Can You Sue for Patient Abandonment?
Patient abandonment is considered a form of medical malpractice. It occurs when a physician terminates their relationship with a patient without a reasonable excuse or notice.
This can also occur when the physician fails to provide the patient with the opportunity to find a qualified caregiver before closing their doors – even if the physician had a reasonable excuse for closing down their facility.
If you have been abandoned by your physician, you may be wondering if you have a case for medical malpractice. Not all abandonment cases will qualify for abandonment – but if your case meets specific criteria, you may be entitled to compensation for your case.
The Elements of a Patient Abandonment Case
To determine if patient abandonment actually occurred, you will need to assess the elements of your particular case.
There are certain elements that must be present to have a valid abandonment claim, which include:
- There must have been an established doctor-patient relationship between you and the physician. Therefore, you must be able to prove that you and the physician were in a working relationship – such as cancelled payments for co-pays, medical records, proof of prescriptions written, etc. Also, you must prove the physician agreed to treat you and that treatments were underway; therefore, they have no right to abandon you.
- Next, you must prove that the physician abandoned you when you were in a time of need. If you were not under any treatment or had no physical need, then the abandonment is not considered malpractice. If you are in the middle of a critical stage of your treatment and the physician abandoned you, then they could be sued for malpractice.
- The abandonment must be so abrupt that you had no time to find another physician nor the resources to continue your treatment.
- Lastly, you must have suffered some type of injury from that abandonment. If you did not suffer any injury, but were abandoned, then you do not have a valid personal injury claim.
Example of Patient Abandonment
Patient abandonment can occur in numerous ways. It can occur with any type of healthcare provider – and does not have to be the immediate treating physician.
In fact, abandonment can occur by:
- Inadequate staffing in a hospital
- Medical staff fails to reach out to their patient when they miss an important follow-up appointment.
- The staff fails to communicate urgent questions to the patient or questions from the patient to the doctor.
- Medical staff schedules appointments too far out – resulting in preventable harm.
- A doctor who is unavailable for an unreasonable amount of time during a patient treatment.
- Doctor who refuses to treat a patient because of their insurance coverage.
What is Not Considered Patient Abandonment?
Not all situations where a patient feels abandoned qualify for abandonment lawsuits. Unless the physician causes an injury or abandons the patient during a critical stage, there is no basis for a medical malpractice claim.
Some valid reasons for a physician abandoning their patient or leaving for an extended period of time, which excuse them from lawsuit and liability include:
- The doctor does not have the skills to care for the patient
- The doctor or facility does not have the supplies necessary to treat the patient
- There are legal or ethical conflicts that arise; preventing the physician from treating the patient
- The patient has violated the physician’s policies; therefore, they have no legal right to treat them
- The patient has missed numerous appointments or cancelled multiple appointments – leading to their own lack of treatment
- The patient has refused to comply with all treatment instructions by the physician
- The patient uses inappropriate behavior – such as making sexual advancements
Are You the Victim of Patient Abandonment? Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one is the victim of patient abandonment, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.