What Counts as Medical Malpractice?
Medical errors account for a significant number of deaths in the United States. In 2016, researchers at Johns Hopkins University estimated that over 250,000 Americans died as a result of a medical error, making it the third-leading cause of death. Despite that high figure, it is not easy to prove that mistakes that doctors make are medical malpractice. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed due to medical error, negligence or malpractice, then you may be wondering if you can sue the medical provider or facility. First, you should know that not every medical mistake is grounds for a lawsuit.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a hard concept to prove. To establish that a situation qualifies as medical negligence or malpractice, three criteria must be met. You must show that:
- A significant injury occurred;
- A medical professional, such as a doctor or nurse, breached her duty of care; and
- The damages are substantial.
These three points must be proven for an attorney to pursue a successful medical malpractice lawsuit. Doctors are human, and they make mistakes, but these mistakes don’t always lead to serious injuries. Likewise, your medical procedure might have taken longer than usual, or you may have had a poor outcome, but these factors alone don’t necessarily mean malpractice has occurred.
Determining the significance of an injury will play an integral role in determining whether a medical malpractice lawsuit will be successful. The type of injury and its long-term impact will be considered. Examples include birth injuries, such cerebral palsy; removing the wrong limb during an amputation surgery; and falls at hospitals, which may lead to serious head injuries.
Breach of Duty of Care
Medical professionals have a legal and ethical duty to uphold the standards of their profession. In a malpractice case, plaintiffs must prove that the medical professionals in charge of their care breached that duty – in other words, that they failed to uphold the accepted and expected standards for their practice. This could include a misdiagnosis, misinterpreting lab results, failing to act quickly when something goes wrong during the delivery of a baby, or not taking a patient’s medical history into account when ordering tests and performing treatments.
In malpractice claims, damages must be substantial. Damages refer to the consequences of the situation; for example, time and money lost because you are unable work, emotional or psychological issues as a result of the injury or death, the cost of caring for someone with severe disabilities, and the cost to treat certain medical problems. Parents of children with cerebral palsy, for instance, may spend millions of dollars in medical and related costs over the course of a child’s life. When pursuing a malpractice case, the damages must be significant to show the impact of the medical error or negligence.
From failure to diagnose underlying health conditions to delay in treating aggressive cancers, there are countless examples of medical errors that could lead to a malpractice claim. The important thing to remember is that all three criteria must be met for you to pursue a claim. You also need to know that a successful outcome of your case is never guaranteed. No matter how obvious the facts are to you, proving medical errors can be extremely difficult. You definitely need an experienced attorney to help you with your case.
Attorneys on Your Side
In the aftermath of an injury, illness or death caused by a medical error, you may not know where to turn. That is why it is critical to speak with a licensed attorney who understands the intricacies of this area of law. Statutes exist that may limit your ability to hold the responsible party accountable, so do not delay if you need help with a medical malpractice lawsuit. Contact the experienced legal experts at Diez-Arguelles & Tejedor today for a confidential case evaluation. 1-888-888-3773