What Is Medical Malpractice?

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What Is Medical Malpractice?

Personal Injury Attorney Ben Schwartz explains the meaning of Medical Malpractice and exactly what it means. He gives examples of medical malpractice cases, which include the statute of limitations & filing a lawsuit for medical malpractice.

Medical Malpractice Lawyers in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Washington D.C.

The Medical Malpractice lawyers in our firm are currently accepting representation in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases resulting from medical malpractice occurring in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, D.C., and Maryland. We are available to review medical malpractice cases in the Continental United States and outside the Mid-Atlantic region, but we do not maintain a law practice in other states and would refer to or associate with local counsel outside that service area.

What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a negligent act or omission, which is a failure to act by a health care provider that results in injury or death to the patient. Not every case involving a bad outcome is a case of medical malpractice. Sometimes, despite best intentions and despite excellent care, people have bad outcomes. On the other hand, when a bad outcome is the result of carelessness, recklessness or disregard of safety standards and protocols, then there may be a case of medical malpractice.

If you are researching medical malpractice, you will likely read or hear that in medical malpractice cases, lawyers, judges, and juries ask whether there was a deviation from the standard of care. A deviation is a departure or a failure to meet a certain level or standard. The standard of care is the level that doctors and nurses and other medical care providers are expected to provide.

What are the common types of medical malpractice?

There are as many different types of medical malpractice as there are disease processes and treatments. The following are general categories of medical malpractice cases. For ease of discussion and understanding, failure to diagnose a disease such as cancer or an infection, in these types of cases, the patient has a disease or an infection. The patient goes to the hospital, or to the doctor, who fails to realize what the problem is. Later, when the problem is properly diagnosed, the disease has grown or spread to the point where it’s either untreatable, or much harder to treat, resulting in a worse outcome than the patient would have had if they had been timely and appropriately treated.

Surgical Errors

Surgical errors are mistakes made in connection with surgery. These cases may include wrong surgeries where the surgeon operates on the wrong body part. These cases may include wrong procedures where the patient is operated on, but the operation itself was not the operation that was intended. These cases may include wrong patients where the surgeon showed up to the right operating room and did the right surgery, but did it on the wrong patient.

Surgical errors can also involve leaving surgical implements in the surgical site. This is called retained surgical items. For example, it’s not unheard of for patients to leave the operating room with surgical sponges, clamps, scalpels and other instruments inside their body.

Medication Errors

Medication errors often involve giving the wrong medicine or the wrong quantity of medicine to a patient. For example, a patient may be known to be allergic to a particular drug, or type of drug, and then be given that drug. Another example is the patient who should have been given one amount of medication but is mistakenly given a multiple of that quantity of medication resulting in complications.

Birth Injuries

Birth injuries are injuries to infants and may be caused by any number of errors. Commonly, birth injury cases may involve failure to monitor the baby while the mother is in labor, during this time, injury or death may occur to the child. Birth injury cases may involve physically injuring the baby during the delivery process or they may involve failing to appropriately treat the mother during her pregnancy. Birth injuries can also involve injuries to the mother as well.

Do all lawyers handle medical malpractice cases?

No, not all attorneys handle medical malpractice cases. Medical malpractice is a specialized area of the law. It can be considered a sub-specialty of personal injury law. The attorneys that accept representation in medical malpractice cases are personal injury lawyers that typically limit the cases they handle to cases involving wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury.

Are their limitation periods in medical malpractice cases?

Yes, there certainly are limitation periods in medical malpractice cases. There is a limit on the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit after a medical error is committed. The law that sets a time limit is called a statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations in the state where the medical error occurred will most likely be the statute of limitations that applies. Different states have different limitation periods. For example, in Delaware, the statute of limitations on a case involving injuries resulting from a medical error generally requires the lawsuit to be filed within two years after the error. But, if that same case occurred across the line in Maryland, in most cases the Maryland statute of limitations would require the case to be filed within five years from the date of the error or within three years after the error was discovered, whichever comes first.

These statutes of limitations rules are generally accurate as of the date this webpage was published, but things change. You should consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction rather than an internet web page if you require accurate up-to-date advice about the statute of limitations in your case.

If we file a lawsuit for medical malpractice what must we prove?

If we file a medical malpractice case against a doctor, hospital or another medical treatment provider, we will need to prove a number of things in order to win.

  1. We must prove that the defendant, doctor, or hospital owed a duty to the plaintiff. This may seem obvious. Why would anyone ever sue a doctor that didn’t owe a duty? Like most things in medicine and in the law aren’t that simple. What if you go to a walk-in clinic where all the providers log into the electronic medical records system using the same credentials? You sue the doctor that you think you saw and prescribed the medicine that poisoned you, but how do you know you got the right one?
  2. We have to prove that the defendant acted in a negligent manner. This will most likely require a review of the course of treatment by another doctor or medical treatment provider who can give an opinion on whether the defendant adhered to, or deviated from, the standard of care. That is the standard of behavior one would reasonably expect the defendant to uphold.
  3. We must prove causation. That is, we don’t evaluate medical malpractice in a vacuum. There must be some consequences resulting from medical error.
  4. We must prove what the damages are or the injuries are that resulted from that error.

If you need the help of a medical malpractice lawyer, please contact us, I’m attorney Ben Schwartz.

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