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Ask most Americans which of their five senses they would least like to go without, and chances are they will say, "Sight." Our eyesight and vision is one of our most coveted aspects, and many consider blindness the worst thing that could happen to them.
So it's no surprise that we take eye health and care so seriously, and why optometrists are held to such a high standard of care. And if an optometrist fails to provide eyesight and vision care up to that standard, lawsuits are possible.
Seeing an Optometrist
Like any other doctor, an optometrist can be liable for medical malpractice when that malpractice causes an injury. Optometrist malpractice could take the form of failing to diagnose an ocular disease, or medical condition, for misdiagnosing a vision ailment, or for prescribing the wrong treatment.
Optometrists could also be held liable for the negligence if an injury occurs during eye surgery, or while using medical devices if they ignored the manufacturer's instructions. And an optometrist may also prescribe an incorrect set of glasses or contact lenses, doing more damage to your eyesight than good.
Suing an Optometrist
A case for malpractice against an optometrist looks like the same as those against other doctors. State malpractice laws can differ, but most lawsuits are premised on four main elements:
Injured plaintiffs must prove all of these elements to have a successful claim for optometrist malpractice, and proving each element can be complicated, involving medical evidence and doctor testimony.
To find out if you can sue an optometrist for malpractice, you should consult a local personal injury attorney.
A nurse who contracted Ebola from the first U.S. patient to be diagnosed with the disease back in 2014 settled her lawsuit against the hospital she worked in last month. While the details of the settlement remain confidential, typically, when a settlement is announced like this, it means the plaintiff won.
The nurse's lawsuit alleged that the hospital was negligent in training staff to handle an Ebola diagnosis, and failed to provide the proper safeguards for employees. Fortunately, both this nurse and one other nurse that also contracted Ebola at the same hospital, made full recoveries from the deadly viral infection. Unfortunately, as a result of the stress and treatments, both still suffer some lingering effects such as pain, hair loss, insomnia, and nightmares.
Can You Sue Your Employer for an Illness Received On-the-Job?
While some people might find it odd that a nurse can sue a hospital after contracting the same virus that a patient in the hospital had, there's more to it than that. The hospital in question did not have the proper supplies on hand to protect their employees, and additionally, had not properly trained their staff on how to handle the Ebola virus. Around that time in 2014, there was worldwide concern over the outbreak of Ebola, and hospitals across the United States weren't just getting ready to treat single cases, but were gearing up for an outbreak. These facts provide the backdrop for a negligence claim.
To make matters worse, the nurse in this case not only contracted the illness, but was used as a political prop for the hospital. Video footage of her was shown, and her medical case was treated as a publicity stunt, rather than a private matter.
Why Not Workers' Compensation?
While the nurse may have been able to file a workers' compensation claim, typically, those are for on-the-job injuries that will require a protracted recovery time where the employee will need steady income during that time. The injury in this case is more closely related to a standard negligence claim because it would not have happened if the hospital had prepared properly. In this case, a workers' compensation claim would not have fully remedied the nurse's legal claims.
It may sound far-fetched, but when you consider that over 2.5 billion people worldwide live within Zika danger zones, wondering if you can get compensated for contracting the virus on the job is a legitimate concern. The Florida Fraternal Order of Police seems to think so, as the police union has requested that Sunshine State workers' compensation coverage be extended to first responders who come into contact with Zika while working.
So will they get it? And what about workers' comp for other employees who contract Zika?
Taking a Bite out of Crime Fighters
The Florida FOP also confirmed this week that a second Miami Beach police officer contracted the Zika virus in South Florida. The union did not release the officer's name, but says Miami Beach officials refused both officers' workers' compensation claims. Current workers' compensation laws require proof of Zika exposure while working, and while the union claims officers were infected on the job, they didn't release details on where the officers contracted the virus.
Miami has two designated Zika transmission zones within the city and Miami Beach spokeswoman Tonya Daniels said city employees have been offered free Zika testing and mosquito repellent. But police union president Bobby Jenkins told the AP that testing "does not mitigate the need for their coverage of the employees that they place at risk," and is asking lawmakers to step in.
In Harm's Way on the Job
As a general rule, workers' compensation insurance covers on-the-job injuries, which can either mean injuries incurred at the work location or elsewhere while performing work duties, as long as the injury is work-related. State laws on workers' comp claims may vary however, in terms of coverage and filing requirements. If an employee is forced to work somewhere with a high risk of Zika infection, or comes into contact with virus as part of his or her job, an infection most likely would be covered.
Most state workers' comp structures require employees to file a workers' comp claim before they can file a lawsuit. If the claim is denied, employees may have other legal options to get compensation for their injuries.