Have you or someone you know been injured during a medical procedure? Medical malpractice is any act or omission by a medical professional during the treatment of a patient that deviates from accepted norms of practice in the medical community and causes an injury to the patient. Medical malpractice is a specific subset of tort law that addresses professional negligence.
The negligence could be the result of an error in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, or health management. Each year there are hundreds of thousands of medical mistakes that occur in hospitals and other medical settings. You can be compensated for these injuries if you can prove the necessary legal elements.
Medical malpractice is governed by state statutes and case law, and each state’s requirements are somewhat different.
Common Types of Malpractice Suits
The most common preventable errors that may lead to medical malpractice claims include the following:
Misdiagnosis is a failure to properly diagnose an illness. This is a common medical mistake. The most commonly misdiagnosed conditions are heart attack and cancer. Among other things, misdiagnosis happens when a physician fails to recognize a condition or fails to order more tests to diagnose a condition.
The surgeon may have removed the right arm rather than the left, or left sponges inside the patient’s body cavity. The surgeon may have also failed to properly monitor and correct problems with, or reactions to, anesthesia.
Failure to Treat
This mistake occurs when the doctor correctly diagnoses a condition, but then fails to treat in accordance with the acceptable standard of care. Discharging a patient too early, or failing to provide adequate follow-up care, which can make conditions worse and lead to injury, are considered failure to treat.
A high percentage of medical malpractice claims are against OBGYNs for childbirth-related medical mistakes. Conditions such as spinal cord injuries, shoulder dystocia, cerebral palsy, and others are common injuries during delivery that could have been caused by medical errors. Substandard prenatal care and failure to recognize fetal distress are also included in birth injuries.
Prescription Drug Errors
Medical professionals can make errors in prescribing the wrong medication or providing incorrect dosing instructions. They may also fail to be cognizant of detrimental interactions of the various drugs a patient is taking.
Legal Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim
To prove that medical malpractice occurred, you must be able to show:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed. You must show that you had a physician-patient relationship with the doctor you are suing — this means you hired the doctor and the doctor agreed to be hired.
- The doctor was negligent. You must be able to show that the doctor caused you harm in a way that a competent doctor, under the same circumstances, would not have. Most states require that the patient present a medical expert to talk about the relevant standard of care, and whether the doctor’s care was “reasonably skillful and careful.”
- The doctor’s negligence caused the injury. Many malpractice cases involve patients who were already sick or injured, so it may be difficult to prove the doctor’s negligence was responsible for the injury or death. In most cases, a patient must show that it was “more likely than not” that the doctor’s negligence caused the injury.
- The injury led to specific damages. Even if it is clear that the doctor didn’t meet the pertinent standard of care, the patient can’t sue for malpractice if the patient didn’t suffer any harm. Examples of types of harm are physical pain, mental anguish, lost work and lost earning capacity.
In most cases, the statute of limitations is between six months and two years, so it’s important to act promptly. In some states, the time period begins when the negligence by your doctor occurred. In other states, the time period starts when the patient should have discovered the injury.
According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 250,000 Americans are injured or killed by medical errors or negligence every year, making it one of the leading causes of death and injury in the United States. Among all those who have been injured or died, only about 3% of these victims or their families file a claim for damages.
If you believe that you or a loved one have suffered an injury due to substandard care by your physician or medical professional, contact us right away to help you receive the appropriate compensation you deserve.