Medical malpractice cases fall under the umbrella of personal injury law, and if you believe you were a victim of negligence while receiving care, you may have a case. If you are looking to learn more, here is an overview of this type of case. If you think you have a legitimate claim, it is imperative you meet with an attorney as soon as possible.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is the failure of a health care provider to provide an established standard of care, and in doing so, caused injury or death.
What is the ‘Standard of Care’?
Usually, each state has its definition of ‘negligence’ that is applied to personal injury cases. But, the ‘standard of care’ is defined by the medical community. It is not ‘optimal’ care or looking at what should have been done in hindsight. Essentially, it is defined as an action that would have been taken by another ‘reasonable’ health care provider had he been in the same situation.
This standard of care is typically defined by medical text, literature from health organizations, medical text and the experience of medical experts. Because this ‘standard of care’ is not something that is clearly defined to the letter, the testimony of experts is usually a necessary and crucial aspect of a case.
What Constitutes Malpractice?
To claim medical malpractice, the bad result must have been directly caused by the health care provider’s negligence—even if a doctor was negligent but something else caused the issue, or you simply received a bad result with no negligence, it wouldn’t be considered malpractice. While these cases probably bring to mind suits against doctors, you can bring suit against any health care provider, such as a nurse, technician, optometrist or physical therapist.
A misdiagnosis is not necessarily grounds for malpractice—medicine is not an exact science, and doctors are not bound by any sort of law to be right each and every time—they are just expected to treat you in a way that is in line with the established standard of care.
Other situations that may constitute malpractice include, but are not limited to, surgical errors, prescribing the wrong medication, a nurse not following a doctor’s orders, failure to properly treat a condition or treat it at all and not providing informed consent.
When meeting with a lawyer, he will ask you detailed questions about your situation to determine whether you have a legitimate claim.
What is Contributory Negligence?
In any sort of personal injury case, any part the plaintiff may have played in contributing to the injury is taken into account. Depending on the actions taken, this may nullify any case you have, or reduce damages. This is referred to as ‘contributory negligence.’ One example would be if you are suing a doctor for failure to properly diagnose your cancer, but neglected to get a particular screening he recommended.
If you believe you have a case, you should meet with an attorney as soon as possible; you only have a certain window of time to file a suit, and while there are some exceptions to the statute of limitations set forth by your state, most people will be held to this time limit. Make sure the lawyer you choose has experience not only in this area of personal injury law, but with your specific type of injury.