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 “standard of care” 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 patient’s 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 patient’s 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 expert’s report will be turned over to the defendant’s 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 plaintiff’s 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 patient’s rights is to contact a qualified attorney.
Know Your Rights!
Articles on HG.org Related to Medical Malpractice Law
- Personal Injury and Worker’s Compensation Law Round-Up – February 2014Personal injury and workers' compensation lawyers have been discussing several important topics in the last few weeks, including the safety of surgical robots, the inadequacy of temp worker laws, employer abuse of the workers' compensation system, and the idea that doctors seek locations with lax regulations on professional liablility. This article is a brief summary of four separate articles detailing those topics.
- 5 Myths About Personal Injury LawsuitsThere is a lot of misinformation floating around on the web about certain aspects of personal injury cases. Here we will reflect upon those myths and help clear them up.
- Do Electronic Medical Records Impact Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?According to some experts, research shows that electronic health records “improve quality and safety and, as a result, prevent adverse events and reduce the risk of malpractice claims.”
- The Role of the Obstetrical Nurse in Labor and DeliveryThe birth of baby is usually a joyous occasion for expectant parents and their families. Since pregnancy and childbirth are a normal physiological process, the woman usually goes through the 9 month pregnancy expecting everything to be perfect at the end.
- The Myths and Lies of Tort ReformTort reform initiatives seek to limit plaintiff’s access to the court system, restrict the types of claims that can be asserted, and cap the damages to which you may recover in a lawsuit.
- 6 Secrets of Personal Injury LawyersNo one plans on getting into a car accident or other personal injury accident, but accidents can and do happen. It is important that, if you are injured in a personal injury accident, you understand your rights and legal options. An experienced personal injury attorney can provide you with the crucial information that you need in order to get the compensation that you deserve.
- Woman Sues Hospital for Loss of LegsA 33 year-old Brooklyn woman is suing a hospital for medical malpractice after a simple surgery resulted in an infection, causing both her legs to be amputated.
- Will Surveillance Cameras End Nursing Home Abuse?A watchful eye may be the better alternative to no eye at all in a situation where abuse of elderly or otherwise vulnerable residents is known to happen.
- What to Do If You Are Misdiagnosed in the Emergency RoomNo reasonable person ever wants to find themselves in a hospital emergency room. If you find yourself there, chances are you have been seriously injured or are gravely ill and in a lot of pain. An emergency room tends to be overloaded with patients and understaffed. This type of stressful atmosphere can often time lead to mistakes.
- Could a Doctor Be So Negligent That it is Considered Murder?Losing a loved one is never easy, especially when the loss could have been avoided. Often in cases of medical malpractice, those who are left behind after a loved one's passing wonder why the doctor is not going to jail for murder. Is it possible for one to charge a doctor with murder when their treatment of a patient was so poor as to result in death?
- All Health Care and Social Law Articles
- All Tort and Personal Injury Law Articles
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 “repairing” the justice system by limiting recovery for medical malpractice victims. This website explains the group’s 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.