Medical malpractice occurs when physicians or other health care professionals fail to provide proper medical care and their patients suffer pain or injury or even die. Not every mistake constitutes malpractice and there are general requirements for filing a lawsuit seeking compensation or damages for doctor errors or other negligence.
Malpractice lawsuits typically involve certain errors or carelessness:
- Unwanted or unauthorized surgery
- Early discharge
- Failure to order tests or to act upon reports
- Failure to perform follow-up care
- Medication errors
- Leaving material in a patient’s body during surgery
- Constant post-surgical pain
- Severe hospital infection
- Wrongful death
Certain medical specialties have higher rates of malpractice because of the greater frequency of high stress situations, their sensitive nature, and a greater probability of chronic complications. These specialties include obstetrics, surgery, radiology, anesthesiology, and emergency room medicine.
Surgery has the highest number of claims among these specialties. This rate is attributed to mistakes during surgery which can cause long-term and debilitating conditions.
Misdiagnosis and mistreatment also underlie many surgical malpractice claims. Surgical subspecialties cited in claims more frequently include neurosurgery, bariatrics, obstetrics, trauma, and general surgery.
A prosecutable malpractice case involves the physician or facility’s duty to care for the patient. Next, the plaintiff must show that the doctor or the facility breached the standard of care or the duty that is owed by the practitioner to their patient. This general standard of care was assessed and analyzed by other practitioners in the field.
Next, the plaintiff must prove that the breach of the standard of care caused the patient’s injuries or death. Finally, there should be evidence of actual damage or harm which may be emotional, financial, or physical.
Victims may be awarded compensatory damages to pay for lost earning capacity, life care expenses and medical costs. Compensation can also cover psychological and physical harm. In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded as a sanction for brutal or purposeful behavior.
Lawsuits must be filed before a certain time, the statute of limitations, expires. Parties usually present expert witness testimony to support their cases.
Attorneys can advise malpractice victims of their options and whether there are sufficient grounds for a lawsuit. They can also represent their interests in settlement negotiations and legal proceedings.