Medical doctors must go through an enormous amount of schooling and training before they are allowed to be physicians and practice medicine. But even so, they are still human – and sometimes things go wrong. When this happens, it is called “medical malpractice”. Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is harmed by a doctor (or medical paraprofessional) who fails to competently perform their duties. The rules about medical malpractice and what must be done to sue on those grounds are varied and, in some cases, very specific. From knowing when you must bring your lawsuit to knowing whether you must notify the doctor ahead of time and how to do it, the team of legal professionals at the Sodhi Law Group will guide you through the process. Here is a brief overview of types of malpractice followed by what requirements must be met for something to constitute medical malpractice.
If a competent doctor would have discovered the patient’s illness – or if the doctor would have made a different diagnosis that, in turn, would have led to a better outcome than the one actually achieved – then the patient may have a valid claim of medical malpractice.
If a doctor treats the patient in a way that no other competent doctor would, the patient might have grounds for a medical malpractice claim. Additionally, if the doctor prescribes the appropriate treatment but incompetently or incorrectly administers that treatment, there might be grounds for a malpractice claim.
Doctors must abide by what is called “the duty of informed consent”. This means that a doctor is obligated by law and by professional ethics to warn patients of all known risks of a procedure or course of treatment. If a patient who had been properly informed of risks and potential side-effects would have elected not to proceed, the doctor MAY be liable for medical malpractice. Similarly, if the patient is injured by the procedure – or during the course of treatment – in a way that the doctor should have warned could happen but didn’t, the doctor may be liable for medical malpractice.
You must show that you had a physician-patient relationship with the doctor you are suing. Basically what this means is that you hired the doctor and the doctor agreed to be hired. So if you were harmed while following the advice of a doctor you overheard talking at a bar, you do not have a malpractice claim. If a doctor began seeing you and treating you, it is easy to prove a physician-patient relationship existed. Questions of whether or not the relationship exists most frequently arise where a consulting physician did not treat you directly.
Being unhappy with your treatment or the results of that treatment does not mean the doctor is liable or guilty of medical malpractice. The doctor must have been negligent in connection with your diagnosis or treatment. To sue for malpractice, you must be able to show that the doctor caused you harm in a way that a competent doctor would not have if they were treating you under the same circumstances. The doctor’s care is not required to be the best possible, merely “reasonably skillful and careful”. Whether the doctor was reasonably skillful and careful is often at the heart of a medical malpractice claim.
Because many malpractice cases involve patients that were already sick or injured, there is often a question of whether what the doctor did – the treatment of the preexisting condition – actually caused the harm. If a patient dies of pancreatic cancer after seeking medical treatment, it might be difficult to prove that the doctor caused the patient’s death and not the cancer. The patient must show that it is “more likely than not“ that the doctor’s incompetence directly caused the injury. This often requires that a patient have a medical expert testify that the doctor’s negligence caused the injury.
Harm MUST have resulted from the malpractice. Even if it is clear that the doctor performed below the expected standards in his or her field, the patient cannot sue for malpractice if the patient didn’t suffer any harm. Basically, no harm, no foul. Here are examples of the types of harm patients can sue for:
If you think yours is a situation where medical malpractice occurred, call the Sodhi Law Group today or fill contact us online. Our team of legal professionals has the experience & the expertise to take you through this complicated legal process and make sure you get the justice you deserve.