What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional fails to provide adequate care to a patient, causing injury or death. A medical professional may be held liable for injuries if they failed to take action that would have been taken by most professionals with their training and experience. Importantly, they must have established a physician-patient relationship with the patient (i.e., agreed to treat them) for the situation to qualify as medical malpractice.
For example, a doctor may have failed to monitor their patient’s vital signs, administered the wrong dosage of a drug, or even removed the wrong organ. In each of these cases, the patient or their family could potentially file a personal injury medical malpractice lawsuit seeking compensation for damages (e.g., medical bills, lost wages, etc.).
What Are Some Examples of Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice can occur at any stage of the physician-patient relationship — before, during, or after treatment. Once a physician has agreed to treat a patient, they have a duty of care to that patient, which means their care for the patient must meet the standards established by the medical community. If they fail to do so and the patient is injured or dies, that’s medical malpractice.
Examples of medical malpractice include the following:
- Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
- Failure to recognize symptoms
- Failure to examine medical history
- Anesthesia or drug dosage errors
- Misreading charts, X-rays, or test results
- Emergency room errors (e.g., operating on the wrong organ or joint)
- Medical device misuse
- Performing pointless or nonconsensual surgery
- OBGYN malpractice
- Postoperative negligence
What Kinds of Injuries Can Occur Because of Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice injuries can be severe, even lethal. A 2016 study by Johns Hopkins University suggested that medical error is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.
Examples of medical malpractice injuries include the following:
- Allergic reaction
- Birth injury
- Heart attack
- Blood clots or pulmonary embolism
- Viral infection
- Bacterial infection
- Respiratory infection (e.g., pneumonia)
- Organ perforation
- Internal bleeding
- Sepsis (as a result of operative or post-op negligence)
Keep in mind that the above list is by no means exhaustive. It may be self-evident, but a medical malpractice injury is any trauma (great or small) that occurs as a result of medical malpractice.
Who Is to Blame for These Injuries?
If a medical professional failed to meet the accepted standard of care for their patient, they may legally be held liable for that patient’s injury or death. In these situations, the patient should contact a medical malpractice attorney to see if they have a case.
A medical malpractice lawyer will review medical records, the patient’s injuries, the timeline of events, and other factors to determine if a medical professional or hospital is to blame.
How Can a Lawyer Help?
First and foremost, a lawyer can tell an injured patient if they should file a medical malpractice lawsuit. If so, the attorney can help them navigate the thorny legal process, negotiating for full and fair compensation for the patient and taking the medical professional to court if necessary. These are complicated cases, and no one should pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit without a licensed attorney in their corner.
Importantly, most personal injury attorneys are free to hire unless the client wins a settlement or jury verdict, at which point they accept a percentage of the money recovered.
Medical malpractice can have a devastating effect on a person’s health, career, relationships, and finances. As a result, there are many types of damages a patient may be able to recover through a lawsuit:
- Medical bills (hospital stays, medication, doctor visits, etc.)
- Pain and suffering (physical pain or emotional distress)
- Lost wages/earning capacity
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of life’s enjoyment
- Funeral expenses
- Other damages (e.g., compensation for disability or disfigurement)
Full compensation for these damages can get a patient’s life back on track. If you think you might have a medical malpractice lawsuit, please don’t hesitate to contact us.