What Is a Patient Abandonment Lawsuit? What Must You Show to Recover Damages?
You’ve suffered an injury or illness. You sought medical treatment and your condition started to improve. Then, suddenly, your healthcare provider or one of its employees stops administering care. It may be that you’re in the hospital and there’s a lack of staffing. Perhaps your insurance company hasn’t reimbursed the caregiver or there are unpaid medical bills for any reason. It could be a simple communications problem. If the care you’re receiving is at a critical stage and the caregiver or the practice suddenly stop treatments, causing you to suffer injury or loss, you may have a legal claim for patient abandonment.
What Is Patient Abandonment?
Patient abandonment is a form of medical malpractice that occurs when a medical facility or provider wrongfully terminates treatment before a patient has reached maximum medical improvement. To have a claim for patient abandonment, you must show that:
- You had established a doctor-patient relationship—The caregiver or the healthcare provider must have agreed to provide treatment and must have initiated care
- The medical provider terminated treatment while you were at a critical stage of healing or recovery—If you have been prescribed a regimen of care that is not completed or if you are clearly still in need of medical attention, you have met this requirement
- The care must be suddenly terminated, such that you don’t have time to seek treatment from another medical provider
- You must have suffered either physical or monetary loss because of the termination of care—If your condition worsens, requires additional (and unanticipated) treatment or results in higher medical expenses, you have met this test
The decision to stop treatment must be unilaterally made by the medical provider. A patient who voluntarily stops treatment will not have a claim for patient abandonment. It’s also important to understand that patient abandonment may involve the actions of a doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner or other caregiver. It may stem from the actions of a single person or from the conduct of a practice or facility as a whole.
What Are the Common Causes of Patient Abandonment?
The most frequent reasons given for patient abandonment include:
- Disputes or concerns about payment for services—A facility or practice may suddenly discontinue treatment if a patient’s insurance company denies coverage or if the patient has unpaid bills for prior services
- Staffing issues on the part of the medical provider—With the focus on profitability over care in many medical operations, there are often not enough employees at a healthcare facility to care for all the patients
- Lack of communication between doctors and staff—Failure by doctors to order certain procedures, medications or other care
What Are Some Specific Examples of Conduct that Constitutes Patient Abandonment?
Patient abandonment can take a variety of forms, such as:
- Failing to notify a patient about any urgent medical concerns
- Failing to schedule follow-up appointments in a timely manner, causing the patient’s condition to deteriorate in the interim
- Failing to reschedule appointments for patients who have conflicts, ensuring ongoing treatment
- Consistently being unavailable when a patient needs care or tries to schedule an appointment, and failing to provide any back-up or on-call medical care
Contact the Proven Personal Injury Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law offices of Bailey & Galyen, we aggressively protect the rights of people who have suffered any type of injury because of the carelessness or negligence of another person or legal entity, including victims of medical negligence or malpractice. We’ll fight for you throughout the legal process, working hard to help you get full and fair compensation for all your losses. Contact us by e-mail or 844-402-2992 call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.