When you seek medical treatment for an injury or illness, you expect, at a minimum, that your condition will not worsen because of the care you receive. When a medical professional acts carelessly or negligently, you may have a claim for medical malpractice.
The Standard for Negligence in Medical Malpractice Cases
Medical malpractice claims are almost universally based on claims of negligence. To prove negligence, you must first show that the doctor, physician, or medical professional did not meet the expected standard of care. You must also show that their carelessness caused you harm.
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Because of their specialized training and the complex nature of the services they provide, medical professionals are held to a different standard than ordinary citizens in other personal injury cases. Known as the “medical standard of care,” it is generally considered to be that type of care that a reasonably competent and skilled practitioner, with similar background, and in the same medical community, would have provided under the same circumstances. For example, if the medical care is given in the form of knee surgery, the standard of care would be that which a reasonably skilled and competent knee surgeon would have provided, given the type of injury and the surgery required. You would also have to consider what type of care a knee surgeon with the same background and experience would have done in the same medical community.
Because the standard of care in medical malpractice claims differs from that of other personal injury claims, it is often a critical issue in medical malpractice litigation, with experts providing testimony on both sides of a case.
The Types of Medical Malpractice Claims
The common medical malpractice claims include:
- Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis. Often associated with serious disease, such as cancer, hypertension, or heart disease, failure to diagnose may stem from a variety of careless acts, such as failure to conduct necessary or appropriate tests, failure to perform a thorough intake or inventory of symptoms, a misreading of test results, or even the use of defective medical testing equipment.
- Surgical errors. For a variety of reasons, doctors operate on the wrong patient, the wrong body part, or perform the wrong procedure on a patient. Surgeons may operate without adequate rest or support, omit essential steps in an operation, nick or damage unaffected internal organs or nerves, or leave surgical tools or implements in a body cavity.
- Prescription mistakes. Doctors may prescribe the wrong medication or an incorrect dosage, nurses may not pay careful attention to when patients have received medication or how much they have been given. In some instances, the poor handwriting of a doctor may lead a pharmacist to incorrectly fill a prescription.
- Birth injuries. Mothers and babies can suffer a wide range of injuries as a result of carelessness at any stage of pregnancy or delivery. Failure to properly monitor a fetus or to gather appropriate information from a pregnant woman can lead to fetal distress. The misuse of vacuum extraction tools or the failure to order a timely C-section delivery can result in permanent debilitating injuries, including cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy, shoulder dystocia, and Brachial plexus injuries.