senior patient in a hospital room

Blaming the Patient: A Common Defense Tactic In Medical Malpractice Cases

During a medical malpractice case, you might assume that the healthcare practitioner will focus mainly on defending themselves from liability. Surprisingly, defendants are turning the tables on malpractice victims by blaming them for the errors. Cases like these are why you can’t afford to have an inexperienced attorney. You need the aggressive medical malpractice lawyers of Hale & Monico.

Why is “blaming the patient” a common medical malpractice tactic?

Malpractice lawsuits put a lot at risk for doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers and facilities. Not only could their insurer have to pay significant damages – which, in turn, means higher premiums or even dropped coverage – but a losing verdict can spell reputation disaster. With so much on the line, it’s not uncommon for desperate attorneys to try anything they can to deflect responsibility. And that includes blaming the victims.

How this victim-blaming takes form will vary from one medical malpractice case to another. But generally, it falls into one of several familiar patterns:

The Patient Failed to Provide the Practitioner with Enough Information

When you see your doctor, you let them know your symptoms, pain, medications, and other critical information about your condition and your background. This provides an easy excuse for a negligent practitioner to simply argue that they weren’t provided enough information. However, doctors are responsible for asking questions and not overlooking details like those in your medical records. They are also obligated to notice obvious symptoms and signs of a condition, even if the patient doesn’t expressly report them.

The Patient Didn’t Come Back When Problems Worsened

It’s relatively common for a sick patient to see the doctor, be sent home, and have the initial conditions get worse. A doctor may object to liability by arguing that the patient failed to come back when he or she should’ve known their condition had deteriorated. Or perhaps the patient came back – but not soon enough. But should the patient have been sent home in the first place? Was he or she given adequate warnings or instructions about what to do if their situation worsened?

The Patient Failed to Follow Instructions

This is a favorite of medical malpractice defense attorneys because written instructions (including those listed on prescription medications) tend to be highly detailed. However, medical instructions aren’t always clear or may be written in jargon the patient could misunderstand. Even detailed instructions don’t cover every scenario, and it’s up to the medical professional to provide clear information so the patient knows how to care for themselves.

The reason these arguments often work is that sympathetic jurors can be easy to persuade. A juror would like to believe that they would have made different, better decisions had they been in the victim’s shoes. They would have gone right back to the doctor at the first sign of a problem. They would have insisted on better care. Malpractice lawyers can get a feel for the attitudes and biases of jurors, and exploit these in defense of their clients.

Contact Hale & Monico Today

It’s not enough to point out the negligence that caused your injury. You have to be prepared to persuade skeptical jurors to hold the practitioner liable. You need a committed malpractice attorney who knows how to anticipate and respond to these victim-blaming tactics. 

Turn to Hale & Monico. Reach out to us today to discuss your legal options.