A medical malpractice lawsuit is filed when a patient believes they have been harmed by a physician, or other healthcare professional due to them failing to perform their medical duties competently.
Rules regarding medical practice can differ between states and the latest information will be available from your attorney. The time limits you have to file the lawsuit will also differ so the sooner you start the ball rolling the better.
There are several broad categories and general principles that apply to malpractice suits which apply nationwide and below we offer a brief overview.
In order to be able to prove that medical malpractice has occurred you must be able to demonstrate that the following conditions took place;
you must be able to prove that you have a patient-doctor relationship with the physician you are suing.
This effectively means that this doctor took you on as their patient and was treating you as such. There must be documented proof of this as this is an area that has caused a high level of ridiculous claims against doctors.
So no, you cannot sue the doctor you got talking to on vacation. Questions will be asked regarding your patient-doctor relationship if it transpires you are suing a consulting physician who wasn’t directly treating you.
A doctor cannot be held liable for any form of medical malpractice if you are simply unhappy with the treatment you have received.
The doctor must be proven to have acted negligently in direct connection with either your diagnosis or your treatment.
To sue a doctor or hospital for medical malpractice you must be able to demonstrate that they have caused you damage or harm in such a way that any competent doctor, in the same circumstances, wouldn’t have.
An important point to bear in mind is that a doctor’s care is only required to be reasonably careful and skillful. There is no premise for a doctor to provide the best possible care, although that’s what we have all come to expect from our health practitioners.
How careful and skillful the doctor actually was is at the heart of most malpractice claims.
Almost every state requires that a patient be able to present a medical professional to discuss what is considered to be an appropriate standard of medical care whilst also showing how the defendant has fallen short of this standard.
Injury Caused by Medical Negligence
As many medical malpractice cases involve people who were already injured or sick, there is often a question mark over whether the doctor, through negligence, actually caused that harm.
For example, should a patient die following treatment they had received for pancreatic cancer, and the doctor had acted negligently, it will be tough to prove that the death occurred due to that negligence instead of the cancer.
In this case the patient’s loved ones would have to show that it was highly likely that the incompetence of the doctor caused the fatality.
In this case another medical professional would be called upon to give evidence testifying that the death of the patient was due to the doctor acting negligently.
A patient cannot sue for harm if they didn’t suffer any, even if the doctor is known to have delivered a substandard level of care. The typical kinds of harm which patients sue for are;
- Mental anguish
- Physical pain and distress
- Medical bills
- Loss of work and subsequent earnings