Medical malpractice is defined as an act of recklessness, carelessness, or omission committed by a clinical medical professional resulting in a harmful medical mistake. Instances of medical malpractice can include substandard treatment or any failure to provide appropriate treatment or take action as a medical professional.
What is Medical Malpractice?
The key aspect of determining what is medical malpractice is whether or not a situation is an act of medical negligence. That negligence must be the direct cause of patient harm or poor medical outcome to be considered medical malpractice. Not all medical mistakes are considered medical malpractice in the eyes of the law.
When a person dies as a result of medical malpractice, it is considered a wrongful death. Wrongful death cases are handled differently from personal injury cases where the individual experiences a life-altering injury.
Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury
Medical malpractice law is a type of personal injury law case where patients, as victims of a medical injury, are allowed to pursue legal actions against the doctor or healthcare professional who caused it.
Personal injuries are a type of civil legal claim whereby claimants (the injured person) can pursue damages from liable parties, including doctors guilty of malpractice, for:
- Loss of income (lost wages)
- Lost economic opportunity
- Out of pocket medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Medical Negligence Claims and Standards of Care
Establishing negligence by medical professionals is essential to proving a medical malpractice case. Negligence is determined by courts examining the evidence and determining the appropriate level of care or course of action a medical professional should have taken. They may determine a physician acted negligently due to accidental error or incompetence based on what care similar patients would normally receive.
Standards of care can differ by medical profession and scenario. Medical malpractice cases are often spent determining whether a medical error represents an irresponsible deviation from expected care. Standards of care do not necessarily reflect “optimal” care but are set, in part, by the established standards of the medical profession.
Duty of Care
Duty of care is a reasonable expectation of professional conduct meant to avoid carelessness and emphasize caution. For doctors, duty of care refers to the legal responsibility to provide patients with the appropriate level of care based on the situation.
For the plaintiff in a medical malpractice case to prove practitioner negligence, they should demonstrate:
- A duty of care was owed to the patient
- That duty of care was not met
- Failure to meet the duty of care led to injury
- The injury resulted in substantial harm to the patient
Before you receive medical treatment, the medical provider must obtain informed consent from the patient based on what a medical procedure or treatment entails. Practitioners are to provide relevant and comprehensive information to patients before medical intervention is performed based on its benefits, risks, and alternatives.
The laws dictating informed consent rules are vital to patient autonomy. A failure to gain informed consent could constitute medical malpractice and prove negligence.
Care providers such as doctors are not only responsible for their own treatment mistakes but, in some cases, are also responsible for those to whom they delegate responsibilities. Medical facilities and their employees can also be held liable for medical mistakes. Therefore, medical malpractice claims can be brought against individual healthcare providers or against the facility that employs them.
Types of Evidence Needed for a Medical Malpractice Case
In order to determine medical malpractice liability by establishing a health professional was negligent, the court will conduct a review of medical records. A medical malpractice lawyer may seek expert opinions from other doctors who can speak to what would have been the appropriate treatment and standard of care when medical negligence occurred. The court may also hear from financial experts to help assess damages and determine what compensation is owed. Other legal documents supporting this evidence may be required.
The types of evidence:
- Proof of the victim’s relationship with the doctor
- Medical records
- Expert testimony
- Evidence of negligence
What Do Victims Need to Prove?
A victim of medical malpractice, with the help of medical malpractice lawyers, can prove each of the following components of a successful medical malpractice claim.
Liability: Determining liability means proving that the practitioner was negligent. This involves establishing what the appropriate standard of care should have been based on the facts of the case. These are then compared to what a similarly trained practitioner would do compared to any medical errors made.
Damages: Proving damages involves the court determining the extent of the harm caused by health professional negligence with victim medical reports, expert testimony, and financial data to show lost income, medical expenses, or financial opportunity.
Causation: Considered by experts to be among the most difficult aspects of a medical malpractice case to prove is causation. Your lawyer will need to establish that your health provider’s negligent medical care led directly to your injuries and are not due to another cause.
Medical Malpractice Damages
When medical malpractice occurs, a court may order the doctor, hospital, or healthcare provider to pay you damages for the harm their negligence caused. These can include emotional distress in some cases.
Classifications of damages:
- Non-pecuniary or general damages
- Income loss
- Loss of earning capacity
- Past and future care costs
- Subrogated claims
- Aggravated damages
- Punitive damages
An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help you remedy the life-changing harm experienced at the hands of a negligent healthcare provider. Contact Stephens & Holman for a no fee case evaluation.