Finance and Law

Medical Malpractice FAQs

ID-100214986When we have been injured, and believe that injury was due to the negligence of another person or entity, we have the right to pursue compensation for medical bills, loss of income and other problems resulting from the injury. Medical malpractice is one such issue that falls under the scope of personal injury law, and here are some frequently asked questions about it.

What is Medical Malpractice?

Claims of medical malpractice purport that a professional health care provider failed to provide a reasonable standard of care that would be expected in that circumstance, a level of care that would have been provided by similar professionals had they been treating you. You must prove that the provider was negligent and did not provide an accepted ‘’standard of care.’’

What is Standard of Care?

State law defines what constitutes ‘’negligence’’, but the ‘’standard of care’’ is defined by the medical community. The goal is not to define optimal care or what the provider should have done when looking back on the situation. It is to provide a framework on what actions reasonably should have been taken in that given situation. This ‘’standard of care’’ is not some official document that exists somewhere, but is gathered from many sources, like expert experience and literature from medical organizations. In most instances, however, the plaintiff must rely on the testimony of an expert to prove the provider did not offer the proper care in that situation. In fact, most states require you acquire such testimony before you can even file a lawsuit.

What Falls Under the Umbrella of Medical Malpractice?

A large number of incidents can be considered medical malpractice. They include, but are not limited to, misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, improper treatment, treatment delay, failure to treat, not providing proper follow-up treatment, failure to get appropriate consent, failure to provide important information to a patient (such as failing to inform a patient a drug is only experimental), medication errors, leaving an object in the body, nursing errors and improper monitoring while in surgery. Medical malpractice is not limited to doctors or other individual health care professionals

There are always risks when it comes to medical treatments and suffering an injury in and of itself is not grounds for malpractice—there must be negligence through deviating from the established standard of care. Likewise, getting an unsatisfactory result is not grounds for malpractice.

What is ‘’Contributory Negligence?’’

When evaluating any sort of personal injury case, including those of medical malpractice, contributory negligence will be taken into account.  This means the court will look at whether you may have contributed to your current ‘’predicament’’ in some way. For example, if your doctor recommends you get a certain type of test to confirm whether you suffer from a certain disease, yet you fail to actually get said test, that may affect your compensation, or whether you even have a case at all.

How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?

All personal injury claims are subject to a statute of limitations. This means you only have a certain amount of time to file a lawsuit. This varies widely between states, and ranges from one to seven years. There may be some specific circumstances that allow for exceptions, but this is not common. Between the statute of limitations and the fact that it can take awhile to investigate claims, it is important to meet with an attorney as soon as possible if you believe you may be a victim of malpractice.

What Should I Know about Choosing an Attorney?

When you are looking seeking out attorneys for representation in a malpractice case, it is important you go with someone who has extensive experience in not only this specific area of personal injury law, but in the exact type of case you have. These cases are highly, highly complex and you cannot leave your fate in the hands of an inexperienced lawyer.  A lot of money goes into preparing these cases, and for this reason, almost all will work on a contingency basis, meaning they advance these fees and only will get paid if you recover damages. Make sure you know how much money this entails and whether there are any expenses you may still be responsible for in the event you lose.

About the Author:Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who focuses on various areas of law, from personal injury to securities.