What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other medical professional fails to carry out their medical responsibilities in a safe and proper manner. If you have suffered injuries resulting from medical malpractice, your rights and responsibilities will depend on your particular state (laws vary from state to state). There are specific time limits for when you can file a lawsuit and if (or when) you must notify the medical professional beforehand. Here is a general overview of a medical malpractice claim.
Medical Malpractice Claim Requirements
Before proceeding with a medical malpractice claim, you may be required to prove the following:
- A physician-patient relationship: A physician-patient relationship is a mutual relationship where you hire the doctor and the doctor agrees to treat you (in some emergency cases you may not be conscious but that doesn’t change the doctor’s duty to treat you properly). If a medical professional was not treating you, or you happened to overhear a doctor who was not your physician say something questionable, you cannot sue him or her for medical malpractice.
- The physician was negligence: You must be able to prove that a doctor’s diagnosis or treatment was negligent—in other words, she or he violated the standard of care they should have followed and you were harmed in the process. Think of what another doctor would have done and if it would have made a difference. A doctor’s work need not be perfect, but it does have to meet minimum standards. There’s a big difference between being unhappy with a doctor due to a debatable opinion (or even a lack of good bedside manners) versus a doctor who fails to notice a tumor clearly visible on an MRI scan.
- The physician’s negligence directly led to your personal injury: Even if you are sick or injured prior to seeing a doctor (which can make malpractice more difficult to notice), your physician still must treat you with the appropriate levels of skill and care. An experienced attorney can work with experts in the medical profession to help investigate and understand whether appropriate care was given.
- You have specific damages relating to the negligence: Medical malpractice cases must include actual injury or loss to justify proceeding with a lawsuit. Injury or loss can include physical pain, scars, mental anguish, lost work, lost earning capacity, the inability to care for loved ones, increased medical expenses, etc.
Medical malpractice cases must be raised in a timely manner, often between six months to two years after the incident. If you fail to file your personal injury claim within the allotted time, a court may dismiss the case regardless of the facts. However, each state is different. One state may require immediate action based on the date mistreatment, while another state might start the clock at the time when you noticed (or should have noticed) the injury.
In addition, there may be several other potential pieces to the medical malpractice puzzle: a medical malpractice review panel, testimony by a medical expert, special notice requirements, a state-regulated cap on damage awards, and so on. Medical malpractice is an extremely intricate area of law. An experienced personal injury lawyer will make far more progress in a medical malpractice case than going it alone, especially when you are pitted against a well-funded hospital or an army of lawyers defending a private practice doctor.