What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice involves professional negligence by a care provider where the victim files a civil claim for compensation. It is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and millions more experience injuries as a result of medical malpractice each year. In order to qualify, a medical malpractice claim must meet the basic requirements. These are:

  • Duty of care. The caregiver must have a professional duty to provide care to a patient.
  • Failure to fulfill obligations. The caregiver fails to provide adequate services or medical care. Adequate care is determined by judging whether a similarly trained professional would have acted in the same way.
  • Injury. The patient suffers some form of injury or harm as a direct result of the caregiver's negligence.
  • Available compensation. The patient must experience an injury or harm that the caregiver can compensate them for.

If someone experiences medical malpractice and suffers an injury, they may be eligible for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit can help compensate them for medical expenses and other financial losses, along with finding some justice for their pain and suffering.

Are there different types of medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice can appear in several different forms. Common types of medical malpractice include:

  • Misdiagnosis. When a caregiver incorrectly diagnoses a patient, this can result in delayed or incorrect treatment that may lead to serious health risks. For example, if a doctor misdiagnoses cancer as something less serious, the lost time may allow the cancer to spread.
  • Improper treatment. Patients may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit if their caregiver provides improper treatment. Improper treatment includes acts such as administering the wrong dosage of a medication or mishandling a treatment.
  • Failure to treat. If a caregiver fails to provide treatment, this can be considered negligence. Some common examples of negligent failure to treat include forgetting to monitor a patient or order lab tests.
  • Surgical malpractice. When an error occurs during a surgical procedure, it may result in injuries to the patient. This can include operating in the wrong location, leaving surgical equipment inside the body, or incorrectly performing a surgical procedure.

The impact of medical malpractice

A victim of medical malpractice may experience a wide range of effects, depending on the type of malpractice. These effects can often be long-lasting, seriously impacting the victim for years. For instance, a patient may suffer from long-term pain as a result of a botched hernia mesh surgery. A missed diagnosis could lead to a shortened life expectancy, while an incorrect diagnosis could worsen a condition.

Medical malpractice can also result in long-term emotional stress. For example, victims of medical malpractice may suffer from mental health issues, such as PTSD or depression. If the medical malpractice results in death, the surviving family members can suffer severe grief and loss.

Adverse events associated with medical malpractice

Medical malpractice can occur in many ways. Any time a healthcare professional is negligent or makes a mistake while caring for a patient, it may constitute medical malpractice. Some common adverse events associated with medical malpractice include:

  • Misdiagnosing a patient.
  • Failing to diagnose a patient.
  • Performing an unnecessary surgery.
  • Conducting surgery in the wrong location.
  • Making an error while performing surgery.
  • Administering improper medication or an incorrect dosage.
  • Taking an inadequate patient history.
  • Ignoring a patient's history.
  • Failing to recognize symptoms.
  • Failing to order a medical test.
  • Prematurely discharging a patient.
  • Providing inadequate aftercare.

If a person experienced any of the adverse events above, or something similar, they may have grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Following medical malpractice: Filing a lawsuit

If someone is the victim of medical malpractice, they may be able to file a lawsuit to receive financial compensation. The first thing they should do is contact the medical professional who provided the care. They should discuss the negative symptoms they are experiencing and ask for an explanation. In some cases, the medical professional may be able to correct the problem or provide another solution.

When working with the medical professional does not resolve the issue, the next step is to consult with a medical malpractice lawyer. A lawyer can review the specifics of a situation and help determine if there is a case. As part of this process, the lawyer may have them get an assessment from another medical professional to determine that the injuries are the result of medical malpractice.

Once it is determined that they have a case, the lawyer will work to reach a settlement either with the medical professional or the healthcare facility where they received treatment. Settling is often the fastest and easiest way to receive compensation for any troubles. However, if the two parties cannot agree on a settlement, they will proceed to trial. Here, the lawyer will argue the case and aim to get the best possible financial compensation.

Frequently asked questions about medical malpractice

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions related to medical malpractice lawsuits:

What is the difference between a malpractice lawsuit and a personal injury claim?

Medical malpractice lawsuits and personal injury claims are very similar. In both cases, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a duty of care, this duty of care was breached, damages occurred as a result of this breach, and the plaintiff suffered harm. The key difference is that medical malpractice lawsuits are only brought against healthcare providers, while a personal injury claim can be filed in many other circumstances.

In addition, personal injury lawsuits use the reasonable person standard, which says that the average person would have been more careful than the defendant. In medical malpractice lawsuits, a professional standard is used instead, and the defendant is considered negligent if a similarly trained professional would have acted differently.

Is there a statute of limitations with medical malpractice lawsuits?

Most states have statute of limitation laws that determine how long a person has to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. This time frame varies from state to state but is typically around two to four years. However, the clock begins once the plaintiff discovers the injury, not when the malpractice incident occurs. Because of the statute of limitations, it is important to consider legal action as soon as a person becomes aware of the injury, as missing the deadline will prevent them from filing a lawsuit.

Who can be sued for medical malpractice?

Essentially, any healthcare provider can be sued for medical malpractice. This list includes:

  • Doctors.
  • Nurses.
  • Lab technicians.
  • Dentists.
  • Chiropractors.

People can also sue the hospital or clinic where they received medical treatment. When they sue a healthcare provider directly, they must prove medical negligence. However, when they sue a hospital or other care facility, they do not require evidence of direct negligence. This is because healthcare facilities are liable for any negligence committed by their employees while they are on the job.

How much compensation can someone receive for a medical malpractice lawsuit?

How much compensation a person can receive from a medical malpractice lawsuit depends on several factors. Two primary factors are the extent of the injuries and the amount of evidence in the case. Those with more severe injuries and stronger evidence will receive higher compensation than those with minor injuries or a lack of evidence. Other factors that will likely contribute to the compensation amount include the total medical expenses, any lost wages, and the amount of pain and suffering, both physically and emotionally.

Is an attorney necessary for a medical malpractice lawsuit?

It is highly recommended to hire an attorney for medical malpractice lawsuits. These cases can be very complex, and a lot of money may be at stake. A good lawyer will help secure the evidence necessary to present a case and can help negotiate a fair settlement amount. If a settlement cannot be reached, the lawyer will argue the case in a trial.