Medical Malpractice Law
What is Medical Malpractice Law?
Medical malpractice law governs the liability of doctors and other treatment providers when they cause harm to a patient by rendering their services in a negligent manner. All states have their own laws and procedures to handle these specialized personal injury cases. But in general terms, a doctor will be held liable if his or her conduct fails to meet the ďstandard of careĒ provided by other doctors under similar circumstances.
Errors that qualify as medical malpractice will typically fall into one of several categories. These include a failure or delay in diagnosing a patientís condition, misreading X-rays, prescribing the wrong pharmaceuticals, failing to warn a patient of the risks or side effects of a procedure, performing services without the patientís informed consent, and making a mistake during surgery or childbirth.
When doctors act carelessly, the results can be catastrophic for the patient. It is not surprising, then, that damage awards in medical malpractice cases are among the largest of all personal injury cases. Damages may include medical expenses, physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, lost wages, decreases in earning potential, punitive damages, as well as compensation for partial or complete impairment, disfigurement, and death.
Expert witnesses play a unique role in medical malpractice lawsuits. Many of the issues debated in these cases, such as whether a surgery was performed correctly, are too complex for judges and juries to understand on their own. This means other doctors must be called upon to study the case, render an opinion, and explain their findings. For the injured patient, the expense of hiring an expert significantly increases the cost of bringing the claim.
A number of public policy groups and elected officials oppose large damage awards in medical malpractice suits. Referred to as tort reform, this effort aims to pass legislation making it more difficult for injured people to file lawsuits, and to cap the amount of damages they can recover once they win. Proponents argue that tort reform will reduce the cost of health care, but the data is inconclusive, and the issue remains highly contentious.
Compensation for Your Suffering
The first step in pursuing a medical malpractice case is to retain an attorney. Unlike some other areas of the law, self-representation in these cases is not feasible. In fact, due to the financial resources and litigation expertise required, most attorneys do not accept medical malpractice cases. Plaintiffs should seek out a reputable law firm that specializes in medical malpractice.
The attorney will begin by conducting an in-depth evaluation of the factual circumstances surrounding the incident. Hospital records and other evidence will be gathered, and depositions (formal interviews for the purpose of recording sworn testimony) will be taken of the defendant and any witnesses. A medical expert, who will later be available to testify at trial, will then review the evidence and draft a report for the plaintiff.
The expertís report will be turned over to the defendantís attorneys and insurance adjuster, and settlement negotiations will take place. If the two sides can agree on the amount of damages that should be paid, they will enter into a settlement agreement. The plaintiff will be compensated, and the case will end. If the parties cannot agree, the case will proceed to trial. A judge or jury will then decide the outcome.
During the entire process, the plaintiffís attorney must comply with a variety of procedural requirements. A single misstep can result in the case being dismissed. These requirements include a statute of limitations, which is a strict deadline for filing the paperwork to initiate the lawsuit. Depending on state law, the case may have to be presented to a medical review board prior to filing suit, and special notices to the defendant may be required.
Patients trust doctors to perform their duties with care. However, when preventable accidents occur during the course of medical treatment, injured patients and their families often encounter insurance companies that want to deny compensation, or pay far less than they should. If medical malpractice is suspected, the best way to protect a patientís rights is to contact a qualified attorney.
Know Your Rights!
Articles on HG.org Related to Medical Malpractice Law
- Electronic Records and Patient SafetyGuidelines have been put in place for healthcare professionals and staff in medical facilities that require that standards are followed closely. These guidelines are to provide proper treatment and avoid medical malpractice as much as possible. One standard is to provide safety of medical records and privacy. A physician may be held liable for breaching a patientís confidentiality.
- What Is the Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice for Georgia?When a patient is injured by their doctorís negligence, they can file a medical malpractice lawsuit. In Georgia, the statute of limitations can vary based on the specific circumstances of each case.
- Medical Malpractice Claims for Elective SurgeriesElective surgery is an operation that is arranged in advance as it does not consist of a health emergency. Semi-elective surgery is an operation that is essential to sustain the patient's life, but does not necessitate immediacy.
- Misdiagnosis of Breast CancerBreast cancer is a great concern to many, and it incessantly plagues individuals in the United States along with the entire healthcare system. Diagnosing breast cancer may be a difficult process based on the related issues in the same area.
- Risks of Genetics-Based Medical TreatmentTechnological advancements have paved the way for genetics-based treatment for the medical world. It has been hailed as the future of medicine that can lead the nation into a more technologically-inclined world. With a fully explored genome, medical treatment can be a customized experience.
- Misdiagnosis of Pancreatic CancerPancreatic cancer begins in the pancreas. Generally these cancers are exocrine gland tumors. Exocrine glands comprise perspiration, saliva, mammary, sebaceous and mucous.
- Medication ErrorsSome of the most vulnerable patients are those in nursing homes. These patients are often weak, have memory or cognitive deficits, and rely on the medical and support staff of the nursing home to fulfill their basic needs. Many nursing home residents take a host of medications to treat and manage a variety of ailments. When mistakes occur in the administration of these medications, the results can be serious, and sometimes even fatal.
- Risks of Unnecessary C-SectionsSurgery runs the general risk of ending a patientís life through several factors that are minimized through regulations and guidelines. Healthcare professionals are tasked with taking precautions and ensure a sterile environment for all patients. When a mother is due to deliver a child, surgery may run higher risks than natural birth.
- New Jersey Doctor Loses Medical LicenseA 61-year-old family doctor with practices in Creskill and Little Falls, New Jersey has agreed in a consent order with the State Board of Medical Examiners to forfeit his medical license after he was sentenced to more than three years in prison for health care fraud.
- Patients' Right to Informed ConsentWhen it comes to recommending a course of treatment for a patient, whether it involves medication, a surgical procedure, or any other medical intervention, it is the doctorís responsibility to explain both the benefits and the risks associated with the treatment.
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State Boards of Medical Examiners and Licensure
Medical Malpractice - US
- ABA - Medical Malpractice
The American Bar Association offers this brief definition of medical malpractice, as well as answers to several commonly asked questions on the topic.
- Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
HHS is the federal agency charged with protecting the health of Americans. This includes the administration of Medicare and Medicaid. These insurance programs often play a role in medical malpractice claims.
- Illinois Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, hospital, or other health care provider fails to adhere to the standard of care and a patient is injured or dies as a result. Each state has its own laws regarding medical malpractice.
- Medical Liability Reform (ATRA)
The American Tort Reform Association is dedicated to ďrepairingĒ the justice system by limiting recovery for medical malpractice victims. This website explains the groupís mission and current activities.
- Medical Malpractice - Wikipedia
This Wikipedia entry describes the subject of medical malpractice, with a focus on legal actions brought in the United States. Tort reform is also discussed.
- Medical Malpractice Illinois
Medical malpractice (IL) occurs when a doctor, hospital, or other health care provider fails to adhere to the standard of care and a patient is injured or dies as a result.
- Medical Malpractice Insurance
Treatment providers carry insurance to cover claims brought by patients. Medical malpractice insurance is described on this web page published by the Insurance Information Institute.
- Medical Malpractice Law
This web page contains a number of articles on medical malpractice law. Topics include case evaluation, expert witnesses, and methods for calculating damages.