What Falls Under Medical Malpractice?

When we go to a doctor or hospital for care, we are literally entrusting our lives to those who work there. We assume that medical professionals, but far too many victims of malpractice have discovered firsthand that this is not always the case. Laws are in place to protect people who are injured through medical negligence, and medical malpractice claims are one way of seeking justice. However, there are certain characteristics that a case must have in order to qualify as malpractice, so exactly what is considered medical malpractice?

Violation of the Standard of Care

medical malpractice

One of the key characteristics of a valid case of medical malpractice is violation of the standard of care. The term “standard of care” refers to acceptable medical treatments that are performed by cautious and reasonable health care professionals when faced with similar circumstances. According to law, that is something that all patients have a right to expect. Negligence may be established if it can be demonstrated that the standard of care was not met

Here are some specific examples of negligence that can lead to a medical malpractice claim:

  • Failure to recognize symptoms
  • Failure to take appropriate patient history
  • Disregarding patient history
  • Failure to warn a patient of possible risks
  • Unnecessary surgery
  • Improper medication
  • Improper dosage (e.g., too little or too much)
  • Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose
  • Failure to order the proper tests and diagnostics
  • Misreading or ignoring laboratory results
  • Failure to recognize symptoms
  • Surgical errors
  • Wrong surgery site (e.g., amputating the wrong limb)
  • Discharging a patient too soon
  • Poor aftercare or follow up

These are common acts of medical negligence or incompetence that can form the basis for a medical malpractice claim. However, negligence in and of itself is not sufficient to prove medical malpractice.

Proving an Injury Caused by Negligence

The next requirement for medical malpractice is proving that an injury resulted from the negligence. This can be a complicated issue. Most of the time, doctors and medical personnel are treating people who are already sick or injured. The patient must be able to prove that they received an injury as a result of the negligence and that the injury would not have occurred if negligence had not taken place.

Just because you suffer an injury at a hospital does not mean you have been a victim of medical malpractice; you must be able to tie the injury to a negligent health care provider and prove that there is no other way the injury could have occurred. Put another way, if the negligence did not result in an injury, there is no case or if an injury was sustained that was not the result of negligence, there is no case.

An Injury That Resulted in Significant Damages

Medical errors

Even if you can establish negligence and tie the injury directly to that negligence, significant damages must have resulted from the injury. In short, the damages must be greater than the cost to litigate.
Litigation of medical malpractice cases is extremely expensive. For a medical malpractice claim to be pursued, the patient must be able to demonstrate that the injury resulted in one or more of the following:

  • Significant past and future medical bills
  • Loss of income
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Disability
  • Suffering, hardship, or mental anguish
  • Unusual pain

What Doesn’t Qualify as a Medical Malpractice Claim

We have examined what is considered medical malpractice, now let’s look at what wouldn’t qualify as a malpractice claim.
Being dissatisfied with the treatment provided by your medical professional does not in and of itself merit a legitimate malpractice claim. For example, you may have gone to a surgeon for a cosmetic procedure that did not turn out as you had hoped, but unless the doctor was negligent, you cannot sue for malpractice.

Suppose a doctor is treating a patient suffering from late stage cancer and that patient dies. This is most likely not a medical malpractice case because the courts will assume there is a much high probability that the cancer caused death rather than a mistake by the doctor at that point in the treatment. However, that may not be the case the patient’s family may be able to demonstrate otherwise.

Let’s say that you overhear a doctor giving someone else advice, perhaps at a party. You decide to apply that advice to yourself, but it doesn’t work. That type of incident would not constitute medical malpractice because you did not have a patient-physician relationship with that doctor. In order to sue for malpractice, you must have requested treatment from a doctor and that doctor must have agreed to treat you.

In short, to have a valid medical malpractice claim, you must be able to demonstrate that the negligence of a healthcare professional resulted in a significant injury that was caused by their negligence and not by another event. If these conditions are present, then there is a good chance that medical practice can be demonstrated.

Contact Sacchetta & Baldino

At Sacchetta & Baldino, we understand the suffering and frustration that results from medical incompetence and negligence. We also realize that victims may become overwhelmed when contemplating the process of proving malpractice. Our team of attorneys and trial lawyers have significant experience in both investigating and prosecuting medical malpractice claims for our clients. In many cases, we have successfully reached settlements without the need for a trial.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by the incompetence or negligence of someone in the medical profession, contact the law offices of Sacchetta & Baldino to schedule a consultation right away. We will work with you to determine if you have a medical malpractice claim and diligently fight for what you deserve under the law.