What Is Considered Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice is often something that we think happens to someone else but would never happen to us. Unfortunately, it does happen, and there are many injuries and deaths caused each year by a medical professional’s negligence. If you think you might have a medical malpractice claim, but you’re not entirely sure what is considered medical malpractice, your first step should be to contact an experienced lawyer right away. They can help you determine if medical malpractice actually occurred, and if it did, how to file a lawsuit and how much compensation you might be entitled to. At Morgan & Morgan, we are always here to help you in these situations. We understand how frustrating and scary it is to experience medical malpractice at the hands of someone who is supposed to take good care of us. Let us help you. Contact Morgan & Morgan today for a free and confidential case evaluation. 

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider is negligent, causing you serious and potentially long-lasting injuries. This can be caused by a surgical error, misdiagnosis, and more. Medical professionals aren’t perfect, and mistakes happen. The fact that a doctor visit or surgery didn’t turn out as you hoped doesn’t automatically mean it’s medical malpractice. 

Proving Medical Malpractice

In order to prove medical malpractice, a number of elements must be proven.

Duty of Care

The first thing you have to prove in a medical malpractice claim is that the medical professional owed you a duty of care. This duty of care is shown by providing evidence that a doctor-patient relationship existed. This means you agreed to hire a doctor, and the doctor agreed to be hired. If you saw a doctor in their office for an appointment, or you had imaging or surgery with a particular medical professional, this will almost certainly satisfy this element of the claim. If, on the other hand, you were just speaking with someone at a party who happens to be a doctor, this most likely won’t create a doctor-patient relationship, even if they give you a little bit of medical advice. When trying to determine what is considered medical malpractice, it’s important to look at the relationship you had with the doctor. 

Breach

Next, you must show that the medical professional breached the standard duty of care that they owe to all of their patients. The exact wording varies depending on which state you’re located in, but a doctor must provide reasonably competent care. If you’re injured, and it can be shown that any other prudent medical professional would have acted differently in the same or similar circumstances and provided care that was more acceptable and considered standard care by the medical community, this can help prove that your doctor breached the duty of care and was negligent. This isn’t just a difference of opinion, though. It must be shown that the medical professional’s behavior didn’t follow the best practices for their profession.

Injuries

In order to succeed in a medical malpractice case, you must show that you suffered injuries. If a medical professional was negligent but you didn’t suffer any harm as a result of their negligence, you don’t have an actionable claim. It will never be enough to simply show that a doctor was negligent if nothing adverse occurred as a result. If you don’t know what is considered medical malpractice, a good rule of thumb is that if there’s no injury, there’s no actionable medical malpractice.

Causation

Finally, you must prove that the injuries you sustained were directly caused by the medical professional’s negligence. An extreme example is where a surgeon was supposed to operate on your left hip but ends up operating on your right hip instead. Not only is your surgery for the left hip delayed, but you now have significant issues with a hip that didn’t need surgery in the first place. This is clearly a direct result of the surgeon’s negligence. If, on the other hand, your surgeon does everything right and you end up with an infection simply due to bad luck, this won’t be enough for a medical malpractice claim, no matter how severe the infection was. There must be causation. 

Common Examples of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice happens more often than we’d like. Some common examples if what is considered medical malpractice include the following:

Improper Treatment

If a doctor attempts to treat you for a specific condition but uses improper means that no other reasonable doctor would’ve used, this might be medical malpractice. In this case, the doctor has properly diagnosed you, but failed to provide you with the appropriate treatment.

Failure to Diagnose/Delay in Diagnosing 

Another very common form of medical malpractice is when a surgeon either fails to diagnose you properly, or there’s a major delay in your diagnosis that never should’ve taken place. This means the patient doesn’t get the treatment they need as soon as possible, which can cause their condition to worsen and create substantial injuries down the road.

Failure to Warn

Doctors and surgeons sometimes fail to warn patients of known risks associated with a treatment or surgery. When this happens, and the patient suffers one of these risks, there’s a good chance of a successful medical malpractice claim. This obligation is generally referred to as informed consent, and it should be provided anytime a doctor treats a patient.  

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