What Is Medical Malpractice?—Med Mal Awareness Month
Medical malpractice is the third-largest killer in the United States, causing around 440,000 deaths each year. While we’ve all learned signs of and preventative methods for other risks that size (like heart disease and cancer), most people sadly would not be able to tell if they or a loved one suffered malpractice when seeking treatment.
Without this knowledge, there is no way for victims to have a voice—or for anyone to hold careless healthcare professionals and facilities responsible. This year, we’re joining the National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association to spread awareness about how a doctor’s negligence can injure or even kill patients. If a tragic medical mistake has affected your life, use these questions to determine if it was malpractice. The doctor or facility that caused your injury could be liable for your damages.
The Four Prongs of a Medical Malpractice Case
As medical malpractice attorneys, injured patients come to us ready to file a case right away. While you may think anyone who was harmed in a medical process should have the right to sue, it’s not that simple. All treatments come with some risks—we call them side effects. As long as a patient is thoroughly warned about what might happen, and as long as they agree to proceed with the treatment anyway, suffering an injury they were warned about will not trigger eligibility for a malpractice case. By agreeing to a therapy, patients are assuming the risks attached to it.
So, how can you tell when an injury has been caused by medical malpractice? There are four questions you must ask yourself, and all must be answered in the affirmative.
First: Was There a Duty of Care?
Duty of care is a fancy way to say someone else is responsible for your wellbeing. It is the foundation on which all personal injury law sits. When it comes to medical malpractice, a duty of care refers to the agreement between your doctor and you. By hiring a doctor, you are telling them you trust them to monitor your health, and by seeing you as a patient, the doctor is promising they will do so.
Therefore, establishing duty of care in court only requires affirming you were in an official doctor-patient relationship with the defendant. This point is typically quite easy to prove.
Second: Did the Doctor Breach Their Duty of Care?
Considering whether a doctor acted negligently might be the most confusing part of a medical malpractice case. As we’ve already discussed, a doctor’s inability to prevent side effects is not negligence as long as they warned their patient about potential complications. The key to proving a breach of duty in a medical malpractice case is establishing what a reasonable physician should have done in your case.
For example, a doctor should ask you about your current medications before prescribing a new drug. If they fail to and you suffer adverse drug interactions, we can point to your doctor’s lapse in judgement as the cause of your injury. In more complex cases, finding the baseline for “reasonable” treatment may not be as easy. However, we often bring in expert medical consultants who can testify about the care you should have received.
Third: Did the Breach Cause Injury?
Most medical malpractice cases start when a patient is harmed, so people typically have an idea of what their injury is when they come to talk to us. However, we must also be able to link your injury to the doctor’s negligence. As with the above point, we can bring in medical experts who can draw a clear line of causation between the doctor’s actions and your injury. This testimony is typically very science-heavy, which is one reason it’s important to work with an experienced medical malpractice attorney and their team.
Fourth: Did the Injury Cause Damages?
The last thing you must do is justify the damages you are asking to receive by linking them back to the mistake your doctor made. Damages in medical malpractice cases may involve expenses for:
- Medical bills
- Future medical needs
- Missed wages
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death
If you’ve been injured, our team can help you make sure you’ve received appropriate follow-up care and a second medical opinion from someone who is not connected to the case. Then, we can help you itemize your expenses—which often add up to more than clients expect.
Ready to File Your Medical Malpractice Claim?
If you believe you have proof for all four of the above points, you likely have a medical malpractice claim. The easiest way to learn your legal rights is by calling our team. We offer free consultations, and we promise to always be honest with clients (and prospective clients) regarding their legal situation.
Dealing with questions regarding medical malpractice can be emotionally difficult and confusing, in a time that doesn’t need any more stress. Let us clarify the law for you so you feel certain about what to do next.
Call The Villari Firm, PLLC at (215) 372-8889 or send us a message to speak with our team. We have the resources and skill you need to take a doctor or medical facility to court.