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The Basics of Medical Malpractice



If you suspect that you are the victim of malpractice, you can file a malpractice claim in court to attempt to collect money to compensate you for your injuries.  However, medical malpractice claims can be difficult to prove. Having a basic understanding of malpractice laws will work to your advantage should you ever have to file such a lawsuit.

What Is Malpractice?

To determine whether you have a malpractice claim, you must first understand what malpractice is.

First, medical malpractice must result in an injury. This injury can be life changing, such as a doctor accidentally amputating the wrong limb from a patient, or a condition that worsens after you seek treatment for it. Death at the hands of a medical professional can also constitute medical malpractice.

In addition, the injury you incur must have been inflicted by a medical professional for it to be considered medical malpractice. Doctors, nurses, and even technicians all are considered medical professionals.

Finally, malpractice occurs when medical negligence is the reason for your injuries. Medical negligence occurs when a medical professional breaches the standard of care.

The standard of care required of a medical professional is dependent upon a number of factors, including the patient's age, medical problem, and often where the patient lives. Examples of medical negligence include misdiagnosing a patient's illness or administering improper treatment.

Bringing a Malpractice Claim

Malpractice claims are notoriously difficult to prove. Oftentimes, the defendant-the person or entity being sued-will put up a strong fight. In addition, the defense usually has the assistance of its insurance carrier, which will hire lawyers who will work hard to disprove your case.

Still, just because malpractice lawsuit may seem somewhat daunting, it does not mean you should avoid filing suit if you think you have a claim. However, you must act before the statute of limitations (or time period in which you can legally file a lawsuit) expires or else you may be barred from filing a claim at all. This time period will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but it is often about two years from the date the injury occurred.

You will also need to hire an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Malpractice cases can be very complex, requiring an understanding of both medical and legal knowledge. A medical malpractice attorney can help manage all aspects of your case from filing important claim-related documents with the proper court to interviewing expert witnesses to developing an overall case strategy.

Potential Damages

If you are injured due to a medical professional's negligence, you may be entitled to damages, or money to compensate you for your injury. The point of filing a claim is to collect damages to compensate you for your injuries and certain costs.

The following is a list of some of the damages available to you, should you decide to file a medical malpractice claim against a healthcare professional:

  • Compensation for medical bills
  • Lost wages due to missed days of work
  • Compensation for pain and suffering

Damages will vary depending on the severity of the injuries incurred because of the professional's negligence. Factors that go into determining the amount of damages a court will award a claimant include the injury's affect on one's quality of life and earning potential.

Medical malpractice cases can take years to resolve and can be very expensive. Very few cases actually make it to the trial stage. Instead, the majority are settled or dropped before going to court. However, you should not let the time and financial investment stop you from filing a medical malpractice claim if you believe your doctor's negligence has caused you significant injury or harm.