Medical negligence is defined as the negligent, improper, or unskilled treatment of a patient by a healthcare professional. This can include negligent care from a nurse, physician, surgeon, pharmacist, dentist, or other health care employees. Medical negligence is the grounds for most medical malpractice claims where the victim claims injury from medical treatment.

Medical malpractice happens when a doctor, other medical professionals, or a healthcare organization falls below the standard duty of care required when overseeing, diagnosing, or treating a patient, resulting in an injury. This departure from the standard duty of care demanded of all medical professionals usually stems from an act of negligence.

Medical malpractice law permits an injured patient to bring a claim against a negligent medical professional. It lets them recover damages for the injuries caused by their substandard conduct.

Whether a medical professional can be held accountable for a patient’s injuries will hinge on the facts of a specific case and the various regulations and requirements of medical malpractice laws passed in a particular state. In some instances, the criteria and rules for medical malpractice can vary between different jurisdictions within the same state.

The standard of care for medical providers can generally be defined as the level of care that a reasonably competent and skilled medical professional, who has a similar background to and practices in the same medical community, would have provided to a patient under the same set of circumstances.

The above definition is required of all medical providers across the nation. Nevertheless, this definition can vary by jurisdiction and will occasionally change depending on the type of medical professional and local rules.

For instance, a local regulation may state that a medical professional must possess a reasonable level of skill and knowledge akin to that of other surgeons and physicians who practice medicine in the jurisdiction.

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, the medical standard of care guidelines are also some medical standards that medical professionals must typically follow.

These include:

  • Keeping consistency and uniformity when performing medical evaluations on all patients;
  • Conforming with the rules provided in the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”);
  • Promising not to aggravate, accelerate, or worsen any patient’s existing or preexisting medical conditions; and
  • Obtaining the required qualifications to become a licensed medical professional.

What Are Some Common Examples of Medical Negligence?

Examples of medical negligence include:

Failed surgeries occur when a surgeon makes a surgical mistake. A surgical error is a preventable mistake made during surgery. There is some inherent danger in any surgery, and patients normally sign an informed consent form admitting that they are aware of the risks of surgery. Mistakes that lead to a failed surgery are beyond what a patient knew were possible before agreeing to the procedure.

Failed surgeries often leave victims with pain, inconvenience, and financial expenses associated with the surgical error. Medical malpractice law says that if an injury or death transpires because of a surgical mistake and negligence or inattention caused the error, the victim can file a surgery complications lawsuit and recover damages if the mistake could have been averted.

Some examples of surgical mistakes that cause a failed surgery include:

  • Wrong-site surgery, in which the doctor conducts surgery on an incorrect part of the body.
  • Wrong patient surgery, where the surgeon operates on the wrong person, often means that the patient who needed that particular surgery did not get it.
  • After the surgery is finished, the damage is caused by surgical instruments or tools left inside the body.
  • Anesthesia mistakes: either too much or too little anesthesia is used.
  • Injuries to nerves or other internal organs when the surgeon causes damage with their instruments.
  • Infection is caused by instruments that were not cleaned or sanitized properly.
  • Unnecessary surgery that a patient did not need and ended up harming them.

What Is Required to Prove Medical Negligence?

Proving medical negligence is similar to most other forms of negligence.

Generally, the plaintiff must prove four elements:

  1. The medical personnel owed them a duty of care.
  2. The duty of care was breached or violated.
  3. The breach was the cause of the person’s injuries or losses.
  4. The losses can be calculated with assurance.

In most medical negligence claims, there can be issues in defining “duty of care.” In most circumstances, the medical professional is expected to exercise the same standard of care that a professional with similar training and background would use in a similar situation.

This means that nurses may be held to a different standard of care from a surgeon since they have received very different forms of training. Also, surgeons may be held to varying standards of care as surgeons who practice in another field. While this may seem illogical, standards for medical care are somewhat uniform and can be defined from both medical textbooks and industry standards.

A medical expert witness is used when scientific, technical, or specialized testimony will help the jury understand the evidence or resolve a disputed issue.

What Are Some Remedies for Medical Negligence?

In most medical negligence claims, the legal remedy consists of a monetary damages award disbursed from the medical company or professional to the plaintiff. This can cover medical costs, extra hospital expenses, and additional treatments.

In some states, the amount of damages that the plaintiff can recover can sometimes be limited to medical malpractice or medical negligence. Medical malpractice awards were limited to prevent frivolous claims and requests for unreasonable damage award amounts.

Are There Any Defenses to Medical Negligence?

Medical negligence can sometimes be challenging to establish because many different defenses can be raised (depending on the facts of the case).

Some medical negligence defenses can include:

  • Patient negligence: some jurisdictions may limit (or altogether forbid) a damages award if the patient’s negligence caused or contributed to their injury
  • No breach of duty: it may be a defense if the plaintiff cannot establish that the physician or doctor breached their duty of care. This can be an issue because there are different standards depending on the type of physician involved and their background experience levels.
  • The wrong party is being sued: Likewise, negligence requires evidence that the party in question was the cause of the damages. Here, if liability cannot be fully traced to the proper party, it can serve as a defense.
  • Uncertain damages: To stop filing meaningless or frivolous lawsuits, courts require that the damages be calculable to a reasonable degree of certainty. If the damages can’t be estimated (for instance, of “pain” or other vague symptoms), then the court won’t issue a damages award

Therefore, medical negligence defenses in a medical malpractice claim often depend on how the plaintiff presents their case to the court. If the patient is inaccurate or unclear about any aspect of their complaint, it will seriously hamper their chances of legal recovery. Poorly filed cases may even be dismissed without the plaintiff getting a chance to argue their side seriously.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Medical Negligence?

Medical negligence can occasionally involve severe injuries or violations. If you need help with a medical negligence case, you may want to contact a medical negligence attorney.

A qualified personal injury lawyer can help advise you on your claim and assist you in filing with the court. Most medical negligence violations are remedied by monetary damages awards to compensate the victims for injuries.