What is the First Step in Pursuing a Medical Malpractice Case?
- March 29, 2017
Medical malpractice cases arise when a person has been injured through the improper action or inaction of a healthcare professional or medical facility.
To be successful at winning a medical malpractice case, the plaintiff must be able to prove four basic elements, which are:
1. Duty of care—The doctor owed a duty of care to the victim because a doctor/patient relationship had been established.
2. Breach of duty—The doctor breached his duty when he deviated from the “standard of care”. This means that his performance fell below the standard others in his profession would follow.
3. Causation—The breach of duty was the direct cause of the patient’s injuries.
4. Damages—The plaintiff’s injuries caused them to incur actual damages for which they are now seeking compensation.
To find a medical professional negligent, it must be demonstrated that the medical professional’s conduct fell below a generally accepted standard of medical care. The victim must present testimony of a medical expert, qualified in the same area of medicine as the defendant, indicating what standard or level of care fell below expectations.
What Constitutes Medical Negligence?
Medical errors are among the leading cause of death in the United States and account for nearly 98,000 deaths each year. While most doctors are competent professionals, they are not infallible. However, negligence or failure to comply with the standard level of care may be a serious situation in which the doctor may be held liable for all losses caused by his or her failure to meet acceptable professional standards.
Mistakes made by doctors result in medical malpractice when a physician fails to exercise the level or care, skill and prudence necessary to prevent patient injury. There are a variety of situations in which a case can be brought against a doctor that may include:
• Misuse of medical equipment
• Improper prescribing of medications
• Physician failure to obtain patient consent for medical procedures
• Failure to properly diagnose and treat a disease
• Surgical, anesthetic or other errors that harm a patient
There are numerous factors that may lead to these mistakes being made and some of the most common may include:
• Alcohol or drugs impair the doctor’s judgment
• Poor or illegible handwriting that leads to errors in the medications being prescribed
• Failure to listen attentively to complaints made by the patient
• Failure to perform the proper diagnostic tests
• Failure to diagnose or misdiagnose the patient’s symptoms
• Misinterpretation of test results or failure to take the proper action when abnormal results are present
Some doctor’s mistakes may go unreported because the patient was not aware of the mistake or because the medical professional is reluctant to admit their mistake due to fear of being held liable. When doctors violate patients’ rights out of carelessness or negligence, they can and should be held responsible for their actions.
Establishing the Duty of Care
All medical professionals owe a duty of care to their patients and negligence or malpractice can occur when they improperly perform their duty out of carelessness. An injured plaintiff may choose to sue a doctor when they deviate from the standards set forth by others in the same field. For example, let’s say that you are admitted to the hospital for a routine operation. The anesthesiologist is tasked with administering the proper amount of medication to keep you under during the procedure. They may be held liable for damages when they breach their duty of care to the patient by giving the wrong medication or administering an overdose. Anesthesiologists are also responsible for properly monitoring the patient’s respiratory condition and other vital signs during surgery. Failing to do so can result in a medical malpractice claim against them. Negligence may be proven by testimony from other medical professionals who act in the same capacity that can testify that the duty and standard of care fell below what was required.
Getting Compensation For Your Injuries
All victims of medical malpractice have the right to seek damages for their injuries. However, bringing a legal action for wrongful death can be very complicated. Each state has different laws that apply to these types of lawsuits. In most cases, the individuals who can bring a wrongful death claim are the surviving spouse, the parent or the child of the person who passed away. Family members can typically recover compensation for:
• Medical bills and funeral costs
• Estimated lost wages that the individual would have earned during their lifetime
• Pain and suffering of the survivors due to the absence of their loved one
In the case of the wrongful death of an infant, parents may seek damages for the loss of companionship and mental anguish caused by the death of their child. Punitive damages may be sought when the defendant acted in a reckless or grossly negligent manner. Punitive damages are used to punish the defendant and deter others from such bad behavior in the future. Some states place limits on the amount of compensation a plaintiff may be able to recover, so it is important to determine what the laws are in your jurisdiction.
Seeking Legal Advice From a Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you believe that your physician or hospital engaged in medical malpractice, you have every right to sue for damages incurred. Malpractice law is extremely complex and requires an experienced professional to handle such cases. Medical malpractice attorneys can advise you on whether it is worth your time to pursue legal action. An experienced lawyer can cut through the red tape and maze of paperwork required to resolve your claim.