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What is medical malpractice?

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Medical malpractice occurs when a patient receives negligent or improper medical care from any medical professional, whether it’s a doctor, dentist, nurse, pharmacist or other medical professional. In the event a person has been a victim of medical malpractice, he has the right to recover damages related to the incident.

Negligence is the most common form of medical malpractice, which means failing to provide a reasonable level of care or omitting care that a reasonable person would do. These can include misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, surgical errors, anesthetic errors and others.

In order to win a medical malpractice case involving negligence, a victim must prove four elements.

  • The first is that the doctor had a legal duty of care for the patient. This is the legal obligation imposed on the caregiver that requires him to adhere to a reasonable standard of care. Professional physicians owe a duty of care to anyone they agree to treat, so this element is almost never an issue.
  • The second element that the plaintiff must prove is that the doctor violated the reasonable standard of care. The plaintiff must be able to show a particular duty of care that the caregiver violated. A doctor often has several acceptable lines of treatment available for various maladies, so choosing one over the others does not constitute a form of malpractice.
  • Third, the plaintiff must also have suffered a compensable injury. Costs of additional medical care and therapy, lost wages and lost services due to negligence, as well as lost wages, can be recovered. The court or jury can also award additional compensation for pain and suffering and punitive damages.
  • Fourth, the plaintiff must also prove that the injury was directly caused by the negligence of the medical professional. This element is the most frequently contested. The physician and his lawyer can argue that the injuries were caused by external factors and unrelated to the medical care. Failure to prove any of these four elements will cause a medical malpractice lawsuit to be unsuccessful.

Medical malpractice suits are one of the single greatest contributors to inflated medical costs. Multi-million dollar jury verdicts are passed on in the form of higher malpractice insurance premiums and ultimately to consumers in the form of higher cost of care. Many doctors also engage in defensive medicine, performing unnecessary tests that can be used to defeat a negligence claim later.

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