When a doctor betrays the trust you place in them and causes serious damage to your life, it only makes sense that there be some way to hold them accountable. There is a way and that is through a medical malpractice suit. But not every disagreeable medical experience is grounds for malpractice. There are very specific elements that need to be present for a situation to be considered as malpractice.
We’ll look at what those characteristics are first, as they’ll help us to define the legal grounds for medical malpractice. Next we’ll look at some examples of what medical malpractice looks like, so you can see just how many opportunities there are for malpractice in the medical world. Lastly, we’ll look at what kinds of damages are included in the calculations for how much you should receive in compensation.
What Characteristics are Necessary for a Medical Malpractice Claim?
The first important thing to understand about medical malpractice is that it doesn’t just mean you are unhappy with a choice your doctor made or experienced a minor inconvenience caused by them.
For example: Your doctor informs you of a medication he wants you to take. They tell you that there could be side effects and to come back if they last. When you take the medication, you get a headache. It lasts for a few days and when you realize it is not going away, you cease the medication and contact your doctor. The experience you went through may have been painful, but it was not malpractice.
For a doctor’s actions to count as malpractice, they must meet three criteria. Medical malpractice cases can go on for days of arguing about whether or not a specific case has these three criteria and so it is smart to build a case for each of them by gathering evidence and expert testimony:
- A violation of the standard of care: There are medical standards at which a professional in the field should abide by. This is what is meant by the standard of care. Your doctor owes it to you to live up to that standard. In order for there to be malpractice, there must have been a betrayal or violation of that standard of care. Note, also, you must be seeing the doctor on a professional basis for there to be a standard of care owed to you. Casual advice from a doctor outside of a medical setting would almost never count as a violation for the purpose of a malpractice suit.
- An injury that was caused by a medical professional’s negligence: It’s not enough that the doctor violated their standard of care. For it to be malpractice, they must have caused you some kind of injury because of the violation of the standard of care. If they fail in their duty, but it has no impact on you, then that is just an unfortunate accident. If they fail in their duty and it causes you injury, that could be medical malpractice and grounds to seek compensation.
- Significant damages arising from that injury: But not every injury is serious enough to be considered for medical malpractice. These cases are expensive to litigate, often involve lots of specialists who need to be brought in, and lots of discussion. So while a minor injury may be the result of medical malpractice in theory, there needs to be significant damages on the line for it to be enough for a medical malpractice case. However, damages are more than just the injury you’ve suffered. More on that in a moment.
What is an Example of Medical Malpractice?
Malpractice can arise at many different stages in a patient’s medical journey. It happens in big, fancy hospitals and small, quaint village doctor’s offices. There is a chance for malpractice to occur anywhere in the system where a medical professional interacts with or makes decisions for a patient.
Common areas where medical negligence can lead to injuries serious enough for a lawsuit include:
- A failure to diagnose
- A misdiagnosis
- A failure to recognize your symptoms
- A failure to order the proper testing
- A premature discharge
- A failure to consider the patient history or a blatant disregard of it
- A lack of aftercare or follow-up
- Ordering an unnecessary surgical procedure
- Committing errors in the surgical procedure
- Prescribing a harmful medical
- Prescribing a harmful dosage
- Other medication errors
What are Damages in a Medical Malpractice Case?
One of the three key features of medical malpractice cases are that the victim suffered damages because of the mistake their doctor, surgeon, nurse, or other medical practitioner caused.
Damages aren’t just the physical damage you’ve suffered, such as an injury. It refers to many ways in which the medical malpractice caused a negative impact on your life. A lot of people think this means the costs associated with missing work or treating the new issue, but it also can refer to mental and emotional damages too.
Damages can include:
- General damages that don’t have a price such as a loss of the enjoyment of life, physical and mental pain, suffering, a loss of future earning capacity;
- Special damages like the cost of medical bills and work missed because of the injury; and
- Punitive damages, which are a little bit more complicated, could also be something to consider but it’s best to speak to your attorney about them as they’re very much decided on a case-by-case basis.
In a case where the medical malpractice led to death, it is possible for a family member to sue for damages on their behalf. Depending on the circumstances of the death, the doctor responsible could be facing several different lawsuits.
Can an Attorney Help With My Medical Malpractice Case?
If you think that you have the three necessary ingredients for a medical malpractice case, then absolutely. In fact, an attorney can help you to determine if you have those three criteria in your specific situation and help guide you through the legal process of getting the damages you deserve. After all, if you’ve been seriously injured by a doctor that you were supposed to trust, it only makes sense that justice prevails and you get the compensation you deserve, and Nimmons Malchow Johnson wants to be there to help you every step of the way.