Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, medical professional or healthcare organization does something wrong or negligent which causes an injury to the patient when they are managing, diagnosing, or treating them. This may include taking an action or failing to take an action.
Medical professionals must meet the standard of care for their positions. The standard of care for general practitioners is a local standard and the standard of care for specialists is a national standard.
Essentially, the standard of care provides that a doctor or a hospital can be held liable for medical malpractice if their actions fall below the standard of what a reasonable doctor in the area would have done. Typically, a deviation from the standard of care stems from an act of negligence.
Medical malpractice law provides injured patients with the opportunity to bring claims against negligent medical professionals. It also allows them to recover damages for the injuries that were caused by the medical professional’s substandard conduct.
Whether a medical professional or healthcare organization can be held liable for the injuries a patent suffered depends on the facts of each specific case as well as the various applicable requirements of the medical malpractice laws in that state. In some cases, the regulations and standards for medical malpractice cases can vary between jurisdictions in the same state.
What is Medical Malpractice Liability?
Medical malpractice liability refers to which organizations or individuals should be legally held liable for a patient’s injuries. Generally, the party held liable is the party that breached their duty of care and that was the actual cause of the injuries the patient suffered.
It may be a challenge, however, to figure out which party should be held liable in some cases because liability in medical malpractice cases often involves more than one party.
For example, it may be possible to split medical malpractice between a physician and their nurse or another medical personnel when their conduct led to the patient’s injury. Suppose, for example, if a medical professional received improper instructions or if a medical professional fails to correct another, there is a chance that both of those parties may be held liable for their mistakes.
Additionally, the organization itself, such as a hospital organization, may also, in some cases be held liable for medical malpractice. This is especially true in cases where the overall policy or quality of care for patients of a medical organization falls below the necessary duty of care standard.
Examples of parties that may be held liable for medical malpractice include:
- General practitioners;
- Gynecologists; and
- Clerical staff.
What are Some Examples of Medical Malpractice Claims?
Common examples of issues that cause medical malpractice claims to arise include:
- An improper diagnosis or a failure to diagnose a patient;
- Prescribing the wrong treatment or wrong medication;
- Operating on the wrong body party, for example, amputating their left leg instead of right leg;
- Failure to follow-up after a patient undergoes a serious procedure;
- Discharging a patient before they have recovered enough;
- Leaving medical equipment in the patient, for example, instruments or sponges left inside a patient during a surgery;
- Not providing information or receiving informed consent before a patient undergoes surgery; and
- Inputting erroneous data into a medical chart, causing injury to the patient.
What is Medical Malpractice for Being Discharged too Soon?
When an individual is discharged from a hospital too early and, as a result, they suffer injuries, they may be qualified to file a medical malpractice claim against the doctors or hospital who discharged them.
A hospital may discharge a patent too early because it lacks resources, for example:
- The hospital needs the bed space;
- It is losing money from providing the individual a bed; or
- They are short on staff.
If an individual is discharged too soon, they will not receive the medical care they need and their doctor may fail to recognize conditions that may be arising. As a result, an individual’s condition may worsen and will not be stabilized.
How Do I Prove My Claim?
Similar to other types of medical malpractice cases, if an individual is discharged too soon and suffers injuries as a result, they would need to consult with an expert witness who can state that the hospital or its staff did not meet the standard of care, and as a result, caused or worsen the individual’s injuries. In addition, the individual will be required to testify regarding their treatment and their condition.
There are several elements that must be proven to establish a claim of medical malpractice, including:
- The medical professional owed the patient a duty to act reasonably and under the medical standard of care in overseeing the patient’s health;
- The medical professional failed to meet the standard of care due to being negligent in managing some aspect of the patient’s health. In other words, they breached their duty of care they had to that patient;
- The negligent conduct of the medical professional was the actual cause and the proximate cause of the patient’s injury; and
- The injury resulted in the patient suffering measurable damages.
If a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed against a healthcare organization or its clerical staff, the plaintiff must show that the medical staff was negligently trained or supervised. Evidence that may be used by a plaintiff to support their claim include:
- Medical records;
- Receipts for medical expenses;
- Documents that caused the mistreatment or misdiagnosis to occur; and
- The costs related to the injury, for example, hospital bills incurred to remedy a surgeon’s mistake, etc.
There are certain defenses that medical professionals and hospitals may use against a medical malpractice claim, including:
- Statute of limitations: All malpractice cases are subject to a statute of limitations. This means that there is a specific amount of time in which an individual is allowed to file a claim;
- In some states this period of time is around 7 years. This time limit varies, so it is important to ask a lawyer if an individual is within the legal time period in which to file a claim;
- Failure to show causation: Medical malpractice is typically difficult to prove because of the difficulty of proving causation. For almost any treatment, condition, symptom, or surgery result, there are typically a number of other potential reasons for why the injury could have occurred. This defense is based on the argument that it could have been the fault of a number of other factors other than the doctor;
- Contributory negligence: If a judge or jury determines that the plaintiff is partially at fault for the damage that occurred, the damages award will be reduced; and
- Respectable minority principle: Malpractice claims against doctors are often judged by the reasonable standard of care in the profession. That means that they are expected to perform to the industry standard and not deviate from it. Occasionally, there is a need to deviate from the standard or, at the very least, a good reason to;
- This is referred to as the respectable minority principle. If a medical professional can prove there was a good reason to discharge a person early, even if it deviates from industry standard, this may be a successful defense.
What Amount of Damages Will I Get?
In order to obtain damages, an individual will be required to establish their right to them. In a medical malpractice case, the majority of plaintiffs are able to obtain compensation for:
Should I Consult a Medical Malpractice Lawyer?
If you believe you have been discharged from the hospital too soon and, as a result, you suffered injuries, it may be helpful to consult with a personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer will assist you with filing your claim against the necessary parties and he will help you prove your case in court.