It’s alarming that medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States, right after cancer and heart disease. We hold medical professionals to the highest standards, but there are numerous cases in which medical practitioners fail to meet these standards and cause harm to their patients. Medical errors can come in many forms, with some leading to minor damage and others becoming fatal.

Patients who have suffered from medical malpractice have the right to file a lawsuit against their practitioners. Learn more about the legal aspect of medical malpractice so you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice is negligence on the part of healthcare professionals. Negligence is an act or omission that fails to adhere to the proper standard of care. There are requirements that a patient must establish for medical malpractice to be recognized by law.

First, the patient must prove that their medical practitioner’s negligence led to an injury. A patient can accuse their doctor of neglect, but it won’t prove medical malpractice if they weren’t harmed or injured.

Second, the injury sustained by the patient must have damaging effects. Some examples of considerable damage are chronic pain, suffering, disability, and loss of livelihood.  

What Are the Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice? 

The most common medical malpractice allegations are from diagnosis, medication, obstetrics, treatment, and surgery. Here are some examples that might constitute medical malpractice:

  • Performing surgery on the wrong part of the body
  • Leaving surgical equipment inside the patient’s body 
  • Giving the wrong diagnosis or failure to diagnose
  • Prescribing the wrong medication or dosage
  • Discharging the patient prematurely
  • Failing to follow up on a patient
  • Ordering the wrong tests 
  • The patient has persistent pain after surgery
  • Contracting a fatal infection from the hospital 

What Is the Legal Process for a Medical Malpractice Case?

The first step is for the damaged person, who is then the plaintiff, to file a lawsuit against the medical practitioner, who becomes the defendant. Before the trial begins, both the plaintiff and the defendant will engage in discovery. This process lets both parties know what evidence will be presented in court and what witnesses have to say. Both parties can agree on a settlement outside of court, so that the case won’t have to go to trial.

If the parties fail to reach an agreement, the trial will proceed. The plaintiff and defendant are usually required to have an expert who will define the expected standard of medical care. The plaintiff will then have to provide evidence that the defendant acted in some way below that standard of care and that the sub-standard action caused an injury. The fact-finder – which can be the judge or a jury – will evaluate all the facts and evidence to decide whether the plaintiff has proven the medical practitioner injured them by engaging in an action that fell below the medical standard of care. The fact-finder will also determine the amount of damages if the plaintiff wins.

What Kind of Compensation Can a Patient Receive? 

The plaintiff can receive compensatory damages if their injury costs them their ability to earn a living or if they have medical or life care expenses to cover. Compensatory damages can also cover the injury itself, whether physical harm or emotional distress. Usually, damages include both future and past losses.

Punitive damages, on the other hand, are a form of punishment and can only be awarded if the practitioner engaged in intentional misconduct. It’s an additional amount on top of compensatory damages.

The Bottom Line

Victims of medical malpractice should get the proper compensation they deserve to cover their damages. It would be beneficial to have a trusted professional by your side who can help you throughout the legal process. If you need assistance, you can contact Friedman Law Offices at +1 (800)876-1093.