Medical malpractice is an act or omission by a medical provider that does not meet the requisite standard of care in the medical community, which in turn causes serious injury or death to the patient. Some health care providers have made profitability a priority over the health and well being of their patients. Additionally, many doctors are overworked as they are required to work countless hours per week while being inundated with the number patients they have to see and treat.
Regardless of the reason, the health care provider should be held accountable its negligent acts or omissions. A patient entrusts his or her care to a physician who must exercise a certain degree of care and skill in treating the patient. Should the physician fail to meet these standards and an injury results, the affected patient may have a claim for medical malpractice.
Standard of Care and Proof
In a typical negligence claim, you must show that the defendant owed a duty of reasonable care towards the plaintiff or injured party. The standard is one of a reasonable person acting under similar conditions.
For a medical malpractice claim, a doctor has to meet the minimum standards of a reasonable physician in a similar practice or medical field acting under similar conditions and circumstances. For instance, a pediatrician does not have the same standards to meet as a neurologist, nor does a doctor practicing in rural Mississippi with scarce resources have to meet the same standard of care as one who practices in downtown Manhattan.
Examples of Medical Malpractice
Here are some common examples of medical malpractice:
- Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis: A missed diagnosis or a delayed one that a reasonably competent doctor in the same medical field should have made, which would have significantly increased a patient’s chances of survival or saved the patient from a disfiguring condition or loss of an organ.
- Wrong site surgery: Remarkably, surgeons do operate on the wrong side of the body, the wrong limb, wrong organ and wrong patient. Surgeons and hospitals have protocols for preventing these errors but they still occur.
- Surgical instrument left inside body cavity: Following surgery, the surgeon and staff fail to count the instruments or miscount. In some cases, these are left for months or years leading to infections, more surgery, severe pain and other complications.
- Improper medication or dosage: A failure to have a complete medical history, the misreading of a record, failure to know a patient’s reaction to medication, and the wrong dosing can lead to stroke, organ failure or death.
- Anesthesia errors: Too little or too much anesthesia, a delay in administering it, a mechanical failure, or drug interactions with the anesthesia can all turn deadly.
- Failure to refer to specialist: Even if a doctor is unable to diagnose or treat a patient, the failure to note certain symptoms that should have been detected or reported and that should have led to a referral to a specialist may be grounds for malpractice.
- Surgical errors: An injury during a surgical procedure that a reasonably competent surgeon under similar circumstances would not have committed.
Medical malpractice is a complicated specialty of personal injury law that normally requires an attorney with the resources to litigate these suits and the skill and knowledge of medical science. Also, most states require that a medical expert in the same field as the physician suspected of malpractice certify that he or she has the opinion that malpractice has occurred in this case when the lawsuit is filed.
Further, most jurisdictions have shorter time limits for filing and specific rules for when a plaintiff can file. Some hospitals that are named in legal malpractice suits may only have the issues alleged against them decided by arbitration rather than the normal court process.
Lastly, nearly all states have limits or caps on the amount of noneconomic damages that may be awarded in a medical malpractice case and some bar punitive damage awards. Noneconomic damages refer to pain and suffering or to loss of love and companionship in wrongful death actions.
If you suspect medical malpractice, it is imperative that you promptly contact a medical malpractice attorney to explore all your legal options and to prevent the possibility of not meeting filing and reporting deadlines. If you feel that you have been a victim of medical malpractice, please do not hesitate to contact The Law Offices of Duane O. King today for a free consultation and evaluation of your case.