When Doctor’s Orders are Not Enough After a Motor Vehicle Accident

Unless you are a trained medical professional, you may not fully understand the importance of following your doctor’s orders or taking your medications exactly as they are prescribed. The fact is, if one of us were injured or failed to heal properly, we might very well blame ourselves for the poor outcome. We revere doctors so that if there is ever a question about our condition, we will almost always blame ourselves. So will lawyers for the doctors.

Sometimes, though, even doctors make mistakes.

Here’s What Happened…

Following an automobile accident a woman seeks the help of an orthopedist to treat her broken arm. During her treatment, the doctor not only misread x-ray films, he also failed to recognize that the fracture of the injured woman’s radius and the dislocation of her distal radioulnar joint were collapsing.  Initially, the doctor failed to apply a long-arm cast to immobilize the fracture for a suitable length of time. Additionally, the sort-arm cast he did apply was removed prematurely, causing the injury to be unsupported and to heal improperly.

In Whelan v. Moone, 242 Ga. App. 795 (2000), the injured woman sued for medical malpractice. Her husband also claimed damages from loss of consortium as a result of her injuries.

Medical Malpractice After a Motor Vehicle Accident

The defendant doctor argued that he had treated the plaintiff appropriately. He produced expert witnesses who agreed that his treatment was appropriate. He also argued that the plaintiff did not follow his instruction to seek corrective surgery. Defendant’s view was that the woman was at fault for her condition.

At trial, it became apparent to the jury that the plaintiff might actually have contributed to her own unsatisfactory healing by not doing as the doctor ordered.  Nevertheless, the jury awarded the plaintiff $350,000 and nothing for her husband.

The defendant appealed the Jury’s decision alleging, among other things, that the testimony of his experts’ should have made a ‘directed verdict’ necessary. (This would have meant that the judge would have decided in favor of the defendant and the jury wouldn’t have deliberated at all.) Defendant also claimed that he had not been granted a fair and impartial jury.

How Comparative Negligence Works in Georgia

In cases where both parties are somewhat at fault, the comparative negligence rule comes into play. This rule says that, in order to stop the plaintiff from collecting damages, the plaintiff’s contribution to injuries must be equal to or greater than those of the defendant. The jury had been carefully instructed about this rule prior to deliberation so that the appellate court upheld the trial court’s ruling in this regard.

Very often medical teams fail to put appropriate emphasis on the importance of the steps to be taken in the process of healing. If you don’t fully understand the instructions you’re given, you should certainly ask questions, take notes, and not feel silly about calling the doctor if you’re unsure.

If you’ve done these things and your treatment doesn’t work as was expected, you may need to visit with a lawyer. Personal injuries happen when somebody, a doctor for example, fails to make certain you understand what your part is in the healing process. If you are permanently injured, as was the woman in this matter, you may have the right to recover in court.

A case review by the personal injury attorneys at The Millar Law Firm costs nothing. Once done, you will understand your rights and, perhaps, be able to seek compensation for your injuries in court. Call or email us today.


Have a Question?

Contact us with any questions you have and we’ll get back to you!