What Are the Grounds for Medical Malpractice?

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Medical malpractice happens when a hospital or healthcare provider harms a patient through negligence or omission. To have grounds for medical malpractice claims, plaintiffs must show that the healthcare provider owed the patient a professional duty of care, the provider violated the duty of care, the violation injured the patient, and the injury caused significant damages. The facts and specific details of your case will determine whether you have the grounds to file a medical malpractice claim. Advice or representation from a skilled lawyer is necessary to prove medical malpractice and recover maximum compensation. 

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice happens when a hospital, doctor, and any other medical practitioner injures or kills a patient by failing to render medical care or treatment that satisfies the relevant standard of care under the conditions. Standard of care refers to the level of care and competence that a similarly trained and skilled medical practitioner practicing in the same specialty as the accused medical practitioner would have exercised. 

A medical practitioner can fail to satisfy the relevant standard of care through actions, inaction, or omissions. A medical expert witness is usually necessary to explain how the medical practitioner’s failure to meet the relevant standard of care contributed to the patient’s injury or death. 

A medical malpractice claim can stem from different situations. These situations include leaving a surgical tool in a patient’s body during an operation or failure to properly inform a patient of potential risks. Medical malpractice claims can arise from any of the following avoidable medical mistakes:

Misdiagnosis 

Misdiagnosis refers to an inaccurate diagnosis of a health problem. A misdiagnosis can occur due to failure to conduct appropriate testing procedures, misinterpretation of test results, anesthesia and surgical errors, or faulty testing equipment. You have a valid medical malpractice claim if a different doctor with a similar level of competence could have diagnosed your condition correctly. 

A study published in the BMJ Journals found that up to 12 million Americans get misdiagnosed every year. About half of those misdiagnosed have a likelihood of suffering severe harm. A misdiagnosis can prolong recovery and subject you to harmful and unnecessary treatment. As such, it is crucial to know what to do if you have been misdiagnosed

Failure to Inform a Patient of Potential Risks 

Medical providers owe patients a duty of informed consent. In other words, they must adequately inform you of the potential risks of a proposed treatment procedure or plan. You might have viable grounds for medical malpractice if your doctor failed to adequately inform you about the known risks of a proposed treatment or medical procedure, and you got injured. 

Improper Treatment 

This medical malpractice occurs when a doctor diagnoses your medical condition correctly but provides the wrong treatment. Improper treatment can cause worsening of the underlying condition, allergic reactions, medical complications, or death. Treatment that fails to work as expected is one of the most common signs of medical malpractice

Do You Have Grounds for a Medical Malpractice Claim?

You have grounds for a medical malpractice claim if you can prove the following four elements: 

A Professional Duty of Care Existed 

“Duty of care” refers to the legal responsibilities doctors or other medical providers have when they are treating patients. You can prove this element by showing that you had a professional relationship with the doctor in question. Evidence of attending and paying for appointments with the medical provider, including medical bills and invoices, can be sufficient proof of the existence of a doctor-patient relationship. 

Breach of Duty 

This element requires you to show that your doctor violated the duty of care owed to you. To do that, you will need a medical expert witness to define the applicable standard of care within the doctor’s medical community and show how the doctor violated it. 

Breach of Duty of Care Caused an Injury 

A violation of the applicable standard of care is not sufficient ground for a medical malpractice claim. You must demonstrate that you suffered an injury that the doctor could have otherwise avoided by meeting the standard of care. An injury can be physical, psychological, or deterioration in physical health because of improper treatment or lack of treatment.  

The Injury Caused Significant Damages 

You must show that you suffered significant damages because of the malpractice. Damages include medical bills, wage or income loss, physical pain, and emotional trauma. 

Is Medical Malpractice Hard to Prove?

Medical malpractice is harder to prove than typical personal injury cases. Medical malpractice cases have a higher burden of proof than car accidents or slip and fall cases. Doctors and other medical professionals have a standard of care that goes over and above the general standard of care. Medical professionals must offer the level of care that a similarly-skilled medical professional within the same medical community would have offered under the same conditions that resulted in the alleged malpractice.

A medical expert witness is instrumental in determining whether a medical professional acted negligently. Unfortunately, finding a medical practitioner ready to serve as an expert witness and testify against a colleague is challenging. Many medical professionals prefer to side with their colleagues over testifying against them in court. A medical malpractice lawyer can help find and work with the right medical practitioner to provide a comprehensive and unbiased opinion on whether the defendant met the applicable standard of care. 

The evidence adduced in medical malpractice cases is often confusing for someone without a medical background. The jury might still misunderstand some evidence regarding the medical treatment and decide in favor of the defendant even after listening to expert witness testimony. 

Establishing a direct link between medical negligence and your injury is hard. The defense often attempts to find an alternative explanation for your injury. The defense may, for instance, argue that your injuries stemmed from a potential risk for which you were informed adequately. 

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