Doctors and medical professionals owe a duty of care to their patients. They should provide accurate diagnoses and quality care, but what happens if a doctor makes a medical error and causes injury to a patient?
This area of law is called medical malpractice law.
Medical malpractice liability can occur during a misdiagnosis, improper treatment, or surgical error. FindLaw's section on Medical Malpractice provides resources on many medical malpractice issues, from the first steps to breaking down the legal elements of a claim.
With these resources, you can learn more about medical malpractice suits, including:
- The standard of care that doctors owe patients
- Patients' rights to recover damages
- Common types of medical malpractice such as misdiagnosis, sub-standard care, and lack of informed consent
- Breach of doctor-patient confidentiality
Click on the links below for more information on medical malpractice and patients' legal rights.
Legal Standards in Medical Malpractice Cases
Medical malpractice liability is not limited to doctors. Medical professionals include doctors, physicians, nurses, assistants, orderlies, and others. Hospitals can also be found liable for medical malpractice under certain theories.
After identifying who was at fault, the law must be applied to determine if a medical provider is legally liable for the negligent act. To establish medical negligence, an injured patient must prove:
- The healthcare professional owed a duty to the patient as part of the doctor/patient relationship
- The healthcare professional deviated from the accepted standard of care, breaching the duty owed to the patient
- The patient suffered a personal injury
- The healthcare professional's deviation from the standard of care caused the patient's injury
Other doctors will often testify as expert witnesses and evaluate the mistakes or procedures that a doctor made. They will give expert testimony stating that the doctor breached their duty of care or did not breach their duty of care.
If a patient is successful in proving the elements of medical negligence, the patient may be awarded economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are easy to measure, such as medical bills or lost wages. Non-economic damages are hard to measure, such as a lost limb and pain and suffering. Punitive damages may also be available if the doctor's breach was malicious or grossly negligent.
What To Do in Case of Medical Malpractice
There are some important steps to take if you or a loved one think a medical professional has provided inadequate or improper care.
First, you should contact the medical professional in charge of your care. Your issue could be remedied with the proper care. If your original healthcare provider is unable to remedy your situation, seek medical help immediately. Your priority should be to take care of your own health and medical needs.
Next, you should also be aware of the legal time limits regarding your case. Medical malpractice claims are subject to a statute of limitations, meaning you may have a limited time frame in which to file a legal action.
Lastly, request access and collect medical records relevant to your claim.
Legal Help for a Medical Malpractice Claim
Medical malpractice laws can be very complicated. There is a lot of paperwork to request from hospitals, doctors, specialists, and insurance companies. This can be a difficult process to handle on your own. A medical malpractice lawyer will be able to help you with your case. Some attorneys offer a free case evaluation to see if you will be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Hiring an experienced medical malpractice attorney is helpful when filing a medical malpractice claim.
Click on any of the links below to learn more about medical malpractice.
- First Steps in a Medical Malpractice Case
- Breaches of Doctor-Patient Confidentiality
- Proving Fault in Medical Malpractice Cases
- Medical Malpractice: Who Can Be Sued?
- Medical Records Release Form
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.