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Medical Malpractice — Definition

Chloe Meltzer | October 19, 2022

Legal Expert
Chloe Meltzer, MA

Chloe Meltzer is an experienced content writer specializing in legal content creation. She holds a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University, complemented by a Master’s in Marketing from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Medical malpractice is like ^^

Summary: Medical malpractice occurs when a health professional does not perform medical care that matches the accepted standard of care and is usually due to negligence. Here is SoloSuit's guide to medical malpractice, examples, and potential forms of compensation.

Medical malpractice is an illegal and punishable act that occurs when a hospital, doctor or other health care professional is negligent. Because of this negligence or omission, the result is injury or death to a patient. In many cases, negligence is the result of an error, typically in the diagnosis, treatment, or aftercare of a health condition.

In this article, we will break down the characteristics that constitute medical malpractice, examples of medical malpractice, and compensation that may be granted to victims of medical malpractice.

Let's get right to it.

Characteristics of medical malpractice

Medical malpractice is governed under a specific law; because of this, the medical malpractice claim must have the following characteristics:

  • The medical practice does not meet the required standard of care.
  • The medical practice causes injury due to negligence.
  • The injury resulted in significant damages.

Now, let's take a closer look at each of these characteristics.

The medical practice does not meet the required standard of care

The law that governs medical malpractice suits states that there are certain medical standards recognized as acceptable medical treatment. These standards must be upheld by health care professionals, and sometimes the standard of care varies depending on the type of treatment setting involved or even the state in which the treatment takes place. This is referred to as the “standard of care.”

Essentially, this is how patients know that health care professionals will deliver the same level of care, regardless of who they obtain care from. One way to measure the standard of care is to ask if another health care professional would have performed the same treatment under identical, or similar, circumstances. If this standard of care has not been met, then negligence may be established.

The medical practice causes injury due to negligence

One of the most common forms of medical malpractice is due to injury. Injury usually validates a claim because it can be difficult to prove that a health care professional simply violated the standard of care without an injury to serve as proof. In order for the claim to be valid, the injury must have occurred specifically due to the actions of the health care professional, and due to their negligence.

There is a difference between a bad outcome of surgery and negligence. In order for the case to be considered malpractice, the patient has to be able to prove that the injury was due to negligence. Otherwise, there is no case. As a reminder, medical negligence is the act or omission (failure to act) of a medical professional that deviates from the established standard of care.

The injury resulted in significant damages

Medical malpractice lawsuits are not something that is taken lightly. They are very expensive to litigate and often require a large number of witness interviews. This means the case will require the testimony of many medical experts and many hours of deposition testimony. This is the main way that the case can be proved, but experts must show that damages resulted due to negligence.

In some cases, the damages may be too small, and pursuing the case is pointless because the cost may not be as much as the cost of litigation. This is why you must show that the negligence resulted in either disability, loss of income, unusual pain, suffering, hardship, mental or emotional distress, or significant medical bills.

Examples of medical malpractice

Medical malpractice can be found in various forms. As long as it is the result of negligence and it leads to injury, it is considered medical malpractice. Examples include:

  • Failure to diagnose
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Misreading or ignoring laboratory results
  • Performing unnecessary surgery
  • Surgical errors
  • Surgery on the wrong part of the body
  • Improper medication or dosage
  • Poor follow-up
  • Improper aftercare
  • Premature discharge
  • Not taking into account the patient's history
  • Failure to order proper testing
  • Failure to recognize symptoms
  • Not ordering proper tests

Understand if you have a case of medical malpractice

It can be difficult to know whether or not you have a medical malpractice case. For example, in the event that one of your limbs was amputated, but it was the wrong one, or if a procedure was performed on the wrong patient, these would be pretty obvious negligence cases. In other situations, a patient may not recognize the malpractice. This can be due to an injury showing itself later or medical providers not explaining the mistakes they made.

Forms of compensation

Medical injuries not only impact your life at the moment but can continue to affect your life until you eventually die. This can impact you financially, but also emotionally. Because of this, you need to investigate all the ways that your injury affects your life. Consider how it hurt you in the past, present, and how it will continue in the future.

You must then consider the value of your damages. This may be economic, but it can also be in pain and suffering. You should then outline them all, and present them to the insurance provider of whoever you are bringing the suit against. Usually, they will consider this and attempt to settle. However, if you cannot agree on an amount, you may end up filing a lawsuit and going to court.

Compensation can come in the following forms:

  • Medical expenses: If you have very high medical bills, you may seek compensation to help cover the costs. These costs might include doctor visits, therapy, prescription drugs, corrective surgery, and any general future medical expenses.
  • Pain and suffering: Pain and suffering usually refers to the emotional stress that an injury can cause, rather than physical pain. This is sometimes due to debt from hospital bills, anxiety, or depression.
  • Loss of consortium: In many cases, this is due to wrongful death, but it can be other things as well. For example, loss of consortium can include a loss of family benefits, such as sexual relations, companionship, affection, and comfort. Essentially any loss due to negligence that caused a death.
  • Loss of wages or future earnings: When severe injuries occur it cannot only stop the flow of current income but prevent you from working in the future. If this is what happened to you due to negligence, you may be able to seek compensation for lost wages, including damages for your future earning potential.

The statute of limitations

There are some states that impose time limits for how long you can make a claim. This is called the statute of limitations. Unfortunately, if signs of an injury present themselves, and you report it but do not bring up a case, then you may lose your chance. However, the statute of limitations clock will begin on the date the patient discovered their injury or illness. This means if you realize you have a possible case, you should bring it to litigation as quickly as possible.

The statute of limitations on medical malpractice may be different, depending on which state you live in and in which state the malpractice occurred.

If you are a victim of medical malpractice

If you believe that you or a family member has been a victim of medical malpractice, then you need to consult an attorney. Whether this resulted in serious injury or death, you may be able to obtain compensation for the damages caused.

Respond to a civil lawsuit

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