When doctors make mistakes that could have been avoided if they had been more careful, and these mistakes cause harm and injury, patients can file a medical malpractice suit to recover damages. Medical malpractice refers to any type of negligence or preventable error by a medical professional. In some instances, this negligence can cause the death of a patient, or can cause permanent injury or disability.
What Elements Must Exist To File a Medical Malpractice Claim?
There are several elements that must exist in order for you to file a medical malpractice claim, including:
- Duty of Care Owed To You – This simply means that a doctor, surgeon or other healthcare professional have a responsibility to perform their duties without causing you harm or injury. Duty of care is the reasonable expectation that a patient has in the skill and knowledge of a doctor.
- Breach of Duty of Care – This means that a doctor, surgeon or other healthcare professional breached their duty of care to you by a negligent or careless act. For example, if a surgeon leaves an instrument inside you during surgery, that would be considered a breach of duty of care.
- Breach Caused Harm Or Injury – This means that the breach of duty of care was the ‘proximate cause’ of your injury. The term proximate cause refers to whether your injury would have occurred if the doctor, surgeon or healthcare professional had not been negligent or careless. In other words, would other factors have caused your injury if the doctor hadn’t been negligent? This is often a key element of a malpractice suit.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice Claims
There can be many circumstances that lead to a malpractice claim, but the most common types of cases include:
- Surgical Errors – During an operation, a surgeon may make an error such as leaving an instrument inside a patient, operating on the wrong side of a patient or on the wrong organ, and making an incision that is too deep, which causes massive bleeding. It’s important to remember that some surgical errors were not made because of negligence, so it’s up to the plaintiff to prove that the error was due to incompetence or carelessness.
- Birth Injuries – While the childbirth process has become almost routine, there are still thousands of birth injuries that occur every year. If these injuries were caused by the negligence of an OBGYN, nurse or other healthcare professional, the parents of the child can file a malpractice suit. If a child dies at childbirth due to negligence, the parents can choose to file a wrongful death claim instead of a malpractice claim.
- Misdiagnosis – When a doctor misdiagnoses an illness, condition or disease, and that misdiagnosis causes a patient harm or injury, the patient can file a malpractice suit. Misdiagnosis is dangerous, because a patient may be given the wrong medication, recommended the wrong surgery, or valuable time can be lost because a more serious condition was not detected.
- Medication Errors – If a doctor prescribes the wrong medication or gives a patient too much or too little medication, he or she could be liable for malpractice. Prescription dosages that are too high can cause serious adverse health effects, and dosages that are too low can worsen a patient’s symptoms and accelerate the progress of an illness or disease.
Medical malpractice claims are complex, and the state may cap the amount of damages you can collect. If you need help with your case, please call the Law Office of Duane O. King for a consultation.