While many of us put our lives in the hands of doctors, unfortunately, medical errors can occur which can jeopardize a patient’s health. Those working in the medical field can sometimes cause injury to patients due to negligence, errors in diagnosis or treatment, and omission. When someone is injured as a result of malpractice on the part of a hospital, doctor, or another medical professional, it is important to understand the individual’s legal rights.
Here are some critical things to know about medical malpractice
- The Legal Definition of Malpractice and Negligence
In order to file a malpractice claim you must be familiar with how the law defines medical malpractice. The key is that the doctor or healthcare provider must have violated the standard of care that is established as part of their profession. Standard of care means following acceptable medical treatment that healthcare professionals would practice under similar circumstances.
In other words, malpractice means that a healthcare provider has chosen to do something that most doctors would not have done in a particular situation. Or the doctor has failed to do something that other doctors would have certainly done in that situation. In order for it to be considered medical malpractice, the doctor’s actions must have cause injury to the patient.
When a doctor or medical professional violates the standard of care, it is only one aspect of malpractice. The patient that has been injured must also prove that the injury would not have occurred in absence of negligence. Essentially, they must show that not only did negligence occur, but it also directly led to an injury.
- How Medical Negligence is Determined
In many cases, experiencing a bad outcome after medical treatment does not in itself qualify as medical negligence. There are many types of procedures that have inherent risks and doctors are not typically held accountable for injury in these cases. Even when a doctor is reasonable in his medical care and follows the standards of care, a bad outcome can still occur for the patient.
It is important then for each individual case to be reviewed to determine if negligence has indeed caused an injury to a patient. Medical malpractice cases can be time-consuming so attorneys normally choose to pursue a case only if injuries and damages are well-documented and prove that the doctor is at fault. The details of the malpractice case must be reviewed by an expert who specializes in determining medical negligence.
- What to Do If Malpractice has Occurred
If you suspect that you or someone you know has been a victim of medical malpractice, the first step is to contact an attorney. They will need to review the medical records and secure interviews with the patient, family members and friends to gather enough details for the case. They can also help you determine if your case meets the statute of limitations in your state.
Once the attorney has reviewed all the pertinent information they will let you know whether the case is actionable and you can move forward with the malpractice claim.
- Examples of Medical Malpractice
In order to have a better idea of what malpractice is it can be helpful to look into what commonly occurs in malpractice cases. Here are some examples of medical negligence-
- Unnecessary surgery or errors in surgery
- Misreading lab results
- Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose
- Improper medication or dosage
- Early discharge from the hospital
- Failure to recognize symptoms or order proper testing
- Ignoring or failing to take patient’s medical history
- What to Expect at a Malpractice Trial
If you move forward with a medical malpractice claim then it may eventually go to trial. During a trial, the injured patient has the burden of proof in order to convince the judge and jury that the doctor has done something wrong. If doctors claim that the patient did something wrong to cause their injury such as not following instructions or taking medications then they have the burden of proving that.
The trial itself can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks depending on the complexity of the case, the amount of witnesses and the severity of the damage. The entire case overall can take months or even years to complete. After the trial, either party can appeal the court’s decision or if the patient was successful, the defendant can pay the amount of the verdict or agree to settle the case.
Medical malpractice can occur at any time, in any type of medical situation where a healthcare professional should be providing the patient with adequate care. Doctors who make mistakes or fail to follow medical standards of care must be held accountable for their actions. If you think you have been the victim of malpractice, contact an attorney to review your case.