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, so healthcare providers are typically highly insured. A medical malpractice lawsuit may follow if a provider somehow fails to meet the standard duty of care to patients.
How is Medical Malpractice Negligence Proven?
States vary on their rules regarding medical malpractice lawsuits. However, a few general principles apply to proving a medical malpractice negligence claim.
It is important to consult a medical malpractice attorney regarding malpractice claims’ special rules and procedures 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 they had a patient/physician relationship with the doctor they are 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 was reasonably careful and skillful in the treatment of the patient. If it is shown that the doctor performed their 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.
- The Doctor was Reckless: It’s rare, but sometimes, a doctor’s action or inaction may be considered reckless. For example, a doctor who performs surgery or some other risky medical procedure while under the influence of drugs or alcohol will likely be said to have acted recklessly. A doctor may be charged with administering potentially lethal doses of medication to patients in contradiction of accepted medical practices. This was the case in the infamous 2011 trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson’s doctor.
Is Medical Malpractice Common?
Suppose you’ve experienced a situation that gives you a reason to think you have a cause for medical malpractice. In that case, it is important to understand the legal standards and differences between medical malpractice and negligence.
Medical practitioners still make errors, regardless of preventative measures and updated rules and regulations designed to improve patient safety.
If you think you’ve sustained an injury due to medical malpractice negligence where a healthcare provider has failed to provide you with the care required by the standards of medical practice, report it to your state’s Medical Practices Board as soon as you can.
What if My Condition is Untreatable?
Since not all illnesses and health conditions are treatable, a doctor who correctly diagnosed a health problem and made sound decisions on how to proceed with a patient’s care cannot be liable for medical malpractice simply because the patient’s condition is not treated is terminal.
Medical malpractice laws are not in place to offer remedies for terminal illnesses and deaths. Such laws provide legal protection when the treatment of a patient falls short of the acceptable standards of medical care.
Doctors have not committed medical malpractice simply when a patient’s condition gets worse during the course of treatment, either. Sometimes, doctors are unable to treat or cure an illness, even when the condition is considered treatable. There is no guarantee that every patient will respond positively to treatment in every situation. As long as a doctor acts with reasonable care and skill in choosing and carrying out a treatment, typically, no medical malpractice has occurred, even if a patient’s condition takes a turn for the worse.
What Are Some Remedies for Medical Malpractice Negligence?
Each case is different from the next when it comes to remedies for medical malpractice negligence claims. If the plaintiff prevails, they 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 the victim of medical malpractice negligence, you may face considerable medical bills, including doctor’s visits, therapy, prescription drug costs, corrective surgery, and future medical expenses.
The compensation you may be entitled to can include your pain and suffering. Compensation for pain and suffering includes awards for physical pain and the emotional distress that could accompany your injuries, such as anxiety, depression, and the inability to do the things you once loved to do.
If a wrongful death occurs as a consequence of a medical malpractice case or a medical malpractice negligence case, family members may receive compensation through a wrongful death claim. Examples of loss of consortium benefits that may be awarded include loss of family benefits, such as sexual relations, companionship, affection, and comfort.
With severe injuries that permanently change your ability to work and provide for yourself and others, you can seek compensation for lost wages, including damages for future earning potential.
Is There a Time Limit to Make a Medical Malpractice Negligence Claim?
Some states impose time limits on how long you have to make a medical malpractice negligence case. These limitations appear under your state’s statutes of limitation. Suppose signs or symptoms of injury or illness do not immediately appear. In that case, your state may add on additional time, starting the statute of limitations clock on the date you discovered the injury or illness.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help Filing a Medical Malpractice Negligence Claim?
Medical malpractice negligence cases are complex and tough to win. Medical malpractice negligence claims often hinge on complex medical and legal questions that require professional skill and experience to understand.
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.