Can You Sue a Doctor in BC?

When Can I Sue a Doctor? | Klein Lawyers

Doctors in British Columbia have a duty to provide patients with care that meets the standards of the medical profession. Many doctors deliver a consistently high standard of care, promptly diagnosing health issues and delivering proper and effective treatments.

However, medical negligence is still a major problem. The University of Toronto Magazine reports that anywhere from 17,000 to 30,000 patients die each year as a result of preventable medical errors in Canadian hospitals.

If you believe that your doctor made a critical error in the course of your care, you may be able to sue for damages. Unfortunately, recovering fair compensation for injuries sustained as a result of medical malpractice is often challenging.

Hiring a Vancouver medical malpractice lawyer is crucial for the successful resolution of your claim. Keep reading for more information on suing a doctor for negligence, or contact Klein Lawyers today for a free consultation.

When Are Doctors Liable for Medical Errors?

It is important to understand that not every mistake a doctor might make qualifies as medical malpractice. Doctors are not expected to be perfect. They are, however, expected to uphold the standard of care in their treatment of patients.

The standard of care is a legal term for the skill, judgment, and course of action that can reasonably be expected of a doctor in a given situation. It is a means of determining how a competent practitioner would have acted under the circumstances and how your doctor may have deviated from that standard.

Most violations of the standard of care are not cut and dried. Comprehensive investigation is typically required to identify errors on the part of the doctor and how his or her negligence caused your injuries. Testimony from medical experts is often crucial for establishing how a competent practitioner would have addressed your complaint.

What Issues Are Involved in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

Errors in medicine can take many different forms. They can also happen in any setting where healthcare is provided, including hospitals and emergency rooms, family practices, health clinics, surgical facilities, and more.

Some of the most common errors on the part of doctors that lead to medical malpractice claims include:

  • Medication errors (such as prescribing the wrong medication, failure to advise patients of potential side effects and complications, etc.)
  • Diagnostic errors, including misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis
  • Failure to order proper lab tests and imaging
  • Errors in communication with other physicians and staff
  • Misuse and malfunction of medical equipment
  • Hospital-acquired and post-operative infections
  • Administrative errors, including improper charting, failure to take a full medical history, etc.

Surgical errors are another common issue in claims involving medical malpractice. Although all surgeries involve risks, patients may be able to sue for malpractice when foreign objects are left inside of them, surgeons operate on the wrong part of the body, they suffer complications from anaesthesia, etc.

Surgeons are specialist doctors who frequently perform precise, highly technical operations. Many surgical procedures involve medical specialties such as cardiology, orthopaedics, gastroenterology, urology, ophthalmology, oncology, neurology, obstetrics and gynaecology, and more. Any malpractice claim involving specialized medicine requires testimony from experts with in-depth knowledge of the specialty.

Doctors who dual specialize in obstetrics and gynaecology (OBGYN) focus their practice on treating pregnant women and their unborn babies. As such, these doctors are often sued for birth injuries. Children who sustain injuries at birth may struggle with mobility and hand-eye coordination, suffer from cognitive deficits, and experience other lifelong hardships. OBGYNs may also be liable for injuries suffered by mothers during pregnancy, labour, and/or delivery.

How Long Do I Have to Sue a Doctor in British Columbia?

In most cases, medical malpractice claims in British Columbia are subject to a two-year time limit (known as the statute of limitations). This gives many patients little time to take legal action against doctors and other providers for injuries caused by medical negligence.

The limitation period in BC is highly nuanced. The BC Limitation Act, SBC 2012, c. 13, states that the limitation period begins when a person knows or reasonably ought to have known all of the following:

  • (a) that injury, loss or damage had occurred;
  • (b) that the injury, loss or damage was caused by or contributed to by an act or omission;
  • (c) that the act or omission was that of the person against whom the claim is or may be made;
  • (d) that, having regard to the nature of the injury, loss or damage, a court proceeding would be an appropriate means to seek to remedy the injury, loss or damage.

It may be that the limitation period is two years from the last medical treatment alleged to have been negligent. However, unlike with many other types of personal injury claims, the harm caused by a medical error may not be immediately apparent. Patients may not suffer an adverse event related to the malpractice until a number of years after the fact.

In these cases, the two-year limitation period may not begin until your injury, or the medical error, is apparent. Skilled medical malpractice lawyers can present evidence that the patient could not have reasonably known about the error and/or its effects within two years. There may also be other factors which prevent the two-year limitation from applying.

Even if you bring a claim within the statute of limitations, it might take much longer to achieve a result in your case. Doctors are defended by the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA), a large and powerful organization that generally refuses to settle malpractice claims and forces cases to go to trial. The tactics of the CMPA often force patients who were seriously injured by medical negligence to wait years for their day in court.

Contact a Vancouver Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

Every day we trust doctors to diagnose injuries and illnesses and provide the right treatment. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of patients are killed and many more are injured each year as a result of negligence on the part of medical practitioners.

If you believe your doctor made a serious mistake that caused you or a loved one significant harm, you have the right to sue. You may be entitled to significant compensation for your losses, but a favourable result is not guaranteed.

Given the challenges of suing a doctor, it is crucial to work with a law firm that has the resources, knowledge, and determination to build a strong claim on your behalf and pursue the compensation you deserve. Please call Klein Lawyers at (604) 874-7171 today for a free case evaluation with a Vancouver medical malpractice lawyer. Our team serves clients throughout British Columbia.