Medical malpractice is defined as ‘professional negligence by an act or omission by a health care provider in which care provided deviates from accepted standards of practice in the medical community and causes injury or death to the patient’. Simply put, Medical Malpractice refers to an incident where a patient has been harmed by the doctor, who did not fulfil his/her duties the expected way.
Medical Malpractice is not just a term associated with CSI or Scrubs. In fact recent estimates show that at least 225,000 people or more die every year from Medical Malpractice incidents which range from incorrect diagnosis to errors made during surgery. In fact, Medical Malpractice is the third most common reason for death in the USA alone. Although they are entitled to do so, only 2% of such victims file compensation. In 2002, it was found that an average of 195,000 deaths in American hospitals were due to medical errors which could have been easily prevented.
Common instances of Medical Malpractice
- Failure to Diagnose – If the patient had been treated by a different doctor; it could have lead to a better diagnosis or treatment.
- Wrong Treatment – The patient was not administered the right treatment or the diagnosis was correct and the treatment was incompetent.
- Unreasonable Delay – The doctor failed to treat or note a medical condition on time, which resulted in serious injuries or damage to the patient.
- Failure to Intimate Patient – The doctor did not convey full information to the patient, withheld details or did not warn about possible risks and the patient would not have gone ahead HAD he known of the risks.
Basic Requirements to file a claim
Remember that Medical Malpractice is a serious offence and should never be confused with your personal feelings or grievances about a doctor. Medical errors which have not caused any harm to the patient cannot be contested in the courts. Before rushing into legal matters, it is important to have proof to show that you are a victim of Medical Malpractice:
- A doctor-patient relationship needs to be proved. In this case, it means that you hired the doctor to perform a certain service and the doctor agreed to be hired to perform the stipulated service. If your doctor gave you passing advice or treated you through a junior doctor or a physician; it is not sufficient proof for a lawsuit.
- Proof also needs to be given that the doctor was negligent and caused you harm during the course of treatment or as a result of it. The point to contest is that if you had consulted another competent doctor, you would not have been harmed or injured in the same way. Most Medical Malpractice claims question the doctor’s expertise, skills and level of care given to a patient. In most lawsuits, a medical expert is also brought in to discuss what the normal course of treatment for the victim should have been.
- A victim has grounds for a Medical Malpractice only if there is substantial proof to support a claim that the doctor caused an injury or other damage because of the specific treatment given. If a victim has physical pain, mental anguish, has further complications resulting from treatment or has lost the capacity to earn; the doctor can be sued for medical negligence.
Filing for Medical Malpractice claims can be a long ordeal, but if you are a victim you should fight for compensation by all means. However do keep in mind that the process could be a very lengthy one, is likely to be expensive in nature and may have a very different outcome from what you expect. If the case goes to trial, be prepared to answer questions or to be interrogated under oath. One of the most important things to do for yourself is to hire a lawyer who has handled such cases before, so that you have proper legal guidance before proceeding. The laws and procedures for Medical Malpractice claims vary from one state to the other, and in some cases, the money spent to get justice may outweigh your compensation amount. Think carefully about the pros and cons before filing such claims.