Medical malpractice occurs when health care providers or medical facilities fail to uphold their duty to care for patients and those failures result in negligence harming their patients. Patients who have suffered harmed due to negligence by a health care provider or a facility may file a medical malpractice lawsuit for damages.
Some examples of medical malpractice lawsuits involving health care providers include:
- A nursing home patient’s death due to the failure of the facility to administer medication in a timely manner.
- Injury to a child during childbirth due to the health care staff’s incorrect reading of the fetal monitor.
- Improper diagnosis or no diagnosis of a life-threatening illness which resulted in the patient’s failure to seek timely treatment.
- Prolapsed umbilical cord during childbirth, which caused the infant’s brain damage, due to health care staff’s improper diagnosis and failure to perform an immediate Cesarean section.
- A patient’s death after an emergency room physician failed to diagnose abdominal pain as acute appendicitis, and allowed the patient to go sent home, where she later went into shock and died.
In such malpractice cases, the person filing the lawsuit must generally prove three elements:
- A victim of medical malpractice must have experienced a significant injury as a result of inadequate medical care.
- The health care staff must have performed in a negligent way. In other words, the health care staff did not perform up to a standard that would be expected given the circumstances.
- The negligence of the health care provider or facility must have directly caused the injury suffered by the victim.
In court, the plaintiff’s attorney must address each of the three elements to prove the case. Often, the parties will be able to settle the case without a trial. However, when bringing a malpractice case, the plaintiff must be prepared to see the case through the entire court process, if necessary.
Certain conditions can complicate a malpractice lawsuit and may limit a plaintiff’s ability to pursue the case. These conditions include:
- The patient gave informed consent for a procedure and something went wrong during the procedure.
- The patient knowingly accepted the risk associated with a procedure.
- The patient contributed to his or her own harm.
- The patient failed to mitigate damages or avoid risk.
- The patient failed to disclose important information that may have impacted the outcome.
A person who may have a malpractice case involving a health care provider or facility should think about consulting with an attorney who specializes in malpractice cases. Before meeting with an attorney, the potential plaintiff should collect any evidence which the plaintiff believes would have relevance to the lawsuit. The attorney will review the facts of the case and assess whether the case has merit. Medical malpractice attorneys generally only accept cases that have potential merit. This guideline allows the plaintiff and attorney alike to avoid the chances of filing a frivolous lawsuit or a case that is likely to lose. In many states, the law requires the medical malpractice attorney to consult with a physician to determine the merits of a malpractice case.