If a doctor makes a mistake in diagnosing or treating you, of course you are concerned and want to ensure that your health and wellbeing is a priority. If you experience such an error, you may also be interested in learning more about what qualifies as medical malpractice. Not all errors qualify as malpractice, and determining which cases do qualify can be quite complicated.
Read on to learn more about what qualifies as medical malpractice and how you can ensure that your health and legal rights are protected. If you have specific questions about medical malpractice, contact Brown & Brothers to speak with one of our attorneys.
What Qualifies as Medical Malpractice?
The practice of medicine is not foolproof. There are no guarantees, and the uniqueness of every patient and medical condition can make diagnosis and treatment complex. Understanding that any human being is capable of making mistakes, it is important to understand how the legal system differentiates between mistake and malpractice.
To qualify as medical malpractice, you must establish that your claim meets the following criteria:
- A doctor-patient relationship exists between you and the healthcare provider.
- The healthcare provider’s care fell below the accepted medical standard of care (the healthcare provider was negligent in some way).
- There is a clear connection between the healthcare provider’s negligent act or omission that caused you harm.
- The harm you have experienced can be quantified into damages (losses).
The two most difficult criteria to prove include identifying the medical standard of care and proving that the healthcare provider breached said standard. Consider the following:
- Medical Standard of Care: To determine if your case qualifies as medical malpractice, you must identify the accepted medical standard of care. This process often involves interviewing expert witnesses – other healthcare providers or experts – who can testify to the generally accepted methods of diagnosing or treating a patient with the same condition. These experts are generally chosen based on their experience with the same or similar conditions and their geographic location.
- Proving a Breach: Once you have identified the medical standard of care, the next step is proving that your healthcare provider fell short of that standard. To do this, you must provide detailed accounts of your experience with this healthcare provider. During this process, your attorney will call on those expert witnesses to guide the jury through your situation – your condition, diagnostic methodology, treatment, or any errors or omissions made. The expert witness will then provide a description of the care he or she would have provided to a patient in the same situation based on the standard of care.
While these two elements are among the most complex and crucial to determining if a case qualifies as medical malpractice, it is important to remember that malpractice may occur at any point in the process of providing healthcare. Medical malpractice is a legal concept that encompasses far more than just diagnostic or treatment errors.
Examples of Medical Malpractice
There are many situations that may fall into the category of medical malpractice. Some of the most common examples of negligence that may result in a medical malpractice claim include:
- Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose
- Ignoring laboratory results
- Inaccurately interpreting laboratory results
- Failure to adequate review patient medical records and history
- Failure to order proper diagnostic testing
- Failure to recognize symptoms
- Performing unnecessary surgery
- Surgical errors – operating on the wrong patient or the wrong body part, or leaving surgical tools behind in the body
- Birth injuries – failure to order Cesarean section, improper use of delivery tools, forced delivery, improper use of medications for childbirth, failure to monitor maternal or fetal vitals and health
- Medication errors – wrong medication or dose, improper administration, failure to warn of side effects, failure to consider allergies
- Poor aftercare or follow up
- Premature discharge from hospital
This list is quite concerning, but is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There are many other situations and unique qualities of healthcare that could qualify as negligence or malpractice. The best way to determine if your case qualifies as medical malpractice is to contact a medical malpractice attorney to discuss your case.
Examples of What is Not Medical Malpractice
While there are many examples of what may qualify as medical malpractice, there are a few clear examples of what is not medical malpractice. These examples include:
- Your Condition Worsens: If you are undergoing treatment and your condition worsens, your healthcare provider may not be guilty of malpractice. Sometimes healthcare providers cannot cure an illness, despite their best attempts and all that science has to offer. There are also many variables to treatment, such as the patients overall health, response to treatment, and the condition itself. As long as your healthcare provider is treating you with reasonable care in line with medical standards, then your case most likely would not qualify for medical malpractice.
- Untreatable Conditions: Not all health conditions are treatable or “curable”. If your healthcare provider has made an accurate diagnosis and initiated appropriate treatment for your condition, then he or she cannot be guilty of medical malpractice because no negligence has occurred. Healthcare providers are not legally responsible for health outcomes resulting from naturally-occurring illnesses, including those that become incurable, or terminal.
Getting Help with Medical Malpractice Claims
To find out if your case qualifies as medical malpractice, or to learn more about your legal rights, contact Brown & Brothers to speak with one of our medical malpractice attorneys. Our skilled team of attorneys has the knowledge and resources you need to understand your situation and, if applicable, build a strong case. Fill out our online form to get started right away.