What Constitutes Medical Malpractice?
11/6/2020 Medical Malpractice,Personal Injury John Whitfield
Medical malpractice lawsuits are, sadly, a common occurrence in the United States. Medical malpractice occurs when a patient seeking diagnosis and/or treatment from a medical provider, is harmed when that professional fails to provide appropriate healthcare treatment. Most medical professionals and hospital systems make a small number of mistakes; however, even a small mistake can cause incredible harm to a patient who just wanted to feel better.
For an injured or harmed patient to make a case that medical malpractice occurred, they must show that the medical professional they entered into a patient relationship with acted negligently, and that negligence resulted in injury or bodily harm.
Elements a Patient Must Prove in a Medical Malpractice Claim
- A legal duty was owed to the patient – There must be an established doctor-patient relationship for medical malpractice to have occurred. This means the patient agreed to hire the specific medical professional for treatment and that individual agreed to provide diagnosis and treatment. If a doctor began seeing and treating a patient, it is easy to prove a physician-patient relationship existed via medical records.
- There was a breach of professional duty (standard of care) – Certain standards are recognized industry-wide as constituting appropriate medical treatment by reasonable health care professionals; this is commonly known as the “standard of care.” Patients have the right to expect their medical professionals to deliver care that is consistent with these standards. If it is determined that the standard of care has not been met, negligence may then be established.
- An injury was caused by negligence – If a medical professional violates the standard of care when treating a patient, it is not automatically considered medical malpractice. The patient must prove they sustained an injury that would not have occurred in the absence of the provider’s negligence. The patient has the responsibility to prove that negligence specifically caused their injury.
- The injury caused significant damages – For a medical malpractice case to be viable, the patient must demonstrate that significant damages resulted from the injury received due to medical negligence. To start a medical malpractice claim, the patient must show that the injury resulted in significant disability, loss of income or job, chronic or unusual pain, suffering and hardship, and/or significant present and future medical bills.
Litigating medical malpractice lawsuits can be expensive and frequently requires both the testimony of medical experts and many hours of depositions. Having an experienced, knowledgeable Nashville medical malpractice attorney will be critical to navigating this process.
Common Causes of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice can be caused by a variety of medical professional mistakes. The following are commons causes of medical negligence injuries:
- Misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or failure to diagnose. These are the most common reasons for medical malpractice complaints. When a medical professional misdiagnoses, or fails to diagnose, a condition, serious illness, or injury, patients may lose the chance to obtain treatment that could prevent serious harm or even death. It can be more difficult to prove medical malpractice by misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis; however, if the medical professional is considered competent and under the same conditions would have not made that specific diagnostic error, the treating provider may be held liable and the patient may have a viable medical malpractice claim.
- Improper treatment. If a doctor treats a patient in a way that no other competent doctor would, the patient could have a medical malpractice claim. In a similar vein, it may also be malpractice if the doctor selects the appropriate treatment but administers it incompetently.
- Failure to warn a patient of known risks. Doctors have a duty to warn patients of known risks of a procedure or course of treatment — this is known as the duty of informed consent. If a patient properly informed of possible risks would have elected not to go through with the procedure, the doctor may be liable for medical malpractice if the patient is injured by the procedure (in a way that the doctor should have warned could happen).
- Childbirth injuries. There are a great number of injuries caused by medical mistakes made during pregnancy and childbirth. These injuries can affect both the baby and the mother. From traumatic brain injuries and fractured bones, to nerve damage and hemorrhaging, birth injuries can have debilitating, long-term effects or even lead to death. If the medical professionals delivering the baby do not anticipate complications, fail to respond to fetal distress, fail to order a cesarean section in time, or are incompetent in their use of forceps or a vacuum extractor, they may be held liable for any injuries caused to the baby or mother.
- Medication error. Medication errors can occur in a variety of ways, including patients being prescribed the wrong medication by their medical professional or being given the wrong dosage of the correct medication. Patients can be severely harmed by taking the wrong dose of a medication they need or if they have been given the wrong medication entirely.
- Surgery error. Patients receiving surgery to treat a condition are putting their full trust in the hands of their doctors. Medical malpractice during surgery can occur; and, even the smallest mistake can cause severe harm or death. During surgery, mistakes that can cause significant damage include negligently puncturing internal organs, operating on the wrong body part, or leaving surgical instruments or materials inside the body. After the surgery, when the patient is recovering, nursing staff may be negligent in administering care, which can lead to serious complications and/or infection.
- Anesthesia error. Anesthesiologists are responsible for safely sedating patients during surgery. Even the smallest mistake by an anesthesiologist can result in permanent injury, brain damage, and even death. If the anesthesiologist does not check a patient’s medical history, administers too much anesthesia, does not monitor vital signs, or improperly intubates the patient, they could be liable for the harm caused to the patient.
Nashville Medical Malpractice Attorneys
The trial lawyers at Whitfield Bryson LLP have decades of experience investigating, prosecuting, and resolving medical malpractice cases. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries caused by a preventable medical mistake, you and your family may be entitled to financial compensation. To discuss your case or concerns with an experienced Nashville, TN medical malpractice attorney, contact us today.