What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional is negligent in harming a patient. This may include doctors, nurses, technicians, dentists, hospital workers, and others responsible for patient care or wellness.
A medical professional may be negligent when they deviate from a standard of care accepted by other professionals, harming a patient. If similar professionals would have acted differently in the same situation, preventing the harm, the incident may be considered negligence and malpractice.
How Is Medical Malpractice Proven Legally?
In a legal action, the plaintiff and their legal team have the burden of proof. They must show the physician or other medical professional was negligent. There are four main elements of proof:
- The medical relationship. The plaintiff’s lawyer must show there was a professional medical relationship with the defendant.
- A breach in the standard of care. That relationship means the defendant had a duty to provide an accepted standard of care. The lawyers must prove they breached that duty.
- The cause of the patient’s harm. They must also show that the breach resulted in the illness or injury to the patient.
- Resulting damages. Finally, they must prove that the harm caused resulted in significant damages, such as extra medical costs or pain and suffering.
If a medical malpractice lawsuit goes to trial, the jury listens to expert testimony. They are then asked to consider whether a similar, competent medical professional would have made the same decisions as the defendant.
For example, if the defendant is a dentist who cracked a tooth during a procedure, the jury listens to other dentists’ testimony. If they believe the defendant acted differently to how these experts would have, resulting in the damaged tooth, they rule negligence and medical malpractice occurred.
Examples of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice can come in many forms. Some of the more common types of mistakes doctors and other caregivers make that could be negligent include:
- Diagnostic errors. An incorrect or delayed diagnosis causes delays in treatment and worsening conditions.
- Failure to treat. Whether caused by a diagnosis error or for another reason, when a doctor does not adequately treat a patient, the omission can cause serious harm.
- Incorrect medication or dose. An error in prescribing or delivering a medication can cause harm directly or by delaying proper treatment of an illness.
- Birth injuries. Childbirth is fraught with risks, and some harm to the infant is purely accidental. In some cases, the damage is preventable when a doctor makes a mistake. This could be a delay in starting a c-section, using too much force during delivery, or failing to monitor fetal or maternal health.
- Surgical errors. All kinds of harmful mistakes are possible during surgery that may cause infections, surgery on the wrong side of the body, or even death. Anesthesia errors are particularly dangerous during surgery.
- Nursing home neglect. Older patients in nursing homes need constant care. When the staff does not spend enough time monitoring patients, they can be harmed. Negligence in these cases may fall on individual workers or the facility for failing to provide enough trained staff.
What to Do After Medical Negligence
If you have been a victim of medical malpractice, take steps to ensure your own well-being and then to preserve evidence and ensure you can prove negligence if necessary.
Find a New Doctor, But Keep Medical Records
Your health should be the priority, so get a referral for a new medical office or doctor. Get all the care you need and ensure your health is stable before taking the next steps. You have a right to have your medical records, so get a complete copy as soon as you can.
Make Notes on the Incident
While your memory of the incident that led to your injury is fresh, take notes on what happened, exactly as you remember it. If you had a family member involved, ask them to jot their notes down as well.
Record Costs and Further Medical Care
Also, make a note of everything that occurs after the incident that is related to the harm caused by negligence. Record all associated costs, keep the bills, make notes, and keep records of all other medical care you receive.
Talk to a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible after the incident. Laws governing time limits for filing a lawsuit differ by state but could be as short as one year. A personal injury lawyer with expertise in medical malpractice cases can help you understand your rights and make the right choices about legal actions.
Taking Legal Action after Medical Malpractice
Patients may find it difficult to speak up to a doctor about concerns regarding their care. Physicians are highly respected, but this does not mean they never make mistakes. Those who are careless must be held accountable. Talk to a medical malpractice lawyer to determine if you have a case and your options for legal action.
Laws governing medical malpractice cases vary by state. They include time limits on filing, review panels, special notice requirements, expert testimony, and caps on damages. A lawyer will help you understand all the laws and how they apply to your situation.
Being harmed by a medical professional you trusted is tough. Don’t let personal feelings stop you from getting what you deserve by taking legal action. If the harm has resulted in significant damages, a lawyer may be able to help you recover them.