Understanding Medical Malpractice And What It Takes To Make A Case

If you have experienced a negative outcome to surgery or other medical treatment, you may be considering filing a medical malpractice suit against your doctor or medical facility. While this is an option when things go wrong, a negative outcome does not necessarily equate to malpractice. There are some conditions that must be met in order for your case to qualify as malpractice.

What is malpractice?

Medical malpractice refers to negligence or omission by a medical professional or medical facility that results in injury to a patient. The error does not need to be willful neglect, but can result from an oversight or other actions of the medical staff. Some common forms of negligence or omission include:

  • Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis – This applies when the misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis prevents the patient from receiving proper treatment that would have avoided the injury, or when treatment for the erroneous condition causes the patient injury.

  • Improper Treatment Options – This may include providing the wrong treatment for a medical condition or failing to inform the patient of other treatment options that could have reasonably avoided the injury.

  • Medication and/or Anesthesia Errors - This may include prescribing the wrong medication or anesthesia, errors in dosage and errors in administering the medication.

  • Surgery Errors – This includes failure to perform the scheduled procedure, puncturing internal organs or improper post-op care that results in infection or another injury.

In order to qualify as medical malpractice, the action must be contrary to a "reasonable standard of care".

What is "reasonable standard of care"?

Although there are no specific guidelines to define the term reasonable standard of care, it is generally accepted to mean the care that a reasonable professional in the same circumstances would have provided to the patient. Most agree that reasonable means following protocol, observing hospital policies and providing care that is scientifically based.

Who decides what is "reasonable care"?

When it comes to a malpractice suit, expert witnesses are often called to testify about the reasonable standard of care in a specific situation. Because each case is different and medical procedures and care differ according to the circumstances, what is reasonable in one case may not be reasonable in another. For example, medical staff providing treatment in a rural clinic with limited resources may be held to a different standard of care than medical personnel in a large hospital with access to top-of-the-line equipment and diagnostic tools. The test of meeting reasonable care hinges on the care that would be given by another professional in the same circumstances.

Can you file a malpractice suit when a doctor makes a mistake if it doesn't injure you?

No. There must be evidence that the negligence or omission caused you injury. You can report the doctor or the medical facility to the licensing board if they make errors in your treatment or you think they are negligent, but you cannot seek a monetary settlement unless you experience an injury.

What should you do if you think your injury qualifies as malpractice?

You should call a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible after the injury and discuss the details of your case with him. He can advise you of whether or not your case is likely to hold up in court, which parties can be held responsible for the injury, and can direct you to the proper steps to take to file your claim. Each state has its own statute of limitations on filing a medical malpractice case. A limitation of two to four years is common for injuries that occur at the time of the treatment, while many states allow additional time to file a case if the injury is not discovered, or symptoms do not appear, until a later date. For more information on a particular situation, consider contacting a medical malpractice lawyer in your area. Professionals like Robert Reardon may be able to meet your needs.