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What is Medical Malpractice Law?

Medical malpractice determines standards doctors must follow when caring for their patients. Like other professionals, doctors must perform their jobs to a certain standard of care. Unlike other professionals, when doctors make mistakes or do not perform to standards, the outcomes can ruin their patients' lives. Patients who were injured by their doctor's mistakes can sue the doctor to pay for the extra medical costs and lost wages.

Definition of Medical Malpractice Law

Medical malpractice is considered a part of personal injury law. Many accident and injuries cases, including medical malpractice cases, claim that one party was "negligent" in their practices, which caused an injury or damage. For medical malpractice cases, this means that the patient has to prove the doctors have a duty to practice medicine a certain way, that the doctor breached their duty, and that the breach of duty caused the patient's harm.

Examples of Medical Malpractice

According to a study by Johns Hopkins University, medical errors are the 3rd-leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer. Medical mistakes can take many forms, including those that cause minor injuries to those that are fatal. Some examples of medical malpractice injuries include:

  • Doctor amputating the left leg instead of the right leg
  • Dentist performing unnecessary root canals to increase billing
  • Surgeon leaving behind surgical clamps inside a patient after surgery
  • Anesthesiologist using too much anesthesia during a cosmetic surgery operation that causes death
  • Doctor waiting too long to perform an emergency C-section, leaving the child suffering brain damage
  • Failure to diagnose cancer, which allows the cancer to grow and become more difficult to treat

Medical Malpractice Terms to Know

  • Informed Consent: Before a doctor can treat a patient, the doctor must explain to the patient the nature of the treatment, along with its risks and benefits, and then the patient must agree to the treatment.
  • Error in Diagnosis: A doctor makes an error in diagnosis when the doctor does not accurately identify the patient's condition.
  • Error in Treatment: A doctor makes an error in treatment when the doctor does not prescribe the correct drugs or therapy.
  • Vicarious Liability: When a doctor makes a mistake, patients may be able to make a claim against the hospital as the employer, under a legal theory known as vicarious liability.
  • HIPAA: The "Health Information Portability and Accountability Act" mandates that medical providers keep patients' records confidential.
  • Statute of Limitations: Like many personal injury suits, there is a time limit in which patients must bring suit against their doctors. If the time limit passes, their claim may be denied.

Malpractice State Laws

Medical malpractice is generally an issue of state law. Each state's laws are unique, including statutes of limitations and caps on damages. Patients considering filing suit against their doctors should be sure to consult a local medical malpractice attorney. You can find a medical malpractice attorney near you using the search tools below.

Many states have passed or are considering "tort reform" bills. Doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies blame the high costs of health care on medical malpractice lawsuits. However, tort reform bills can make it harder for patients to recover damages after a doctor commits a dangerous error. Tort reform laws can make it harder to file a lawsuit and reduce compensation for the injury victim.

More Medical Malpractice Information

  • Health Care Law: The rules that govern who can receive healthcare and who should pay for it.
  • Accidents and Injuries: Also known as "tort law," accident and injuries law concerns when someone may sue another for causing injuries.
  • Product Liability: Sometimes doctors use faulty equipment or prescribe bad medication.
  • Elder Law: This practice area concerns all the legal aspects of aging, including estate planning and health care law.
  • Insurance Law: Insurance law attorneys help insurance companies determine how much to pay their clients and advocate for clients so that they receive all relevant benefits.
  • Privacy Law: Most patients have a strong privacy interest in their medical records.

Malpractice State Attorney Directory

Medical malpractice law is complicated and lawsuits can take months or years before the injury victim can finally recover damages. It is important to have someone on your side who understands the difficult process and can work with you to make sure you are cared for and compensated. Contact a medical malpractice attorney near you for help.

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