Medical malpractice is a common occurrence in the United States. According to a recent report from Keller & Keller accident and wrongful death attorneys, medical malpractice is the third most common reason for death in the country, accounting for 225,000 deaths each year. Medical malpractice happens when a doctor or other medical professional injures a patient by providing negligent medical care by making an error regarding surgery, treatment or diagnosis.
Lawsuits related to this type of malpractice fall under tort reform and are typically handled by a personal injury attorney. Rules regarding medical malpractice can vary by state, although certain general principles apply to all cases and give clear indications as to whether a given type of injury falls under this category.
Frequent Types Of Medical Malpractice
A medical malpractice claim can be filed as a result of many different types of scenarios, from negligent actions to mistakes related to failure to disclose important information about a procedure or treatment. Usually, medical malpractice claims fall under one of the following categories:
If a doctor chooses an inappropriate treatment method or selects an appropriate method but administers it incompetently, a medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed. An example would be if a doctor left a sponge in a patient’s stomach during an operation. The patient can only have a viable malpractice claim, however, if the procedure was clearly a mistake, illogical, or unnecessary.
Failure to Diagnose
If a medical professional fails to properly diagnose a patient’s illness and thus causes a much more distressful outcome than would have occurred under other circumstances, then a medical malpractice claim can be filed. For example, if a doctor fails to properly diagnose a patient with diabetes, and the patient ends up having to undergo an amputation because of diabetes complications, this may qualify as medical malpractice.
Failure to Warn a Patient of Known Risks
Doctors are obligated to caution patients against any known risks of a given procedure or side effects of a drug or other course of treatment. This obligation is referred to as the duty of informed consent. Failure to abide by this duty is a form of medical malpractice. For example, if a side effect of a drug is heart failure and a doctor fails to notify a patient about this, said patient could file a medical malpractice claim.
Basic Requirements For a Claim
In order to prove that medical malpractice happened, a patient must show all of the following:
A Doctor-Patient Relationship Existed
A patient must demonstrate that he or she had a relationship with the doctor who is being sued. To establish a doctor-patient relationship, the patient must show that the patient and doctor made an agreement on treatment.
The Doctor Was Negligent
A lack of satisfaction with a procedure or treatment does not constitute grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. There must be proof that the doctor was negligent in providing diagnosis or treatment and that such negligence resulted in physical harm to the patient. A doctor’s performance is required to be “reasonably skillful and careful.”
The Doctor’s Negligence Caused the Injury
A patient must be able to prove that it is “more likely than not” that the doctor’s incompetence directly led to an injury. Generally speaking, a medical expert must testify to show this.
The Injury Caused Specific Damages
Even if a certain doctor delivered subpar care for a given procedure, a patient can only sue said medical professional if he/she suffered specific types of damages, like:
- Physical pain
- Mental anguish
- Additional medical bills
- Lost ability to work/lost earning capacity
Special Requirements In Medical Malpractice Cases
Each state has unique rules and procedures for medical malpractice claims. Thus, anyone considering filing such a claim should be properly informed about these rules.
- Statute of limitations: The statute of limitations for bringing a medical malpractice claim in most states is between six months and two years. If the lawsuit isn’t filed within this time frame, a court can dismiss the case no matter what the facts are.
- Special notice requirements: Certain states dictate that patients must notify doctors of malpractice claims by submitting a basic description of the claim before filing a lawsuit.
- Special medical malpractice review panels: Several states will often require patients to submit all claims to a medical review panel. This group of experts will listen to arguments and evaluate evidence and expert testimony in order to determine whether there was malpractice. The panel’s conclusions can then be presented in court.
- Expert testimony is required: Expert opinions are frequently a key component of a patient’s case. A qualified expert and affidavit are generally needed at any trial. Although each state will have its own rules regarding who qualifies as a medical expert, anyone with professional experience in the given field would qualify as an expert.
- Limits on damage awards: Certain states place limits on the total sum of money that can be granted to a patient who was a victim of medical malpractice.
Speak to a Personal Injury Attorney
If you believe you have a credible claim for medical malpractice, speak to the experienced personal injury attorneys at Parnall & Adams Law in Albuquerque, New Mexico for more information about your potential case. Parnall & Adams are a team of a federal prosecutor and career civil litigator, and they provide free consultations. They will also guide you through the complex legal system and help interpret and explain any complicated medical terms. They will also defend you and negotiate on your behalf in court if necessary.