The terms “medical negligence” and “medical malpractice,” are often used interchangeably. In a legal sense, medical negligence is just one required element that must be proven in order to have a valid medical malpractice claim.
Medical negligence usually involves a medical professional who acted or failed to act in some way that deviated from the accepted medical standard of care.
Medical malpractice may not only exacerbate a patient’s condition, but it may also cause new injuries. A few examples of medical negligence may include:
- Failure to remove surgical equipment or bandaging from an incision
- Amputation of the wrong limb
- Prescribing incorrect dosages of medication, or prescribing the wrong medication
- Providing unsound medical advice
- Failure to treat a condition
Medical malpractice negligence claims are common, which is why health care providers are typically highly insured. If a provider somehow fails to meet the standard duty of care to patients, a medical malpractice lawsuit may follow.
States vary on their rules regarding medical malpractice lawsuits. However, there are a few general principles that apply to proving a medical malpractice negligence claim.
It is important to consult a medical malpractice attorney regarding the special rules and procedures for malpractice claims prior to filing. All of these basic requirements must exist for a medical malpractice claim:
- A Doctor-Patient Relationship Existed: The plaintiff must be able to show that he or she had a patient/physician relationship with the doctor he or she is suing. There has to be a formal relationship; overhearing a doctor give someone medical advice is not sufficient evidence for a professional, medical relationship.
- The Doctor was Negligent: A patient must have been harmed in some way as a result of the doctor’s negligent action or inaction. Medical malpractice lawsuits usually center on whether the doctor on whether the doctor was reasonably careful and skillful in the treatment of the patient. If it is shown that the doctor performed his or her duties below the appropriate medical standard of care, the claim may be successful.
- The Patient Suffered an Injury as a Result of the Doctor’s Negligence: Many lawsuits involve patients who were already sick or injured, and it can be difficult to prove the doctor caused further injury, illness, or death. The patient must be able to show that, “more likely than not,” the doctor’s negligence directly caused such harm.
- The Patient’s Injury Resulted in Specific Damages: Patients can sue their health care providers for specific damages if it is shown that they were in fact harmed. Examples of damages include: medical bills, physical pain, mental anguish, lost work and lost earning capacity.
Each case is different from the next when it comes to remedies for medical malpractice negligence claims. If the plaintiff prevails, he or she may be granted a compensatory damages award with the intent of reimbursement for losses suffered.
Damages may include reimbursement for medical bills, prescription drugs, and lost wages. States vary on medical malpractice laws, and a qualified attorney can provide further guidance.
If you have been injured as a direct result of your health care provider’s negligence, you should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer in your area will advise you of your rights, and will assist you in filing a medical malpractice claim in your jurisdiction. Your lawyer will also provide expert legal advice, and represent your best interests in court.