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General Overview of Medical Malpractice Law



Definition of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice happens when a doctor or medical professional's negligent act or omission causes damage or harm to a patient client. The negligence could take the form of a mistake in a diagnosis. Or it could occur in the treatment process. Some errors can take place in a doctor's or medical professional's management of a patient's illness.

Potential Defendants in Medical Malpractice Cases

If the negligence of a doctor or medical professional does cause an injury to a patient client, then a case may be brought against the doctor or professional as a defendant, so long as his or her actions deviated from general standards of acceptable practice and care. A case may be brought against a hospital or doctor's office for an improper level of care. These types of cases often involve improper medications, poor sanitation, or neglectful nurse care. It surprises some to realize that cases may even be brought against state or federal agencies that manage hospital facilities and services for patient clients.

Compensation's Role in Medical Malpractice

The laws in the medical malpractice field are crafted to protect and safeguard the rights of patients to compensation awards if they become injured because of the negligence of a medical professional or doctor. Still, it is important to note and acknowledge that medical malpractice lawsuits are frequently complex. Also, they cost a great deal to bring, let alone, to win.

Admittedly, patients can technically sue and seek compensation awards for any medical injuries from which they suffer as a result of the negligence of a medical professional or doctor, no matter the seriousness of the ultimate injury. However, time and resources required to bring a suit and pay lawyers and experts to prosecute are sufficient thresholds that ensure that injuries which heal quickly and are of minor significance do not form the basis of litigation.

Liability Theories in Medical Malpractice Cases

  • Negligence. The majority of medical malpractice case are filed under this liability theory. The negligence theory involves conduct falling below the general industry standard of care in the treatment of a patient. To file a prima facie case under the negligence case, a patient must establish:
    • a duty owed by the medical professional to the patient
    • the applicable standard of care and the professional's deviation from it, which is considered a breach of the duty which is owed to the patient by the medical professional
    • a connection in causation between the medical professional's deviation below the acceptable industry standard of care and the ultimate harm and injury to the patient
    • resulting injury or harm caused to the plaintiff patient
  • Informed consent. These cases involve the failure of a doctor or medical professional to obtain the informed consent of a patient to conduct a medical procedure or treatment. It may provide a basis for bringing a battery lawsuit.
  • Breach of contract or warranty. In the rare cases in which a doctor or medical professional promises specific results or outcomes from a treatment, procedure, operation, or medication, and the promised results do not occur in the patient, then there may be cause for bringing a breach of contract or warranty claim.