Understanding Medical Malpractice
A medical malpractice claim can be filed whenever a health care provider fails to meet the acceptable standards of practice and medical injury results. When a medical malpractice claim is made, and the case is brought to court the patient will become the plaintiff and the health care provider will become the defendant. In these types of cases, the plaintiff must confirm certain elements of tort negligence to prove that their case was, in fact, one of medical malpractice. Successfully establishing that a medical professional's duty to provide care was not met or was breached in some way that caused injury and damages will be best accomplished with the legal help of a medical malpractice attorney.
The trial period of a court case is often a difficult time. There are many unknowns when it comes to facing a judge, jury, and defendant; therefore, it is important to ensure you have a legal team on your side that can help prepare you for any situation that may arise. Medical injury lawsuits and cases of medical malpractice are often complicated matters that cannot be settled quickly or easily. An extensive amount of time and research must be invested into cases of this nature, if for no other reason than they involve so many different components for a successful case.
What Constitutes a Medical Malpractice Claim?
Typically, when people think of medical malpractice, they think of terrifying and catastrophic hospital stories. However, under the defined conditions, medical malpractice claims are broader than they appear. As stated, a plaintiff can file a medical malpractice claim whenever a medical facility or health care professional fails to meet the expected standards of treatment. For example, malpractice can be as simple as a doctor using latex gloves with a patient who is allergic to the material, causing them to suffer a severe allergic reaction. Medical malpractice lawsuits must prove four conditions for the plaintiff to recover damages.
- In regards to duty, a medical malpractice lawsuit must prove that the defendant had an obligation to diagnose an ailment, perform a procedure, or care for the defendant’s well-being due to the duty the defendant had to the patient. For instance, a lawyer can prove duty through medical records that confirm that a doctor is the primary care physician for a patient. In the latex glove example, the doctor can be shown to have a duty to the patient based on the fact that they are the patient’s longtime dermatologist.
- Breach of duty is the defendant’s indirect failure to diagnose given symptoms or treat an ailment correctly. Essentially, a breach of duty is a defendant’s mistake that objectively flies in the face of the standard treatment procedure. In the latex glove example, the doctor using latex gloves despite the patient’s medical chart showing that they are allergic to the material would be considered a breach of duty.
- Harm is the physical or emotional consequences that the patient endured at the hands of the defendant. Physical harm should be proven through hard evidence, such as pictures of the wound that resulted from the malpractice, which can be presented to the jury. In the latex glove example, the allergic reaction could have caused the patient to suffer anaphylactic shock, resulting in a swollen tongue. The report the hospital creates that summarizes the episode of anaphylactic shock may be used to prove that harm occurred.
- The last element a lawyer must prove is causation. Causation is proof that the breach of duty by the defendant and the harm that the patient suffered have a cause-and-effect relationship. Causation must prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s stated harm. In the latex glove example, the plaintiff’s team may gather testimonies from family members who witnessed the plaintiff suffer from past anaphylactic shock episodes due to latex contact. By collecting old testimonies where the plaintiff suffered anaphylactic shock, a lawyer can prove that there is a causal relationship in which the doctor’s breach of duty caused the patient’s harm.
From the filing of the suit, to the sharing of information between both parties, to the actual trial, there is a lot on the line in medical malpractice cases. The best way to protect yourself and maintain your well-being is by aligning yourself with a medical malpractice lawyer who can support and guide you through it all.
What Kind of Damages Are Available in a Medical Malpractice Claim?
- General damages are compensation for unquantifiable losses, like mental anguish.
- Special damages are quantifiable economic losses, such as medical bills and lost time at work.
- Punitive damages are money awards specifically designed to punish criminally negligent or egregious healthcare providers to compel them to change; these damages are rare.
What Are Common Examples of Medical Malpractice Claims?
Misdiagnosis, surgical errors, or prescribing the wrong medication make up the bulk of medical malpractice cases. Misdiagnosis is the most common of the three. With misdiagnosis cases, your doctor may fail to identify your illness in a timely fashion or may identify the wrong illness. In either case, misdiagnosis could cost some people—especially cancer patients—years of their life, so it’s a serious act of negligence.
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Arnold & Itkin is committed to representing those who need it. When you are suffering from a medical injury that resulted from an inattentive doctor or an adverse reaction to a medication that was wrongly prescribed to you, there is nothing better to do for yourself than to take legal action. Your current health has already been compromised, but your future well-being does not have to be. We believe that the care and safety of patients should always be the number one priority of practicing physicians (dental, therapeutic, surgeon, medical, etc.) and we are willing to fight tooth and nail to help you get the compensation you deserve. Your rights as a patient were violated during the medical procedure that left you injured or ill; we are here to make sure your doctor answers for it.
Contact a Houston medical malpractice lawyer to learn more!