Medical malpractice, which is also termed “medical negligence”, is when a medical professional falls below the standard of care when treating a patient. This involves either the actions or inaction that leads to the patient’s injury or death. It can be committed by nurses, physician’s assistants, physical therapists, dentists and other types of professionals in the healthcare field.
They fall under three distinct categories:
- The failure to make a proper diagnosis of a medical condition, that reasonably competent doctors would make
- The failure to treat a diagnosed condition in a proper manner
- The failure to receive informed consent from a patient prior to conducting a certain treatment
Let us take a closer look at each of these areas…
When a doctor does not use the symptoms and provided evidence to make the correct diagnosis, this can lead to problems. If any competent doctor would make the correct diagnosis given what is provided, the doctor likely will be liable for his or her mistaken diagnosis.
Mistakes in treatment can be obvious, or they may not be so clear-cut. The mistakes may be due to the doctor or other medical staff not paying attention, or having a lapse in judgment. An expert witness in the medical field usually is brought in to assist the legal team with the case.
A doctor must always obtain informed consent from his or her patient, after giving the appropriate information to the patient. This includes the risks from the treatment, prognosis, and the details of what the treatment involves. If this information is not provided to the patient, a medical malpractice case can be brought against the professional.
Even doctors and other medical professionals sometimes make mistakes. It really depends on the nature of the mistake and the results. If it was something that no competent doctor would do and results in injury or death, then you likely will have a legal case.
This can be difficult to determine. Of course, the individual who committed an act or failed to act (doctor or other type of professional who was in charge of providing healthcare) can be held liable. In addition, the hospital or facility may be held responsible, depending on the details of what occurred.
Typically, the answer is “no” if you merely are not totally satisfied with the care that was received. The determining factor would be if you or a loved one suffered an injury or death as a result of someone’s negligence or fault in care.
There is a statute of limitations in place in every state. However, this can be suspended to extend the time allowed after the incident(s) occurred. It is best to consult a lawyer to check on this requirement as soon as you are able, so that you do not end up missing out on your chance to seek legal retribution.
Since there are complicated questions at hand and any lawyer and legal team will need to have documentation for a solid case, gather up any evidence you have of wrongdoing on the part of your doctor or anyone else who was responsible for your medical care.
Besides the law firm, you should have an expert medical witness to assist with the important medical questions. He or she can offer educated opinions on what exactly constitutes medical malpractice in your situation. Of course, you also will want the support of caring family and friends who have been involved while you had medical care.
First, you need to prove that you entered into a doctor-patient (or healthcare professional/patient) relationship with the doctor or other type of professional against whom you are filing the claim. You also need to have supporting evidence that the professional has committed negligence, as well as the fact that there is a causal link between the negligence and harm that occurred. The damages should be well documented as soon as they occur or are found.
There are some malpractice cases that do go all the way to trial. It is much more likely for such cases to be settled out of court, though.
Some lawsuits can take awhile to complete. However, this all depends on the facts and whether it is a clear, obvious matter of negligence that can be proven. If the defendant takes responsibility quickly and the case is settled, it can be over in a matter of a few months.
Lawyers will charge different legal fees, some a flat fee, some contingent and others an hourly rate. The final cost for all services granted widely varies, though there are laws in the state of California for the maximum contingency fees that can be charged. If you settle quickly without the lawyer having to put in many hours working on your case, chances are it will not be incredibly expensive.
Your lawyer will use certain guidelines to determine the value of the compensation you should receive. The attorney will base this off of your pain and suffering, payment of medical expenses, reimbursement for the present, past or future financial losses that you have or will be incurred as a result of your inability to be employed. Non-economic damages are capped at an amount of $250,000 in California.