Medical malpractice claims arise when a physician or other medical professional or a healthcare organization goes below the standard of care that is required when treating, diagnosing, or managing a patient and it results in injury to that patient. In many cases, a deviation from the standard of care that is required for all medical professionals results from an act of negligence.

Medical malpractice laws allow injured patients to bring claims against medical professionals who are negligent. This allows injured patients to recover monetary damages to compensate them for the harms which were caused by substandard conduct of medical professionals.

Whether or not medical professionals may be held liable for the injuries to patients will depend on several factors. These include the facts of the specific case as well as the various rules and requirements of medical malpractice laws which apply in that particular state. In some cases, the standards and regulations governing medical malpractice may vary between jurisdictions within the same state.

Therefore, if an individual believes they have sustained injuries as a result of medical malpractice, they should consult a local personal injury attorney to learn about the laws which apply in their jurisdiction.

What is Medical Malpractice Liability?

Medical malpractice liability refers to the individuals and organizations which can be held liable, or legally responsible, for the injuries a patient sustains. Typically, this party is the individual who breached their duty of care and were the actual cause of the injuries the patient sustained.

Figuring out exactly which party is liable may sometimes be challenging. This is because medical malpractice liability cases often involve multiple parties.

For example, medical malpractice liability may be shared between both a doctor and the doctor’s nurse, or other medical personnel, when their combined negligent conduct resulted in injuries to a patient.

For example, if improper instructions were provided or if a medical professional fails to correct another medical professional, it may be possible to hold both parties liable for the mistakes. Additionally, the organization itself, such as a hospital organization, may be held liable in some cases for medical malpractice.

This applies especially in cases where the overall policy or quality of care for patients in a medical organization falls below the required duty of care standard. Parties who may be held liable for medical malpractice includes:

  • General practitioners;
  • Nurses, hospitals;
  • Surgeons;
  • Dentists;
  • Psychiatrists;
  • Chiropractors;
  • Gynecologists; and
  • Clerical staff.

What are Examples of Medical Malpractice Claims?

Examples of medical malpractice claims may include, but are not limited to:

  • Failing to diagnose the patient or improperly diagnosing the patient;
  • Prescribing the wrong treatment or wrong medication;
  • Operating on the wrong body party, such as amputating the left leg instead of the right leg;
  • Failing to follow-up after a patient undergoes a serious procedure;
  • Prematurely discharging a patient before they have recovered sufficiently;
  • Leaving behind medical equipment, such as instruments or sponges left inside a patient during a surgery;
  • Not providing information or receiving informed consent prior to the patient undergoing surgery; and/or
  • Inputting erroneous data into the patient’s medical chart, which results in harm to the patient.

What Are Hospital Errors?

A hospital error is a mistake which is committed by individuals who are employed by a hospital. The hospital may be held liable for those mistakes under the doctrine of corporate negligence.

Employees who may be liable for hospital errors may include:

  • Doctors;
  • Physicians;
  • Surgeons;
  • Nurses;
  • Administrative staff; and
  • Clerks.

When most individuals think of hospital errors, they think of medical malpractice claims. It is important to be aware, however, that not all hospital errors are necessarily medical malpractice.

In order for medical malpractice to have occurred, the plaintiff must show that the hospital employee was negligent in some way. This means that the plaintiff must show:

  • The employee owed a duty of care to the plaintiff;
  • The employee breached that duty of care; and
  • That breach resulted in injury or economic loss to the plaintiff.

In addition, in general, the error must be related to medical treatment or the performing of a medical procedure in order to be considered medical malpractice.

Therefore, not all hospital errors constitute medical malpractice. For example, if a janitor who is employed by the hospital uses the wrong cleaning tools, it will not likely be considered medical malpractice. This is because those actions were not necessarily related to the practice of medicine.

It may, however, still qualify as hospital error because the mistake was made by the janitor and may still result in harm to another individual in the hospital.

What Are Some Common Hospital Errors?

There are several different types of common hospital errors. One is the failure to inform a patient of all the risks which are related to a particular:

  • Treatment;
  • Surgery;
  • Procedure; or
  • Medication.

Another common hospital error involves failing to obtain consent from the patient to perform a surgery, even if they have been informed of the risks. These two issues together form the basis of an informed consent lawsuit.

There are also other common hospital errors, including:

  • Diagnosis issues. A misdiagnosis can be problematic and may also lead to other errors.
  • Medication injuries. This may include prescribing the wrong medication or the wrong dosage, or providing medications which are:
    • expired;
    • outdated; or
    • recalled;
  • Anesthesia errors. This type of error may involve:
    • failing to warn of dangers;
    • administering wrong dosages; or
    • disregarding patient allergies to anesthesia;
  • Childbirth injuries. These types of injuries often result from the negligence of a nurse in providing prenatal care or the negligence of a doctor during childbirth, which results in a birth injury to the mother or the infant;
  • Surgery errors. The most common error associated with surgery is failing to obtain the patient’s informed consent. Other surgical errors include:
    • performing the wrong treatment, or
    • leaving foreign objects in the patient’s body, such as a sponge; and
  • Emergency room malpractice. This typically involves emergency room staff refusing to admit or refusing to treat a patient.

It is important to remember that there are also other types of injuries which can occur at hospitals. In addition, medical malpractice laws vary greatly by state, which means that the same violation may be treated differently depending on the jurisdiction in which it occurs.

What Are Possible Legal Remedies for Hospital Errors?

The majority of hospital error medical malpractice claims result in the plaintiff receiving a damages award. A damages award is intended to reimburse a plaintiff for their losses, which may include:

  • Any additional medical expenses which resulted from the error;
  • Extra hospital bills;
  • Lost wages, if the injury caused the individual to miss work;
  • Loss of earning capacity, if the individual can no longer earn as much due to the injury;
  • Other costs, including court fees and attorney’s fees;
  • Pain and suffering; and
  • If the error involves extreme recklessness, punitive damages are awarded in some cases.

There are some states which limit the amount of damages a plaintiff is permitted to recover for medical malpractice claims. This is done to help reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits which are filed based on hospital errors.

Do I Need a Medical Malpractice Lawyer?

It is essential to have the assistance of a personal injury lawyer for any issues, questions, or concerns you may have related to medical malpractice. A hospital error can result in very serious injuries and substantial losses.

Your lawyer will be able to advise you regarding the laws of your jurisdiction and how they apply to your case and assist you with filing a lawsuit to recover your losses. Your lawyer will also represent you during any negotiations or court appearances.