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
- Holding Medical Professionals Accountable - Medical MalpractiveOne issue the American media loves to speak about is tort reform. It’s one of the favorite terms used by politicians, especially conservative, during election cycles, and it simply means making it harder for individuals to sue companies or individuals for wrongs or damages that have been done to them, or at the very least limiting the amount of damages.
- Medical Expert Witness in Delay to Diagnose CasesDiagnosing an illness is essential to ensure the right treatment is applied to the patient before the cause of his or her ailment progresses beyond that which medicine is capable. When there is a delay in these diagnoses, the individual could proceed to the last stages of the condition where there is no possible treatment available, and then he or she may die.
- Expert Witness Explains Liability Related to Inpatient SuicideThe dangers of inpatient suicide are often observable when the individual has little hope, appears depressed, has symptoms or is too happy. However, it is important to first assess the risk that suicide is possible, and then the professionals attempting to help the patient may avert the disaster before it occurs.
- Alternative Medicine Can KillAlternative medicine can be deadly for cancer patients who choose these treatments over more traditional cancer therapies and remedies. People with cancer who replace mainstream medical treatments with alternative medicine may be putting themselves at serious risk by giving up treatments that are proven methods to fight cancer.
- Medical Expert Witnesses in Death Penalty CasesMedical expert witnesses are often hired and used for various cases in prosecution and defense alike, and these professionals are able to explain various pieces of evidence. Through an understanding of the subject matter, these individuals are capable of explaining things to the jury or judge that were confusing or misunderstood previously.
- When You Need a Medical Expert WitnessMedical expert witnesses are hired for a variety of reasons, but their most often used expertise is to explain medical treatment procedures and processes for a case where someone has been injured. Professionals in the medical world provide services to a courtroom by explaining how an injury occurred and why it is so important to obtain compensation.
- Florida’s Law in Disqualifying Expert Witnesses in Medical Malpractice CasesBefore a medical malpractice case may proceed in the courts of law in Florida, the state has a requirement of an opinion being obtained by a qualified medical expert to explain that the claim has merit. If those in the case do not follow the correct procedure, the expert witness could be disqualified, and the case may be thrown out.
- Expert Witnesses Testify about Gastric BalloonsInjuries due to gastric balloons are still being researched due to this newer alternative for weight loss, and because it is still a surgery, internal damage is still likely outcome. When an individual is seeking compensation for incidents with gastric surgery, he or she may require the services of an expert witness that has performed these surgeries or understands the medical procedure.
- Malpractice suits alleging “improper bonuses” settledIncentives are a great way to motivate individuals and push them to reach new heights and get better at a given task. Rewarding people for their efforts is a common practice that usually yields a positive result but that was not the case in two recent medical malpractice lawsuits against UPMC [University of Pittsburgh Medical Center].
- Standard Nursing Obligations for CareNurses are held to a higher standard than other professionals because they deal with patients on a constant basis, and their actions could lead to injury or death to someone if they are not careful. These obligations that nurses should carry out affect the health and wellbeing of many different individuals each day.
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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.