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What is Medical Malpractice

When one visits a doctor, they usually expect to get better. But in a few cases, mistakes are made, and the patient ends up with a misdiagnosis, an improperly performed procedure, or a mistake with medication. These errors can result in not getting better, new injuries, or even death. This could be medical malpractice.

Some details may vary from state to state, but generally, medical malpractice occurs when:

1. A doctor or other medical, psychiatric, or healthcare professional or institution;
2. Breaches his/her/its standard of care when treating a patient; and
3. The breach results in an injury or death.

Medical malpractice is a form of negligence claim. Just as with other forms of negligence, there is a general duty to prevent harm to others called a “standard of care.” In medical malpractice cases the standard of care is the generally accepted set of standards and practices that other medical professionals in the field would use when treating a similar patient under similar circumstances. This obviously requires an analysis of a variety of factors like the patient's age, health before treatment, and the specifics of his or her condition, so each case will be different. But, a violation of the standard of care can constitute medical negligence, and if that negligence led to an injury of the patient, medical malpractice has occurred.

What kinds of medical treatment can lead to malpractice? Treatment can include many parts of a medical practice, like a diagnosis, surgery, administration of certain procedures, medication, mental health treatment, etc. Thus, a wide array of activities can also constitute malpractice, such as a misdiagnosis, botching a surgery, prescribing the wrong medication, or failing to administer a certain procedure. In essence, if a health care professional of any sort drops the ball while treating a patient, it could result in a claim for medical malpractice.

But, even though the damage caused by a medically negligent action can last a lifetime or even cost some their lives, the window to bring a lawsuit against the medical professional is not limitless. A statute of limitations and statute of repose are designed to require a victim of medical malpractice (or that person's survivors) to start that case within a certain amount of time or lose the right to do so. A statute of limitations begins to run from the point at which a victim discovers his/her injuries. A statute of repose, on the other hand, runs from the date the injury actually occurred, regardless of whether the victim or his/her survivors knew or should have known of the injury. These periods range from 2 to 5 years in most jurisdictions, but may be longer or shorter in a given jurisdiction and depending on certain circumstances, such as the age of the victim.

Of course, as with any lawsuit, the victim must also show that the medical negligence actually caused some level of injury for which money, also known in a lawsuit as “damages,” can be paid. Damages are monetary awards designed to compensate a victim of medical negligence for injuries they suffered and expenses they incurred as a result of the mistake, such as medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and others. Some states have recently enacted so-called “tort reform” laws, limiting the amount of damages that victims can recover in these kinds of cases. But, these laws vary from state to state in both amount and application, and in some jurisdictions there are no restrictions yet at all.

If you think you or someone you know has been injured by a medical professional, doctor, or medical institution, then you should contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney for assistance in obtaining compensation for your injuries. You can find a list of attorneys in your area under the “Law Firms” tab on the menu bar, above. These attorneys will be able to analyze the facts of your case, guide you through the process of making your claims, and help you with obtaining the assistance of other doctors to examine your injuries, treat the resulting harm, and testify on your behalf at trial. Moreover, most of these attorneys will be able to assist you on a contingency basis, meaning you will not have to pay out of pocket for their services.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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