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What is Considered Medical Malpractice?

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Walner Law®

September 22, 2023


Medical malpractice is a critical issue that affects countless patients within the healthcare system. When seeking medical care, patients trust healthcare professionals to provide competent and safe treatment. However, there are instances where this trust is misplaced, and patients experience harm or injury due to the negligence or improper conduct of medical practitioners. 

Understanding what constitutes medical malpractice is paramount for both patients and healthcare providers. This article delves into the complexities of medical malpractice and ways to seek compensation for those impacted by this form of professional negligence.

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice refers to the professional negligence or misconduct by healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses, surgeons, pharmacists, and other medical professionals. It occurs when these professionals fail to meet the established standard of care in their field, resulting in harm, injury, or even death to a patient. This negligence can manifest in various ways, such as misdiagnosis, surgical errors, medication mistakes, birth injuries, anesthesia errors, and more.

To establish a case of medical malpractice, several elements must typically be present. First, there must be a duty owed by the healthcare professional to the patient, meaning a formal doctor-patient relationship exists. Second, the healthcare professional must have breached the standard of care, which involves a deviation from what a reasonably competent professional would do in a similar situation. Third, this breach of the standard of care must directly cause harm or injury to the patient. Finally, the harm caused must result in significant damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related losses. Medical malpractice cases require a thorough examination of the facts and often involve expert testimonies to establish the breach of the standard of care and its resulting impact on the patient.

What are Medical Malpractice Examples?

Medical malpractice can take many different forms, some of which we’ve outlined here. However, if you’re unsure whether you or someone you know was a victim of medical malpractice, consult an attorney to find out if you have a case.

Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

Misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and failure to diagnose occur when a healthcare professional fails to accurately diagnose a medical condition or delays the diagnosis, leading to delayed or improper treatment and potentially worsening the patient’s condition.

Surgical Errors

Surgical errors involve mistakes made during surgery, such as operating on the wrong body part, leaving surgical instruments or foreign objects inside the patient, or performing the wrong procedure. These errors can result in significant harm and additional medical interventions.

Medication Errors

Medication errors encompass administering the wrong medication, incorrect dosage, or medication the patient is allergic to. These errors can cause adverse reactions, serious health issues, or even be fatal.

Birth Injuries

Birth injuries occur during childbirth due to medical negligence, leading to harm to the baby or mother. Examples include nerve injuries, brain damage, fractures, or other complications that can have long-lasting effects on the child and family.

Anesthesia Errors

Anesthesia errors involve mistakes in administering anesthesia during surgery. Errors in dosage, improper monitoring, or failure to consider a patient’s medical history can result in adverse reactions, brain damage, or even death.

What Happens in a Medical Malpractice Case?

In a medical malpractice case, several key steps unfold as the injured party seeks to establish negligence and seek compensation for the harm they’ve experienced. 

First, the injured individual consults with a medical malpractice attorney who assesses the case’s merits. The attorney conducts a thorough review of medical records, consults with experts to evaluate the standard of care applicable to the situation, and determines if the healthcare professional’s actions or omissions breached this standard. If the attorney believes there’s a viable case, they file a lawsuit against the alleged negligent party or parties, outlining the claims and the damages sought.

After the lawsuit is filed, both parties engage in a process of discovery, where they exchange information and evidence related to the case. This includes depositions, medical examinations, and expert testimonies. Subsequently, negotiations and potential settlement discussions may occur between the parties to reach a resolution outside of court. If a settlement isn’t attainable or deemed unsatisfactory, the case proceeds to trial. 

During the trial, both sides present their arguments, and a judge or jury determines liability and the extent of compensation owed to the injured party, considering factors such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other relevant damages. The outcome of the trial is crucial in determining if and how the injured party will be compensated for the medical malpractice.

What kind of damages can the plaintiff get?

In a medical malpractice case, the plaintiff, or the injured party, may be eligible to receive various types of damages as compensation for the harm and losses they’ve suffered due to the negligence of a healthcare professional. These damages can be broadly categorized into economic and non-economic damages. 

Economic damages aim to reimburse the plaintiff for tangible financial losses, such as: 

  • Medical expenses (past, present, and future)
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Lost wages or reduced earning capacity
  • Prescription medications
  • Other quantifiable monetary losses are directly linked to the malpractice.

Non-economic damages are more subjective and encompass intangible losses that are challenging to quantify precisely. These may include compensation for: 

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of companionship or consortium
  • Other emotional or psychological trauma resulting from medical malpractice 

The amount awarded for non-economic damages often varies based on the severity and impact of the malpractice on the individual’s life. In some cases, there may also be punitive damages awarded if the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious, aiming to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar actions in the future. However, punitive damages are not always awarded and are contingent on the circumstances and laws of the jurisdiction in which the case is tried.

Contact an Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer

In the face of medical malpractice, the path to justice and rightful compensation can seem daunting, yet it’s a path that should not be navigated alone. Seeking the expertise and guidance of a seasoned medical malpractice lawyer is essential. They possess the legal knowledge and experience needed to navigate the intricacies of these cases, advocating for your rights and tirelessly working to hold those responsible for negligence accountable. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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