The accident was totally my fault. I was at home. I was alone. It was my knife. I was the one who knocked it off the counter. It struck my own foot. So I’m at fault. Simple, right?
Maybe that’s why it never occurred to me to sue anyone. It was my fault, after all. And I incurred almost no expenses. My insurance covered just about everything. And it’s not like I’m very litigious anyway. I’ve never considered suing anyone before, even when I probably had cause.
But ever since someone else suggested it to me, I’ve wondered: maybe I should? Because the doctor really did screw up. Twice. His colleagues also screwed up. This wasn’t complicated. It was actually pretty basic.
A knife cut my foot. There was a lot of blood. An ambulance brought me to the emergency room. They had me move my toes and took x-rays. They said there was no nerve damage. They said my tendons weren’t cut. They said I was lucky.
And they were wrong.
10 days later I got the stitches out. I told the doctor, coincidentally the same one that I’d seen in the ER (he was working in my primary care doctor’s office that day) that something seemed wrong. He said not to worry about it. He said I was fine. He said to give it time. Another doctor was there too. Neither doctor tested my tendons.
They were wrong.
2 tendons were cut completely.
Tendon repair surgery is supposed to be done within 10 days of the injury. Mine would have been done that soon if it had been caught in time. Instead, it happened 8 weeks later. 8 weeks! In that time the gap in the tendons widened. One tendon began to heal to tissue, so that it had to be surgically cut away and elongated. This meant a more difficult recovery. It meant 2 extra months of dealing with this. It meant a lot of emotional anguish for someone who already has a lot of anxiety when it comes to medical issues. If the surgery had been done when it should have been, and with the shorter recovery, I would have been mostly healed after 8 weeks, instead of just starting with the surgery. Now, more than 4 months after the injury, I’m mostly healed, but not 100% yet.
And I admit, I’m bitter about the way I was treated in the ER. I wasn’t given crutches, painkillers, or even a wheelchair to leave. They were completely dismissive. In the doctor’s office, too, they were dismissive.
My surgeon thinks I will heal completely. So it’s not like there’s permanent damage. Except for the emotional impact, of course. But then, isn’t that what it means to sue for distress?
Suing could be stressful. It could be a huge pain in the ass. I might end up with nothing. And even though this doctor screwed up big time, I don’t want to destroy his career over it. Then again, it was a horrible experience for me. And he screwed up.
So now I’m wondering, should I sue?
What would you do?
Side note: If you’re in Massachusetts and you know of a good attorney for this type of thing, please comment here or email me at email@example.com. I’m hoping an attorney can tell me if it’s worth it (but if they say yes, I’ll still have to decide if I should go forward.)
In the words of a song, let it go, let it go! You’re right – suing would be stressful, and you’ve had enough of that lately. Yes, it’s a pain and it shouldn’t have happened this way, but it did. Time to move on. Wishing you all the best!
Thanks Jyl. I’ve been wondering if that makes the most sense.
It’s a decision only you can make.
Having worked in a med mal defense firm (as a paralegal) I can say a claim like yours would typically be settled, out of court, for nuisance money. Pain and suffering is real. While the original injury was your fault, they compounded the issue with a missed diagnosis. All that extra time you’ve had to spend in pain and unable to ambulate well was not your fault.
Thanks StuckinTexas. Of course, “nuisance money” for them might be significant for me. Even after legal fees, it could be useful for me. I appreciate hearing your experienced opinion.
By the way, stuckintexas, as someone who has worked in field, do you have any recommendations for how I might find an attorney?
I would actually start yourself. You’re clearly an excellent writer, send a letter to each party (Doctor, hospital) outlining the situation they put you in and what you feel is a fair settlement. That may be all it takes.
If you don’t feel comfortable or it doesn’t work, seek an attorney experienced in plaintiffs medical malpractice work.
A review of Martindale-Hubbell will give you a list of qualified lawyers in that practice close to you.
Keep in mind when considering writing a demand letter that a lawyer will take 40% plus expenses. By the time your insurance is reimbursed that may leave little for you. I might ask if they’d write a letter first, for a flat fee.
Thanks so much! I like the idea of writing a letter myself to seek a settlement. That sounds a lot less stressful than dealing with lawyers and courts, and a lot more beneficial if it works. How would I calculate how much to ask for? I really have no clue.
It’s not a six-figure case, but if it was me, I’d start with a demand of $25,000. Keep in mind they’ll want to feel like they won by knocking you down some.
You should reasonably expect to end up at somewhere around $15k. If they try and lowball you, tell them you’ll just let your attorney handle it.
They don’t want to go to court anymore than you do. Their goal is to settle whenever possible.
*Disclaimer – this just my .02 I’m not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV 😁
Coming from the UK we are years behind you on the whole suing front, that said I would in your situation be seeking legal advice and if necessary I’d be starting a case. We have a 2 year time limit in the uk for most things almost forcing you to act quickly. I did after a car accident and settle far too early, still suffering big style and will forever but put no payments in place for this and suffering big time as a result.
That’s terrible seachy! I’m so sorry you had to go through that.
You live and learn, the insurance company and their lawyers were wearing me down sending me hundreds of miles to see specialists making me in more pain. It worked for them I settled, been paying the price ever since, but I’m still here so it could be worse 🙂
Good point! If you are in MA (which I think for some reason) it’s 3 years. Otherwise you need to check.
Yup, good old MA. It’s only been a few months so I’m not worried about time at this point, but I’ll keep it in mind just in case.
There is nothing wrong with at the very least exploring your options by meeting with a lawyer. To be honest I wish I had sought legal advice 3 years ago when I fractured my ankle. They said there was a very slight fracture at the bottom of my leg bone and I should be trying to walk on it the next day. 1.5wks later I went to another doctor who said he could clearly see three fractures, 2 in the ankle bone and the one the doc saw previously. He sent me for tests and found tissue and tendon damage too. It has taken me a couple of years to get proper movement back in my Achilles.
Here’s the thing I keep thinking though… they missed something like that with you. What would have happened to someone else they missed it with? That extra time could have meant they lost their job which would have compounded the stress factors. Or if they just kept trusting the doctor they would have walked about with severed tendons for how long before someone found the problem and they were damaged permanently?
Ouch! That sounds eerily familiar. And I’ve thought the same thing – I don’t want this to happen to someone else. Either way I will report it to Patient Services who, supposedly, will investigate and address the issue.
We cant even sue where i live, and would be lucky to even get an apology ! I’d meet with a lawyer and maybe think it over for a bit..!
Thanks for the support! I’m sorry to hear you don’t have any options for recourse.
You guys are all awesome! Thanks so much! After reading and responding to all of your comments I finally got the guts (so to speak) to talk to a lawyer. In short, as long as I make a full recovery, he doesn’t think it’s worth the time, effort, and cost to sue. If I don’t recover fully then it might be worth it, but hopefully that won’t even be a possibility. So I’m dropping it. But at least now I know for sure, and that feels SO GOOD! And stuckintexas, you were right, I have 3 years to file (but the lawyer said I’d want to hire someone a year in advance to give them time to prepare.)