractor BlueWater Emergency Partners, LLC, not the hospital.
What to do if You were Injured by OB-GYN Malpractice
Before a lawsuit for OB-GYN malpractice can be filed, Maine law requires the claim to be presented before a pre-litigation screening tribunal. The trial attorneys of Berman & Simmons have extensive experience navigating this complex system, which requires careful preparation of evidence to determine whether the doctor violated the applicable standard of care and whether the violation caused the claimed injuries. The panel’s decisions are important because unanimous decisions favoring one party can be used as evidence in a subsequent trial.
When Berman & Simmons takes on an obstetrician/gynecologist malpractice case, our lawyers collect and organize all relevant medical records and have them reviewed by medical experts before filing a notice of claim. By doing so, we maximize the chances that the pre-litigation screening tribunal will find our client’s case has merit. If you or a loved one suffered injuries or death because of OB-GYN malpractice in Maine, contact the personal injury litigators at Berman & Simmons for a free consultation.
No other firm in Maine can match our resources and expertise
No other firm in Maine can match the depth of our expertise and the resources we use to bring these complex cases to a successful conclusion. We pride ourselves in taking on and winning cases that other lawyers have turned down because they knew how challenging, costly, and time-consuming the case will be or they didn’t have the experience, expertise, and resources to identify the malpractice.
A Law Firm That Listens
Berman & Simmons is widely recognized as the best personal injury lawyers in Maine and among the best in the U.S., having won many of the largest jury verdicts and settlements ever obtained for injured people in Maine.
Our trial lawyers have won thousands of claims on behalf of those injured, and each year we build on that successful track record.
Our attorneys and staff members will take the time to listen to you, work to understand your concerns, and come up with solutions that can make your life better, including obtaining payment for or deferral of your debts until your case is resolved. We help you recover and make sure you receive full compensation for your injuries and loss.
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What do I prepare for the first call or meeting with you?
For your first meeting with us, simply tell us your story and explain in your own words what happened and how your life has been affected. If you’re meeting with us in person, you can bring notes about what happened to you, driver insurance information, names of any witnesses, photos of the accident damages or injuries, medical records, and other related paperwork if you have it and if it’s applicable, but that information isn’t necessary. Really all you need to do is be yourself, speak with us honestly, and be willing to tackle your problems with us.
Initial conversations between potential clients and our staff members are often done over the phone. Rest assured that everything we discuss is confidential and protected under law.
How much will a lawyer cost me?
The lawyers at Berman & Simmons work on a contingency basis. That means you pay nothing up front and nothing unless we settle or win your case. We will consult with you, evaluate your situation, and do initial research free of charge. This is true even if we decide you don’t have a valid claim. We will also cover all necessary case expenses and you will not be obligated to reimburse us until and unless we recover monies on your behalf. if we do take your case and win a settlement or a jury verdict in your favor, a percentage of the compensation goes to pay for our costs and the work done by our legal team.
How will I know if I have a case?
To pursue a case, we will need to prove that you suffered a substantial personal injury and the injury was directly caused by the negligence of another party. A bad result alone is not enough to establish negligence. We let you know upfront if we are able to move forward with the legal process, or if we don’t think you have a case. Generally, we will know if you have a case after our first phone call or meeting.
If we believe you have a valid claim and decide to move forward with litigation, our attorneys and staff will then take it from there and do everything else that needs to be done, including obtaining and reviewing records relevant to your case, such as accident reports and other law enforcement documents, employer records, medical records, and other information.
How long will it take to resolve my case?
Every case is different, and there is no way to predict how long it will take for your case to be resolved. Some cases end in a matter of months, while the most complex and challenging cases, such as a medical malpractice case, can span several years. The vast majority of cases, however, are resolved before a trial and usually within a year.
The goal is to make sure you receive fair compensation for your injuries, no matter how long it takes whether that comes in the form of a pre-trial settlement, or with a jury verdict in your favor.
How much is my case worth?
There are many factors that need to be considered when determining the value of your case. Every case is unique and it takes a team effort — including your attorney, staff researchers, and outside experts — to determine the extent of your damages and how much your case is worth. There are two types of damages for which you could receive
compensation: Economic and non-economic.
If your case goes to trial and a jury agrees you deserve compensation, the jury members will decide how much the money you should receive for each category of damages.