We go to doctors and medical professionals for accurate diagnoses, quality care, and, hopefully, to feel better. However, it doesn't always work out that way. In some cases, those professionals – physicians, nurses, assistants, orderlies – can cause further injury. Fortunately for patients, the legal system has developed procedures and rules to help determine who should be liable for injuries sustained while receiving medical care, known generally as "medical malpractice." Medical malpractice liability can occur due to a flawed diagnosis, improper treatment, or even treating a patient without proper permission. FindLaw's Medical Malpractice section provides articles and resources on many medical malpractice issues, from first steps to breaking down the legal elements of a claim.
This section offers resources to help when medical care goes wrong. Learn about the standard of care doctors owe patients, along with details on patients' rights to recover damages for medical malpractice. You'll also find an explanation of common types of medical malpractice, including bad diagnosis, sub-standard care, lack of "informed consent," as well as breach of doctor-patient confidentiality. Knowing the doctor's duties and your rights can help you make better decisions when deciding whether to pursue a medical claim. Click on the links below for in-depth information on medical malpractice and the legal rights of patients who have suffered harm.
Finding Fault in Medical Malpractice Cases
There are two main components to most medical malpractice cases: figuring out who was at fault, and then proving that fault legally. Medical malpractice liability is not limited to just doctors: it can also apply to nurses and others who provide health care services. Even hospitals and pharmaceutical companies can be found liable for malpractice.
The other main thrust of a medical malpractice suit is proving fault. Most medical malpractice cases contend that a medical professional was negligent in treating a patient. To legally establish medical negligence, an injured patient must prove:
- The health care professional owed a duty to the patient (most often a doctor/patient relationship);
- The health care professional deviated from the applicable standard of care, which is a breach of the duty owed the patient;
- A causal connection between the health care professional's deviation from the standard of care and the patient's injury; and
- An injury to the patient.
What to Do in Case of Medical Malpractice
There are some important steps to take if you think a medical professional has provided inadequate or improper care. First, you should contact the medical professional in charge of your care. It's possible that your issue could be remedied with the proper correction or solution. 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. However, 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 window to file a legal action. Finally, know which medical records will be relevant to your claim and where to obtain them.
Legal Help for a Medical Malpractice Claim
The law regarding medical malpractice can be complicated. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can ascertain the merits of your claim, and help walk you through the necessary stages of filing, a possible trial, and any appeals that may result.