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Medical Malpractice Fault Finding

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Who Is at Fault for a Medical Malpractice?

Fault-finding in a medical malpractice claim refers to the legal process in which the court determines which parties should be held liable for the patient’s injuries or financial losses. In some cases, this can be pretty straight-forward, especially when it’s very clear who caused the plaintiff’s injuries. 

For example, the errors of many different medical workers may have contributed to the patient’s injuries. A common example is where a nurse receives the wrong instructions regarding the dosage for the patient’s anesthesia. It then becomes difficult to tell whether the nurse should be held responsible if the patient overdoses on anesthesia, or whether the doctor who gave the instructions should be at fault.  In some cases it could actually be both who are responsible.

Several other persons can be held at fault in a medical malpractice claim. This includes nearly every type of medical worker, such as surgeons, specialists, pharmacists, rehabilitation workers, and even clerical workers in some instances.

Legal Issues to Consider with Fault and Medical Malpractice

When finding who is at fault in a medical malpractice lawsuit, there are many different legal issues and concepts to be considered by the court. These usually include:

  • Duty: In order to be held liable for the patient’s injuries, the defendant generally must first owe them a duty of care. For example, all doctors and physicians are held to certain medical standards regarding the advice and treatment that they give a patient. In comparison, a worker in the cafeteria of the hospital might not be required to work under the same standard of care as a doctor. 
  • Causation: the liable party must have directly caused the injuries to the plaintiff in order to be held liable for damages. They cannot be found liable if the injuries were not a “reasonably foreseeable” result of their carelessness.
  • Plaintiff liability: In some cases, the plaintiff may actually be at fault themselves, either partially or completely. For example, if they disregarded the doctor’s instructions, the doctor might not be at fault, and instead the plaintiff will actually be at fault for their own injuries.

The issues of “duty” and “causation” are generally part of the broader category of laws known as negligence laws. Most medical malpractice claims are based on negligence theory of liability. 

Negligence determinations involve a complex analysis of several different factors, and generally require the assistance of an attorney. Proving medical malpractice also requires that the damages be calculable with reasonable accuracy.

Are Medical Malpractice Laws the Same in Every State?

No- some states place limits (caps) on the amount of damages that can be recovered in a medical malpractice lawsuit. This is to prevent abuses of the legal system due to the filing of numerous frivolous lawsuits over medical malpractice issues. Also, the standards of care for medical professionals may vary by state and according to the type of profession involved.

Finally, each state may have different rules when it comes to the statute of limitations, i.e., the deadline for filing a medical malpractice claim. Generally speaking, you should consult with a lawyer as soon as possible once you discover the possibility that you need to file a medical malpractice suit.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Medical malpractice suits can often be challenging to deal with. The laws governing medical malpractice are often complicated and generally require the interpretation of a lawyer. You may wish to speak with a personal injury lawyer in your area if you believe that you have a medical malpractice claim. Your attorney can provide you with expert legal guidance on the matter and can represent you during formal court proceedings.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 03-25-2014 04:11 PM PDT

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