Every year thousands of hospital deaths in the United States are due to potentially preventable medical errors. Your choice of attorney to represent your interests during a medical malpractice case could mean the difference between successful negotiations or expensive, ongoing litigation. Call today to schedule a consultation with a personal injury attorney who can provide a clear explanation of your legal rights and options.
Expert testimony can be critical to establishing causation in medical malpractice cases. When you are pursuing a medical malpractice claim, an attorney who has regularly advised and represented clients in medical malpractice litigation can help you to prepare a strong case. To learn more about our legal services, contact our firm to schedule a consultation and case evaluation with an experienced personal injury attorney.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Malpractice
Q: What is medical malpractice?
A: Medical malpractice is when the treatment given to a patient by a professional health care provider (such as a doctor, nurse, dentist, technician, hospital worker or hospital) deviates from the standard of care met by those with similar training and experience, causing harm to that patient.
Q: Does someone who is not satisfied with the results of his or her surgery have a malpractice case?
A: Not necessarily. In general, there are no guarantees of medical results, and unexpected or unsuccessful results do not always mean that negligence occurred. To succeed in a medical malpractice case, a plaintiff has to show an injury or damages that resulted from the doctor's deviation from the appropriate standard of care.
Medical Malpractice - An Overview
Medical malpractice occurs when a negligent act (or omission) by a doctor or other medical professional results harm to a patient. Negligence by a medical professional could include an error in diagnosis, treatment or illness management, and could happen during a medical procedure, test, evaluation or surgery. If such negligence results in injury to the patient, a case could arise against a doctor if his or her actions deviated from generally accepted standards of practice; against a hospital for providing improper care protocols, including problems with medications, sanitation or nursing staff levels; or against local, state or federal agencies and entities that operate hospital facilities.
Medical malpractice laws are designed to protect patients' rights to compensation if they are injured as the result of negligence. However, malpractice suits can be complex and costly to take to trial. While theoretically you could seek compensation for any injury caused by the negligence of a health care provider, regardless of its seriousness, the time and money involved make it unrealistic to sue for an injury that is minor or heals quickly. If you believe you have a legitimate medical malpractice claim, it is important to consult with an attorney at Rheingold, Valet, Rheingold, Ruffo & Giuffra LLP in New York, NY, who can help you determine whether your claim is worth pursuing.
Understanding Informed Consent
In many situations where medical care or treatment is provided to an individual, medical professionals are required to obtain the patient's "informed consent." Although the specific definition of informed consent varies from state to state, it essentially means that the patient has knowingly decided to move forward with medical care after receiving the level of information about the potential benefits, risks and alternatives involved that a reasonably prudent medical provider would have given in a similar circumstance. If the health care provider fails to obtain informed consent, the patient may have a legal claim for damages.
Responsible Parties in Medical Malpractice Actions
Medical malpractice actions are not strictly limited to medical doctors. They can also be brought against nurses, dentists, osteopaths, health care facilities, chiropractors, naturopaths, complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) providers and others providing medical services, such as clinics, surgery centers and nursing homes.
Proving Your Case - Causation
To establish a case for medical malpractice, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, the plaintiff suffered an injury, and that the injury was caused by the doctor or other medical professional's negligence. Proof of causation can be a particularly difficult issue in a medical malpractice case.
For one thing, the injuries generally involved in medical malpractice cases require specific medical training to understand, and the normal plaintiff may not know the cause of such injuries. In addition, injuries could be exacerbated by the underlying condition(s) for which plaintiff was seeking treatment, so it can be hard to tell the true extent that the negligence itself resulted in harm.
Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases
Damages are a critical element of a medical malpractice case, and the plaintiff cannot recover damages for injuries that did not result from the doctor's conduct. Therefore, the plaintiff must establish a causal connection the plaintiff's injury and the defendant's negligence. Generally, there are two types of damages available to a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case: compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Medical Malpractice Resource Links
National Patient Safety Foundation
The NPSF website features information about patient safety.
U.S. Agency for Health Care Research & Quality
Provides information and links about patient safety, tips for patients and other general health information.
Information about the delivery of safe, high-quality patient care, provided by The Joint Commission, the governing body that provides health care accreditation to institutions around the country.
Medical Liability/Medical Malpractice Laws
A chart summarizing state medical malpractice laws, provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures.