The Augusta Chronicle recently published the results of its investigation into medical malpractice cases filed in the U.S. District Court in Augusta, Georgia, involving the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta. Its analysis of court records revealed that at least nine medical malpractice cases have been filed since 2005 involving the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center. The VA had won in two of those cases and one case had been voluntarily dismissed; however, four of the cases involved settlements (in which the VA did not admit liability) and two cases are pending.
It appears that The Augusta Chronicle’s investigation was instigated by the recent disclosure that there is a backlog of more than 5,000 patients for consultations at the local VA’s gastrointestinal service. The backlog reportedly resulted in four serious injuries suffered by veterans and the deaths of three cancer patients (the VA provided information to the families of these patients regarding how to file a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act for the incidents that occurred at the VA).
The four VA medical malpractice cases that were settled resulted in payments in excess of $3 million. The facts alleged in three of the settled VA medical malpractice cases are as follows:
— A 56-year-old veteran who suffered service-related paraplegia was admitted to the VA Medical Center suffering from bed sores, dehydration, a suspected blood infection, and kidney problems. He developed breathing difficulty and was vomiting within a few days after admission. The head of his bed was lowered so that the vomit that covered his bed and gown could be cleaned up. The vulnerable veteran choked on his own vomit when he was left unattended, leading to brain damage and other injuries. The VA settled the resulting medical malpractice claim for $1.7 million, but did not admit fault.
— A 60-year-old veteran had surgery at the VA Medical Center to remove a suspicious mass on his kidney and was later discharged. He returned to the VA Medical Center eight days later, complaining of severe pain on the side involving his surgery, blood in his urine, and his bladder was distended. His red blood cell count dropped over the next few days and he was later found unresponsive on the floor of his hospital room and subsequently died. The VA settled the resulting medical malpractice claim for $850,000, but did not admit fault.
— A 71-year-old veteran with a known history of heart problems went to a VA outpatient clinic with complaints of chest pain. The clinic personnel failed to refer the man to the cardiology department. Four days later, the man died from a heart attack suffered while he was having sex with his wife. The resulting VA medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the man had been prescribed both nitroglycerin and Viagra, which was contraindicated. The VA settled the resulting medical malpractice claim for $58,000, but did not admit fault.
In order to proceed with a medical malpractice claim involving the VA, the patient or appropriate representative must file a formal written notice of claim using Standard Form 95, within the prescribed period of time. Once filed, the VA has six months to decide whether to reject or accept the claim. If rejected or if six months passes without response, the claimant may file a Federal Tort Claims Act lawsuit against the United States in the U.S. District Court (where the case will be heard by a federal judge (a jury trial is not available)).
If you or a loved one were injured by the care provided at a VA medical center or VA clinic, you should promptly consult with a local medical malpractice attorney who handles medical malpractice claims against the VA to learn about your rights and responsibilities in filing a VA medical malpractice claim.
Click here to visit our website to be connected with local medical malpractice lawyers (Federal Tort Claims Act lawyers) in your state who may assist you in filing and prosecuting a VA medical malpractice claim, or call us toll-free at 800-295-3959.
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