Medical malpractice—broadly defined as when a doctor or healthcare provider fails in his or her duty of care and causes harm to a patient—is a complex topic. There are many situations when a patient may be worse off after a treatment or procedure but the situation is not actually malpractice at all. So then, what exactly constitutes a medical malpractice claim, and what should you do if you’ve been injured as a result of a bad doctor?
Top Causes of Medical Malpractice Claims
There are a number of medical situations that can result in harm or death to a patient and result in medical malpractice claims. Some examples of situations that can lead to lawsuits include the following:
- Medication mistakes. There are many potential situations where failure of medication management can cause harm. The wrong drug or an improper dose may be administered, or a doctor may fail to inform a patient about the risks of a serious side effect of prescribed medication. Something as simple as illegible handwriting by a doctor could even result in a pharmacy error; if the wrong drug is dispensed or the patient receives bad dosage instructions, serious and irreparable harm can result.
- Misdiagnosis. If a doctor fails to diagnose a condition that another similarly-trained medical professional would have been able to diagnose, it could be a medical malpractice situation. A wrong diagnosis could also cause severe harm, due to either a lack of treatment or the wrong type of treatment being administered.
- Surgical errors. Surgery is a complex process requiring intense focus and knowledge of the human body, and not every surgical mistake is the grounds for a malpractice suit. Performing the wrong operation, operating on the wrong patient, or operating on the wrong location of the body, leaving medical equipment (such as sponges, retractors, or other equipment) inside the body, and anesthesia errors are all common surgical errors that can lead to malpractice suits.
These are just a few common examples of medical mistakes that can lead to malpractice suits.
Proving Your Medical Malpractice Case
Typically, a medical malpractice suit must prove that someone such as a doctor or other acted with negligence. This is when a healthcare professional does not act to provide an appropriate level of care that any other similarly-trained professional would provide in the same situation, and the patient is harmed as a result. Negligence can happen as a result of inexperience, fatigue, poor planning, or bad communication with team members. Or a doctor could simply fail to perform a duty, such as ensuring that surgical equipment has been properly sterilized, resulting in a life-threatening infection. The doctor did not intend to cause harm, but by failing to take precautions that any other doctor would take, he or she may be found to be negligent.
To prove negligence, four key elements must be demonstrated before the court:
- Duty of care must be demonstrated. That is, the healthcare professional must have had some responsibility towards the care of the patient.
- Breach of duty is when the healthcare professional is shown to have failed in his or her duty of care to the patient.
- Causation must be proven, which shows that the breach of duty was responsible for harm to the patient.
- Damages must be proven to the court in such a way that financial compensation can be shown to provide some form of recovery to the victim. This includes medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, lost time and wages, and even funeral costs. It may also include compensation for anguish or pain and suffering.
Not every poor patient outcome is a result of medical malpractice. Sometimes a condition can get worse, even with the best treatment available. Everyone’s body is a little bit different, and there are many factors that can influence the outcome of any given treatment. And some diseases simply aren’t treatable or curable at all, no matter how badly we wish that they were. Medical malpractice suits exist only to protect patients against providers who offer substandard care, not against poor outcomes.
Get Legal Help With Your Claim
In order to have the best chance at a medical malpractice suit, you need to get in contact with an experienced personal injury lawyer who understands the complex nature of your situation and can help you decide if you have a valid claim. If you’ve been hurt or lost a loved one due to what you believe is medical malpractice, Wayne Wright LLP would like to hear from you today. Call us for a free case evaluation at 800-237-3334. We have offices conveniently located in San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi, and El Paso, and we proudly serve clients from all over Texas.