What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical Malpractice and How It Works

Medical malpractice arises when a doctor or medical facility harms a patient. There are different medical malpractice laws per state, so you should review your state’s laws to determine whether you have a case. These laws can influence the statute of limitations for filing a medical negligence claim and whether you have to notify the doctor or medical facility beforehand.

What Do I Need for a Medical Malpractice Claim?

The burden of proof falls on the injured party in filing a medical malpractice claim. To prove your case, there are several conditions you must establish. A medical malpractice lawyer can guide you through this entire process.

While there can be some differences in details based on the state in which you file your claim, there are some standard benchmarks to try and hit.

  • There was a working relationship between the doctor and patient. You must prove that the doctor or medical facility in question provided you services. There needs to be a clear business relationship in which both you and the doctor agreed upon service.
  • There was negligence on behalf of the doctor – You must prove the doctor was negligent in his or her diagnosis. You cannot sue a doctor for medical malpractice simply because you did not like their treatment or diagnosis. You must establish the doctor caused harm by acting in a way a normal doctor would not have under the same circumstances.
  • There needs to be cause and effect – Cases usually involve long-term injuries. You must prove the injuries referenced in the claim are a direct result of the doctor’s care and not because of any pre-existing condition.
  • The injury represented in the claim led to further injury – Even if it is determined that the doctor’s care fell below the standard level of acceptable care, you cannot sue for malpractice unless you suffer a direct injury. There are multiple types of pain that a patient can sue for. These include physical pain, mental pain or distress, additional medical costs as a result of the doctor’s action and lost wages.

Hospital Responsibility

You may wonder if you can also sue the hospital or facility where the doctor works. In most situations, you cannot sue a hospital or other facility for the malpractice of a doctor. Most doctors are independent contractors, which absolves hospitals from liability for their actions. Nurses and other hospital staff are direct employees, so if the malpractice occurs through one of them, there are grounds to sue the facility. So, unless the doctor is directly employed by the hospital or facility, then the hospital or facility has no liability and you cannot name it in your lawsuit.

Types of Medical Malpractice

As long as you meet the conditions to file, you have grounds to file a claim, but you will need to decide in which category your claims falls. The most common categories include the following:

  • Wrongful treatment – A doctor treats you poorly and in a way that no other credible medical professional would.
  • Failure to diagnose correct illness – The doctor misdiagnosed the illness and caused further injury, which the correct diagnosis would have prevented.
  • Failure to disclose risks to patients – The doctor fails to inform you of the medical risks or does not carry out his or her duty of informed consent, which prevents you from making an informed decision about the medical procedure or treatment.

There are additional categories or reasons for filing a lawsuit, such as the following doctor errors:

  • Misreading or ignoring test results from the lab
  • Making surgical errors
  • Not following up properly or not offering adequate post-care
  • Performing unnecessary procedures or surgeries

Damages Available

There are three types of damages a court will award for medical malpractice.

  • General damages – Compensation for physical or mental suffering due to the negligent actions of the doctor
  • Punitive Damages – Damages awarded as punishment for the medical professional or facility at fault
  • Special Damages – Damages for expenses from medical bills and lost wages

Do note that punitive damages are not something a court awards often. Some states may not allow such damages in this type of case or severely limit the ability of a court to award them.

Statute of Limitations

Medical malpractice claims carry a strict statute of limitations, which vary depending on the state. The time limit for filing can be months or years. If you do not file the claim within the designated statute of limitations, the court will dismiss the case with prejudice regardless of the facts.

Medical Malpractice Review Panels

In some states, you must first submit your claim to a review panel of medical experts. The panel hears the evidence and expert testimony to decide whether malpractice occurred. Their decision does not equate to a court’s decision, but the panel is often a necessary step in building toward a lawsuit and can lend significant credibility to a claim. The findings of the review panel will make their way to court, and the court often relies on them to make its ruling.

Do I need To Hire an Attorney?

Medical malpractice claims can be complex and difficult to prove. It can be an overwhelming task, especially if you are still suffering as a result of the doctor’s actions. We recommend consulting with a personal injury attorney or an attorney that has a focus on medical malpractice.

A medical malpractice attorney can help you in many ways to put together your case. He or she has the ability to do things you may not be able to do on your own. Working with an attorney means he or she will often do the following:

  • Build your case
  • Collect important evidence
  • Find expert witnesses to testify on your behalf
  • Help you prepare for the malpractice review panel
  • Take your claim to court

Work with an Experienced Local Lawyer

Since your case is incredibly important to you, it makes sense to seek legal help. You should at minimum consult with an attorney who is familiar with such cases. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!

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