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
- Michigan Birth Injury Litigation 101You spent nine months dreaming about what your baby would look like. You eagerly anticipated holding him for the first time. Hearing that first cry. Instead, there was panic. Labor took too long. You listened to the fetal heart rate monitor anxiously awaiting the next bleep that let you know your baby's heart was still beating.
- Recoverable Damages in Michigan Medical Malpractice CasesYour doctor made a mistake. You were injured. You now have to take time off work, pay unexpected medical costs, and hire someone to maintain your home and yard. As a result, you are teetering on the edge of financial ruin. Are you entitled to be reimbursed for medical expenses? Lost wages? Mental anguish? The short answer is yes.
- Is It Too late to Sue: Statutes of Limitation and Repose in MichiganLawyers receive calls every day from people who are injured but waited too long to sue. Don't sleep on your rights. There are time limits that must be followed when bringing a lawsuit. Wait too long, and your claim will become barred by a statute of limitation or repose.
- Michigan Medical Malpractice 101Michigan, like many other states, has strict rules governing the procedure one must follow in pursuing a lawsuit against a healthcare provider or hospital. Make a mistake, and the case might be dismissed. This area of the law is so complicated, a patient should not try to represent themselves.
- Importance of Using a Medical Oncology and Hematology Expert WitnessWhen someone has contracted cancer or has a blood disorder, he or she may be victim of a medical malpractice claim. This usually means that an expert in these matters needs to be hired to assist with evidence, medical procedures, processes and treatment as well as to assist in understanding how the injuries or further healthcare issues may have occurred.
- What To Expect from Your Attorney and What Your Attorney Expects from YouWhether you hire an attorney to negotiate a contract for your business, represent you during a contentious divorce or to file a malpractice action against your physician, you must be able to trust your lawyer and he you.
- Vertebrae Injuries that Occur During Newborn Delivery Explained by Expert WitnessMedical malpractice often needs the assistance of an expert witness due to the complexities and medical procedures that occur during surgery and other processes. When the vertebra is damaged during a newborn delivery, someone with a healthcare background should be hired to assist with the investigation and understanding of evidence.
- Medical Expert Witness Explains What Lawyers Must Understand about Informed ConsentIt is often necessary to hire an expert witness so that the judge or jury is able to understand certain aspects of a case or the evidence connected to it. However, some may become part of the proceedings so that certain persons are made aware of elements such as informed consent which requires more than simply obtaining permission for something specific.
- Lack of Regulation Regarding Ambulance Accidents in Texas Adds Insult to InjuryIn Texas, there are no laws requiring that private ambulance services carry anything more than a minimum limits policy. This is just one of many hurdles that make obtaining a fair recovery for a person injured by a negligent ambulance driver from obtaining a fair recovery.
- Where Is the Line Between Medical Judgment and Medical Malpractice?Doctors make life-changing decisions on a daily basis. When they make mistakes, the consequences can be devastating. While Colorado law affords doctors a certain amount of professional judgment, there is a line where harmful decisions cross into the realm of medical malpractice.
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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 “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.