What Constitutes Medical Malpractice?

What Constitutes Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice cases involve complex rules, making them difficult for people to navigate without the help of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. If you believe that your doctor might have engaged in medical malpractice, it is critical for you to consult with a medical malpractice attorney at Raynes & Lawn. Here is some information about what comprises medical malpractice to give you an overview of these types of claims.

What is medical malpractice?

Cases involving medical malpractice are common and frequently arise out of many different situations. When a doctor, another health care professional, or a hospital causes an injury to a patient through a negligent action or inaction, the responsible parties can be held liable through a malpractice claim. All doctors are expected to provide treatment that meets an appropriate standard of care. In other words, they must provide treatment that a reasonably prudent doctor with the same education and level of skill would provide under the same circumstances. When a doctor’s treatment falls below the expected standard of care, he or she might be liable to pay damages when the substandard treatment causes injury and harm to the patient.

Common Types of Malpractice

There are many different types of medical malpractice. Some of the most common scenarios involved in malpractice claims include the following:

  • Misdiagnoses
  • Delayed diagnoses
  • Failures to diagnose
  • Failures to order appropriate laboratory tests
  • Lack of informed consent
  • Breach of confidentiality
  • Incorrectly interpreting lab results
  • Performing unnecessary surgery
  • Surgical errors
  • Prescribing the wrong medications or wrong doses
  • Lack of follow-up care
  • Failure to check the patient’s medical history
  • Prematurely discharging a patient from the hospital

Doctors are not the only parties that can be sued for medical malpractice. These types of claims can be brought against any health care professional whose negligence causes patients to suffer injuries and harm, including pharmacists, nurses, dentists, chiropractors, and others.

The Standard of Care

It is important to understand the standard of care before you file a medical malpractice claim. Multiple factors are considered when determining the potential liability of a health care provider for malpractice. Among the factors, whether or not the health care provider’s care fell below the standard of care is among the most important considerations.

For you to have a viable medical malpractice claim, you must present evidence showing that the medical provider’s treatment fell below the expected standard of care. Doctors and other health care professionals are expected to provide care with the same degree of competence as a reasonably prudent provider with the same education and level of skill in the local area would provide under the same circumstances. In medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania, plaintiffs are required to get a certificate of merit from a medical expert demonstrating that the treatment provided did not meet the standard of care.

Causation

Even if the care provided by a doctor was substandard, that is not enough by itself to pursue a medical malpractice claim. You must also be able to prove that the substandard care caused your injuries. If a doctor’s care was substandard, but you were not seriously injured, you will not be able to pursue a medical malpractice claim. For example, if one doctor incorrectly diagnosed a tumor as cancerous, but you immediately got a second opinion and learned that you did not have cancer and did not receive any dangerous drugs to treat nonexistent cancer, you would not be likely to prevail in a malpractice claim against the doctor who initially misdiagnosed you. By contrast, if you did not get a second opinion and were injured by taking unnecessary chemotherapy drugs because of the doctor’s misdiagnosis, you might have grounds to file a claim.

Hospital’s Liability for Malpractice

Hospitals might be liable for medical malpractice when people suffer injuries because of the hospitals’ negligent procedures or policies. Hospitals might also be vicariously liable for the actions or inactions of their employees when they provide substandard care and injure patients.

However, many doctors are not employed by the hospitals at which they have admitting privileges. Instead, they are independent contractors. This means that if they make medical errors, the hospital in which the negligence occurred will likely not be liable. However, if a hospital negligently contracted with a doctor and provided him or her with admitting privileges despite a history of disciplinary actions and medical malpractice claims, you might be able to pursue a claim against the hospital for negligence.

While doctors are normally classified as independent contracts, other people who work in hospitals are classified as employees, including nurses, CNAs, lab technicians, and others. If you are injured because an employee engaged in negligence, you can file a lawsuit against the hospital.

Lawsuits Against Doctors

To prevail in a medical malpractice claim against a doctor, you must prove that the doctor was negligent. This means that the care you received from the doctor fell below the accepted standard of care, and the doctor’s negligence caused your injuries and damages.

For example, if your doctor failed to check your medical records and prescribed a medication to you that contained an ingredient to which you are highly allergic, you could potentially sue the doctor for medical malpractice. However, if you noticed that the drug contained the allergenic substance and did not take it, you would not prevail in a claim against the doctor for the prescription error since you did not suffer any injuries or harm. By contrast, if your loved one went to the doctor because he or she was suffering a heart attack, you might have grounds to file a claim if the doctor failed to diagnose the heart attack and sent your loved one away with a prescription for antacids and subsequently died.

Consult a Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you believe that a doctor or another health care professional committed medical malpractice and caused your injuries, you should speak to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer at Raynes & Lawn. Call us today at 1-800-535-1797 to request a free consultation.

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