How To Know Whether It’s Medical Malpractice Or Just A Mistake

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Did you know that according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), medical malpractice ranks third as the leading cause of death in the U.S., with heart disease and cancer claiming the two top spots? In fact, a staggering $3 billion was paid out in medical malpractice settlements in 2012. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). There are other studies that show this figure to be much higher, as much as 440,000.

These incidents many times lead to malpractice suits in Florida.

“People don’t just die from heart attacks and bacteria, they die from system-wide failings and poorly coordinated care,” says the study’s lead author, Dr. Martin Makary, a professor of surgery and health policy at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “It’s medical care gone awry.”

Despite all the attempts to reform our health care system in an effort to provide safe health care, medical errors, and medical malpractice account for approximately 10 percent of deaths in the U.S. And the Johns Hopkins researchers say this figure is probably an undercount. That’s because the CDC doesn’t take into account the deaths that occur in such places considered non-hospital settings such as outpatient clinics, nursing homes, or even homes where caregivers provide care for fragile patients.

In a report by Dr. Makary and Dr. Michael Daniel of Johns Hopkins medical errors were defined as lapses in lapses in judgment, skill or coordination of care; mistaken diagnoses; system failures that lead to patient deaths or the failure to rescue dying patients, as well as preventable complications of care. Not all medical errors are not due to bad doctors; some can be from lack of proper training, bad coordination, problems with the system or management. Any of a number of factors can result in the wrong diagnosis, the wrong treatment, or worse.

“It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care,” Makary said.

But even with these statistics, many people may be unaware of what exactly constitutes malpractice, and how this differs from a mistake that is not legally actionable. Not every mistake rises to the level of malpractice, but malpractice always involves mistakes in judgment that lead to tragedy.

Medical Malpractice

Medical Malpractice Defined

Medical malpractice is a term that is used to describe negligence on the part of any healthcare provider, such as a physician or surgeon, which resulted in injury to a patient. A complete definition is:

“Any act or commission by a physician during treatment of a patient that deviates from accepted norms of practice in the medical community and causes an injury to the patient.”

Medical malpractice is a subgroup of tort law dealing with professional negligence. “Tort” is a Norman word that means “wrong” and tort law’s deal with those laws that create and provide remedies for civil wrongs that are separate from contractual wrongs of criminal wrongs. Medical malpractice laws in the U.S. is under jurisdiction of the individual states, and those laws can vary across state lines. However, most medical malpractice cases contain common elements and in most medical malpractice lawsuits, there are four key elements:

1. There was a professional duty owed to the patient – this simply means that there was an established doctor/patient relationship and that the doctor had a duty to show “reasonable care” when treating a patient. This is normally the easiest element for a plaintiff to prove since this “professional duty” is assumed whenever a physician assumes the care of a patient. There may be some limitations to this such as in the case of a doctor who provides emergency care at an accident scene.

2. The medical professional breached this duty – this means that a healthcare professional breached the reasonable standard of care expected from his or her peers. In some instances, this breach is obvious (operating on the wrong body part), but in other instances, it requires expert testimony to establish that a breach occurred. This breach of duty however is meaningless under the law, unless injury or harm was caused to the patient. This leads to the third element which is:

3. There was an injury resulting from the breach – plaintiffs must show that the breach of duty directly caused their injury or was a significant contributor to the injury. The legal term here is called res ipsa loquitur (Latin for “the thing itself speaks” but more often translated as “the thing speaks for itself”). This means that there is little doubt an injury has occurred; a limb is missing, or the patient died as a result of a malpractice.

4. Damages suffered – this means that plaintiffs must be able to prove financial and emotional loss due to this breach. Emotional loss is typically known as “pain and suffering” and can be demonstrated in a variety of ways, depending on the case.

How Mistakes Factor Into Medical Malpractice

A doctor can make a mistake during a surgery or during the course of treating a patient, without that mistake rising to the level of medical malpractice, as it is legally defined.

For a mistake to rise to that level, you would have to prove that your doctor was negligent and incompetent and that this negligence and incompetence met the four elements required to prove a malpractice case.

Common Types of Medical Malpractice

Remember that simply not liking how your doctor is providing treatment does not constitute malpractice, but if you have a situation that you think meets the standard, here are some of the more common types of medical malpractice to guide you:

  • Surgery errors – common errors during surgery include operating on the wrong organ, leaving surgical equipment inside the body, and puncturing a blood vessel.
  • Medication errors – this occurs when a physician prescribes the wrong medication or the wrong dosage.
  • Misdiagnosis – this includes missed diagnoses or delayed diagnoses, which calls into question the competence of a physician.

Justice For Medical Malpractice Victims

Medical malpractice claims are often challenging and complex and you need the best medical malpractice lawyer you can find. The team at Badgley Law Group has the experience and the expertise to pursue medical malpractice claims on your behalf and obtain rightful compensation. Please contact or call us at 407-781-0420 for a free legal consultation.

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