- Overview of Medical Malpractice
- FAQ about Medical Malpractice
- Signs of Medical Malpractice
- How to Prove a Negligence Claim
Overview of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice is a type of negligence. It falls under the umbrella of professional negligence. Medical negligence becomes medical malpractice when the medical professional’s negligence causes an injury to the patient. This is a complex area of law and to understand medical malpractice, it is best to begin with a background of ordinary negligence.
So, what is ordinary negligence? Negligence is an area of tort law that creates liability for people that fail to take reasonable care in avoiding injury or loss to another person. Generally, ordinary negligence occurs when someone does not act as a reasonable person would in certain circumstances. To prove a case for negligence, one must show that (1) defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff; (2) that duty was breached; (3) the defendant’s actions (or inactions) caused the plaintiff’s injury; and (4) the plaintiff was actually injured in some way.
Medical negligence (i.e. medical malpractice) is ordinary negligence, but conducted by a healthcare professional in her capacity as a healthcare provider. In other words, at doctor is not liable for medical malpractice for an injury he caused in a car accident. The injury must occur in the medical realm.
The major difference between medical negligence and ordinary negligence is the duty of care owed. Doctors (and other healthcare providers) owe a heightened duty of care to their patients. This is because healthcare providers are specially trained and certified to allow the general public to rely and trust them. The standard of care that doctors are held to is a national one, not a local one. This means that medical professionals must act and do as all others in the medical industry do on the national level. For example, if the custom in a small rural town is not give an x-ray to an ER patient coming in for chest pains, but that is the custom on a national level, then the doctor must do what is customary on the national level; give an x-ray. If the doctor does not give the x-ray, she may be liable for medical malpractice if the patient suffered injury.
There are many ways that medical malpractice can occur. Here’s a few of scenarios that may be a basis for a claim in medical malpractice:
- Surgery errors:
- Removing the wrong limb or finger
- Leaving a surgical instrument in the body
- Errors during child birth:
- Doctor fails to act in a timely manner causing injury to the mother or child
- Failing to control excessive maternal blood loss after delivery causing injury to the mother
- ER/hospitalization errors
- Not properly diagnosing someone which later results in injury or death
- Sending someone home when they should’ve had more tests done and it causes further injury or death
- Diagnosis errors
- Failing to diagnose a condition
- Giving the wrong diagnosis to a condition
- Dentist errors
- Loss of taste
- Numbness; injury to nerves
- Medication errors
- Giving medication to a patient who is allergic to such medication
- Giving a patient too much of a medication that causes injury or death
- Anesthesia errors
- Improper dosage resulting in injury or death
- Failing to recognize harmful drug interactions with anesthesia
- Surgery errors:
FAQ about Medical Malpractice
What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a type of negligence. It falls under the umbrella of professional negligence. Medical negligence (i.e. negligence in the medical field) becomes medical malpractice when the negligence results in an injury to the patient.
Medical malpractice occurs when any type of medical professional (nurse, doctor, surgeon, dentist, etc.) does not conform to the medical standards of care. In other words, the medical professional breached their duty of care and it caused their patient an injury.
How much is medical malpractice insurance?
The exact number amount may vary, but most Florida doctors have medical malpractice coverage limits of $250,000 to $750,000. However, the average malpractice insurance nationwide covers about $1,000,000 to $3,000,000.
How many medical malpractice cases are there per year in Florida?
How many medical malpractice deaths are there per year?
A John Hopkins study found that medical mistakes are the third-leading cause of death in the United States. The 2016 study found that there are more than 250,000 deaths per year due to medical errors.
What is the medical malpractice cap in Florida?
A medical malpractice cap is the limit on how much money a patient can receive from a doctor’s errors. On June 8, 2017, the Florida Supreme Court struck down one of Florida’s former cap laws from 2003 as unconstitutional. In the Florida Supreme Court’s decision, it held that damages caps discriminate against patients and doctors, and arbitrarily limits the rights of patients to recover for injuries.
Signs of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice can occur in various areas of healthcare, such as surgery, primary care physician visits, ER visits, and dentist visits. Likewise, medical malpractice can be committed by any type of healthcare provider (surgeons, physicians, nurses, dentists, etc.) Thus, signs of medical malpractice can come in many different forms.
Signs of medical malpractice include, but are not limited to:
- The treatment your doctor prescribed is not helping
- Your doctor does not give you enough concern or attention to your issues and symptoms
- The diagnosis your doctor gave you does not correspond to your symptoms
- Your condition was diagnosed only from lab results
- There are incidents of neglect due to low healthcare staff count
- There was a late diagnosis of condition that should’ve been diagnosed earlier
- Fault was admitted by a healthcare provider
- There are injuries to oral nerves (in the context of dentistry)
- There was any type of anesthesia complications
- You were sent home from the ER prematurely
- Multiple doctors are giving you different diagnoses
Remember, just because one of the above signs may be true in your case, that does not automatically mean you have a case for negligence. That is why it is important to discuss your case with a medical malpractice attorney.
How to Prove a Negligence Claim
In any tort claim, there are elements that must be proven to the court to establish the defendant’s liability (i.e. tort liability). Negligence falls under the umbrella of tort law. Thus, in order to prove that a defendant was negligent, you must prove all four elements of negligence:
- breach of duty
You must prove all four and not just one or two of the elements.
The first element that must be proven is whether the defendant owed a “duty of care” to the plaintiff. The duty of care is a standard in tort law to act as a reasonable person. This duty of care can be owed by a person or a business. For example, landlords who owe a duty of care to those who come on the property, and business owners who owe a duty of care to those who enter the business, including employees and customers.
Breach of Duty:
The second element that must be proven is that the duty of care was breached by the defendant acting (or failing to act) in a certain way. For instance, if a landlord breaches the duty of care by failing to install handrails on a staircase, then the second element has been met.
The third element, causation, is that the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s actions (or inaction) caused the plaintiff’s injury. In other words, the defendant must have caused the harm to occur.
Causation splits into two types:
- actual cause
- proximate cause
A plaintiff must establish both types of causation in order to prove the element of causation.
- Actual cause is exactly what it sounds like: did the defendant actually cause the harm? Actual cause is sometimes referred to as cause-in-fact.
- On the other hand, proximate cause is an extremely complex concept. Put simply, proximate cause asks whether the defendant’s actions (or inactions) caused a foreseeable consequence. Proximate cause is sometimes referred to as legal cause.
The final element of proof of negligence is damages. For this element, the plaintiff must show that he or she was injured or suffered damage as a result of the defendant’s actions (or inactions). Damages can be proven by personal injury, property damage, and in some cases, punitive damages.
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Dealing with the results of medical malpractice can be a nightmare. On top of that, handling a lawsuit for medical malpractice makes your arduous situation that much worse. What’s more, the law of medical malpractice is extremely complex and can be difficult to understand. Every case has a unique set of facts that make it difficult to determine whether or not you have a solid claim for medical malpractice. Let us help you make that determination easier.
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