Some people believe that when a doctor or nurse makes a mistake it is automatically grounds for a lawsuit. However, every mistake made by a healthcare provider does not equate to medical malpractice. In order to file and a win a medical malpractice case, it is important to work with an experienced personal injury attorney who understands this complicated area of the law.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is defined as any action or omission by a healthcare provider which falls below the acceptable standard of care of other healthcare providers in similar circumstances. Additionally, in order for there to exist cause for a malpractice lawsuit, there must have been an identifiable and serious injury to the patient.
By this definition, two factors must exist for the victim to recover money in a malpractice case: he or she must have been injured, and the injury must be the result of the healthcare provider’s error. Just because a patient suffers or dies while being treated does not mean that the victim has grounds for a lawsuit.
Examples of Valid Medical Malpractice Cases
Examples of situations in which a patient may have a malpractice claim include those in which the doctor wrongly prescribed medication; committed surgical errors; gave a wrong diagnosis; or failed to provide necessary care. These types of cases may meet the criteria for a valid medical malpractice claim, namely that there was a breach of the standard of care and that there was an injury to the patient as a result.
However, there can also be cases such as these in which there is no injury to the patient and thus no valid medical malpractice claim. For example, a nurse could give a hospital patient the wrong medication, but if there were no ill effects, it would be hard for the patient to prove malpractice.
Additionally, for a medical malpractice claim to be valid, there must usually be a truly serious injury. If a medication made the patient mildly nauseous, there is not as much of a valid basis for a claim as if the medication gave the patient a heart attack.
Who Can Be Named in a Medical Malpractice Case?
Almost any healthcare provider can be guilty of malpractice. Most commonly, doctors and nurses as well as hospitals are the subject of malpractice cases, but walk-in clinics, midwives, pharmacists, laboratories, psychiatrists, psychologists and paramedics may also be named in malpractice suits. The defendant may be an individual or a corporation.
Is It Really Necessary to Hire an Attorney for a Malpractice Case?
Malpractice law is complicated, and it is almost impossible for the average person to adequately represent himself or herself in such a lawsuit. Besides the obvious hurdles of understanding legal procedure such as filing deadlines and discovery processes, medical malpractice cases often involve very detailed examinations of medical records that is best done by experts. The patient may also need the help of an expert witness to verify that malpractice has occurred and to speak to the standard of care that was not met by the healthcare provider.
It is unlikely that an insurance carrier will offer a malpractice victim a fair settlement. In fact, unless the victim files a lawsuit, it is unlikely that he or she will receive any compensation whatsoever. If the insurer knows that there is a case for malpractice, the company may try to settle with the victim quickly for a small amount of money.
A personal injury attorney can prevent this from happening. Because an experienced lawyer knows the true value of a malpractice case, he or she is unlikely to be mislead by the insurance company’s offer. A personal injury attorney will also represent the victim’s interests throughout the discovery process to ensure that the patient is treated fairly. Finally, although most cases are settled outside of court, it is possible that a malpractice lawsuit may go to trial. If this is the case, having an experienced injury attorney working on the victim’s behalf is essential.
At David & Philpot, P.L., we have been representing victims of medical malpractice for over 20 years. We are also very experienced trial attorneys and are prepared to take your case to court should the settlement offer fall short of what you deserve. If you or a family member has suffered injuries or death due to medical malpractice, give our office a call today (800.360.7015) for a free and confidential review of your case.