What Actions Constitute Medical Malpractice?
According to the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys medical malpractice occurs “when a hospital, doctor or other health care professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes an injury to a patient. The negligence might be the result of errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare or health management.”
That is the definition of malpractice in a very broad sense. Whether a specific action or event that took place constitutes medical malpractice is dependent on a number of factors. Not every unfavorable incident is going to result in a medical malpractice case. However, in cases where the doctor or other medical provider failed to meet the applicable medical standard of care, there may be grounds for a malpractice claim. The “medical standard of care” is generally taken to mean the level of care that a reasonable, capable doctor who was similarly skilled and educated would provide under similar circumstances. Of course, that standard might be debatable to a certain degree, in which case a medical expert would likely need to weigh in.
Actions that Might be Considered Medical Malpractice
So, determining whether a situation constitutes medical malpractice will require determining whether the practitioner was negligent, and if so, if that directly contributed to your injuries or illness. Some examples of actions that could be considered medical malpractice include:
- Surgical mistakes
- Performing an unnecessary surgery
- Operating on the wrong site
- Failure to properly diagnose or treat an injury or illness
- Improperly prescribing medication
- Premature discharge from care
- Disregarding patient history, resulting in injury
- Failure to order proper testing
- Failure to conduct proper follow-up
In any such cases, the plaintiff will need to prove the following:
- The doctor or other medical professional violated the standard of care. All patients have a right to expect proper care by their medical providers. If a patient was not treated up to this expected standard, then they can claim the standard of care was violated.
- The injury was caused by negligence. While a medical professional should never violate the standard of care, the violation itself is not grounds for a medical malpractice claim by a patient. The patient must also prove that he or she suffered an injury or illness that was directly caused by the doctor or other care provider’s negligence caused. An injury by itself is not grounds for a malpractice claim. For instance, if the patient’s condition worsened, or if their condition was untreatable, that is not the fault of the doctor or hospital. There is never a guarantee that a patient will get better, and sometimes treatments do not work. Thus, an injury or illness in itself is not grounds for a malpractice claim. There must be evidence both of negligence and of an injury or illness that resulted from that negligence.
One other important consideration in medical malpractice cases is the extent of the damages suffered by the patient. In cases where the damages are not very high, it might not be feasible to pursue a lawsuit. This is because of the high cost of litigating these cases. They almost always require the testimony of expert medical witnesses, and many hours in and out of court. This is particularly relevant in California, where the cap on non-economic damages a plaintiff can claim in a medical malpractice lawsuit is $250,000. If the special damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc.) are not extensive, it may not be feasible to pursue a medical malpractice claim.
If you have been injured while under the care of a medical professional and believe you may have a medical malpractice case, it is imperative that you speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. An attorney will help you determine whether the situation appears to be medical malpractice, and if it is a viable case.
Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today at (760) 777-7777 for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, El Centro, and Yucca Valley, and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.
DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.