What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a type of legal action that can occur when a medical professional or healthcare professional deviates from the standards of care that are expected of them. This may lead to both physical and emotional injury.
In other words, medical malpractice is when a healthcare or medical professional is held liable for their actions, or lack of actions, that affected a patient. Within the U.S, these laws are based on the laws of negligence.
If you’re curious as to who can be charged with medical malpractice, the answer may surprise you. Here are the entities that may be charged with medical malpractice and be held liable for their actions, or lack of actions:
- Physician assistants, nurse practitioners, midwives, and standard nurses
- Surgeons, physicians, psychiatrists, and dentists
- Physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, social workers, pharmacists, psychologists, optometrists, medical radiation practitioners, occupational therapists, and podiatrists. These are otherwise known as allied health professionals as well.
All of these healthcare and medical professionals are held to a standard that requires them to take appropriate action in the line of their work. These are some common reasons why one of these professionals may be charged with medical malpractice:
- They failed to properly diagnose a medical condition or disease
- They failed to provide appropriate treatment for a disease or medical condition
- They made you wait an unreasonable amount of time in treating or diagnosing a medical condition
- In some states, they may be held accountable for not informing a patient of possible consequences following action and would have declined the medical treatment had they known the possible consequences. These decisions are usually based upon principles of informed consent.
Even if you live outside the U.S, these laws of medical malpractice are generally the same. Typically, as a broad scope of the issue, these medical professionals are generally held liable when they don’t show a fair, reasonable, and competent degree of skill when providing medical care to a patient.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice
• Birth Injuries
Birth injuries are typically when either the mother or newborn was injured due to negligence on behalf of a medical professional.
Misdiagnosis cases can take many forms but are always when a medical or healthcare professional states you have the wrong ailment when a competent professional under the same circumstances would correctly diagnose the ailment.
• Failure to Diagnose
Similarly to misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose is when a medical or healthcare professional simply doesn’t diagnose anything at all. This is different from a misdiagnosis because no care was given rather than the wrong type of care being given.
• Surgical Errors
Surgical errors are perhaps one of the most common types of medical malpractice lawsuits. These happen during surgery and cause injury up to the loss of life.
Requirements to Claim Medical Malpractice
If you believe that healthcare or medical professional has performed medical malpractice while you were in their care, you must be able to prove several things to take action in a court of law.
- A patient-doctor relationship had been established and existed at the time of the medical malpractice
- The medical or healthcare professional was negligent
- The negligence caused by the healthcare or medical professional caused injury
- The injury that was caused lead to specific damages
The Doctor-Patient Relationship
This may seem like a no-brainer, but there is some specificity required to prove this. Proving the relationship means that you paid the doctor, either via a hospital or private practice, to provide care for you.
On the other hand, if you received advice from a doctor at a bar downtown one night and are wanting to sue for medical malpractice, you simply won’t be able to.
This is usually fairly easy to establish but may get murkier if the medical or healthcare professional didn’t treat you directly.
Negligence within medical malpractice is, in basic terms, when a medical or healthcare professional caused you to harm in a way that a competent professional wouldn’t have done given they were under the same circumstances.
If you go to the doctor and find out you’ve been diagnosed with a nasty disease and are unhappy, this doesn’t mean that the professional has been negligent.
On the other hand, if a medical or healthcare professional misdiagnosed your disease, you may have cause for negligence. An example may be a medical professional saying you have a simple soar throat, despite showing signs of something such as lung cancer. In this case, a competent doctor would test you for lung cancer and begin treatment immediately to avoid any further complications, injury, or pain.
In the end, this can be tricky because a medical or healthcare professional isn’t required to provide the best care possible. Rather, they’re simply meant to be “reasonably skillful and careful.”
A patient will usually have a medical expert testify in court that the professional’s negligence was the cause of injury.
Proof of Injury
The key to proving medical malpractice isn’t simply if a medical or healthcare professional was negligent, there must be a proof of injury as well. For example, if a doctor misdiagnoses your influenza for a cold, but no damages occur, you can’t sue for medical malpractice as the professional didn’t disrupt any part of your livelihood.
On the other hand, if a diagnosis of lung cancer wasn’t given and the patient eventually died due to complications of lung cancer, the doctor may be held liable. This is because had the doctor given the correct diagnosis, the patient may have been able to live if treatment was started on time.
Similar to proving negligence, the suing party will typically have a medical expert testify that the injury was caused by the professional.
Damages Caused By the Injury
Finally, the injury that occurred due to the professional’s negligence must lead to specific damages. These are the types of harm that a patient may sue for:
- Loss of work and/or loss of earning capacity
- Additional medical bills that occurred
- Mental anguish
- Physical pain
Contact our Lawyers in the event that you or a loved one has suffered due to Medical Malpractice. Our Personal Injury Attorneys have decades of experience settling claims like yours and work on a contingency basis. "We Win or It’s Free" ® Guaranteed!