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What is Medical Malpractice? How to Know When It Happens

Jan 12, 2022

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional commits a negligent act that causes you harm. To prove the claim, you must show that:

  • A doctor-patient relationship existed 
  • The doctor was negligent
  • The doctor's negligence caused your injuries
  • You suffered damages as a result of the malpractice

Other types of healthcare professionals may also commit medical malpractice, including nurses, physician's assistants, and much more. A healthcare professional that fails in his or her duties may be financially responsible to you.

Surgeon in operating room

Standard of Care and How It Relates to Medical Malpractice

Negligent conduct is defined as a breach of the standard of care in medical malpractice cases, as opposed to an ordinary negligence standard in other personal injury cases. In determining the applicable standard of care, factors that are considered include:

  • The doctor's profession and specialized training
  • The warnings given to the patient about potential complications
  • Locality and circumstances of the medical treatment facility
  • The requisite skill required of the medical treatment performed
  • The emergency versus planned nature of the treatment

Duty of Care and How It Relates to Medical Malpractice

Medical professionals owe a duty of care to their patients at all times. A doctor is required to provide adequate care to patients and this duty is assumed as soon as the doctor begins to care for the person.

Medical Malpractice vs Medical Negligence: What's the Difference?

Medical negligence occurs when a doctor fails to provide the applicable standard of care that could cause harm to a patient. This is accidental and results in unintentional harm.

Medical malpractice occurs when the medical professional knowingly failed to meet the appropriate standard of care. This does not require that the doctor intended to hurt you, but that their conduct raises above an unforeseen accident. The harm may have been prevented if alternative measures had been used.

Medical Malpractice Examples

Error in Diagnosis

A doctor is often tasked with diagnosing a patient's illness or condition. When they make a mistake in that diagnosis, their mistake may be medical malpractice. When a reasonable doctor with the same training should have made the correct diagnosis, malpractice has occurred.

Error in Treatment

Errors in treatment can occur in two ways. A doctor may choose the wrong method of treatment for the medical condition. Alternatively, the doctor may perform the treatment incorrectly and cause harm as a result.

Failure to Treat Health Conditions

A doctor should treat their patients' health conditions in accordance with the standard of care. This means handling the condition itself and any potential symptoms. 

The Wrong Medication Was Given

Medical professionals must take great care in prescribing medicine. When the wrong drug is prescribed, it can lead to extremely serious injuries or even death.

Surgical Errors

Surgical errors may fail to fix the problem the surgery was designed to fix. They can even cause further damage in the patient's body. 

What Qualifies as a Medical Malpractice Claim/Lawsuit

You may be wondering what will justify medical malpractice lawsuits. A proper claim will establish all of the elements of a medical malpractice claim.

Doctor-Patient Relationship

This relationship occurs when the patient asks for treatment and the doctor agrees to treat the patient. This does not require a prior or longstanding relationship with the medical professional to create it. Even a one-time treatment by a doctor or other professional may be sufficient to meet this element.

Negligence on Behalf of the Doctor

The patient and their lawyer must prove that the doctor's treatment fell below the applicable standard of care. They must fail to act as another reasonable medical professional would have done in the same or similar situation.

An Injury or Medical Error Caused by Negligence

The patient must also prove that not only did the doctor commit negligence but that the negligence resulted in harm. This is called causation and requires that your attorney connect the medical negligence to the injury to show it was the doctor's fault.

Damages That Occurred Due to Injury

Harm such as physical injury, failure to treat, psychological harm, and much more can occur from medical malpractice. The patient and their attorney must prove the extent of these damages.

How to Prove Medical Malpractice in Court

Proving medical malpractice in court requires a great deal of experience and skill. A knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney will seek to prove the claim by:

  • Collecting evidence and investigating potential negligence
  • Working with experts to show how the doctor's negligence caused the injuries
  • Using witnesses to prove that negligence occurred
  • Submitting medical records, bills, and other evidence in court
  • Providing evidence that proves each element of medical malpractice

These efforts and countless others are required to successfully prove a medical malpractice claim in court. This is not a type of case that should be handled alone. Complex legal requirements exist for these cases and proving them in court without an attorney can prove impossible.

What Should You Do if Medical Malpractice Occurs?

If you suffer medical malpractice, you should immediately seek other medical attention. You have been injured and need to protect your health. In addition to protecting yourself, medical treatment may help prove the medical negligence of the original physician. This can be critical in a medical malpractice claim.

You should keep any medical records, bills, or other documents you already have and continue to keep anything new you receive. You should then contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. There are time limits on filing medical malpractice claims, some of which can be incredibly short. You do not want to lose your opportunity to recover because you waited too long to file your claim.

Should You File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

If you have been injured after receiving medical treatment, you may be entitled to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. You can schedule a consultation of your case to learn the potential strength of your claim. You do not have to know for certain, you can ask a team of professionals who have handled medical malpractice lawsuits nationwide.

The Spence Law Firm has built its legacy on defending ordinary people against big corporations and insurance companies. Our award-winning personal injury and wrongful death attorneys have won over a billion dollars in verdicts and settlements across the country. Let us put our experience to work for you. Contact us today.

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