Doctors, nurses, paramedics, emergency medical professionals, and other health care providers are expected to deliver quality care, and when they fail to do so, such can constitute medical malpractice. Of course individuals get sick and injured all the time, and in the majority of instances medical professionals act appropriately in the course of delivering aid. But when negligence causes a medical professional to fail to deliver an “acceptable standard of care”, they should be held liable.
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Acceptable Standard of Care
Acceptable standard of care is a critical element in defining medical malpractice. For a medical professional to deliver an acceptable standard of care, they have to follow accepted practices and procedures, and these are established by state medical boards. In other words, when treating a patient, a medical professional is expected to treat the patient in the same way a fellow medical professional in the local area would treat a patient who’s suffering from the same disease or disorder.
To prove that an acceptable standard of care was not delivered, an attorney would rely on the testimonies of expert medical witnesses. These individuals would be experts in the kind of medicine practiced by the defendant, and they’d also be from the same region as the defendant. And to show that the failure to deliver quality care resulted in injury to the patient, additional medical experts will be needed. These individuals will also be able to show just how damaging this failure to deliver quality care was.
Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim
To show that a medical professional’s actions or inactions constitute medical malpractice, all of the elements detailed below have to be established.
The first element is establishing that the plaintiff had a physician-patient relationship with the defendant. The plaintiff would have had to hire the medical professional and the medical professional would have had to agree to be hired. This element should be easy to prove if a relationship did exist, but sometimes things get complicated, like when a consulting physician doesn’t interact with a patient directly but provides recommendations that affect their treatment.
Example: If a medical professional gives an individual passing advice at the grocery store, the receiver of the advice can’t turn around and sue the medical professional for malpractice.
If an individual’s health gets worse midst a medical procedure or treatment, this isn’t necessarily the fault of the medical professional who’s treating them. In order for a medical professional to be held liable for medical malpractice, it must be established that the medical professional acted negligently in the course of delivering treatment. Failure to diagnose and misdiagnosing also constitute negligence.
To prove negligence on the part of a defendant, it must be established that a competent medical professional—operating under the same circumstances as the defendant and possessing similar experience and expertise—would not have delivered inadequate care. A medical professional is not required to deliver the best care, but they are expected to deliver an acceptable standard of care. If it can be proved that the defendant deviated from this acceptable standard of care, it’s likely they will be held as negligent.
Negligence Resulting in Injury
Since the vast majority of medical malpractice cases involve individuals who are sick or injured, a profile of a plaintiff’s health—before they received treatment from the defendant—must be established. If the plaintiff’s condition worsened after receiving treatment, then it must be shown that this decline was the result of poor medical treatment and not the natural course of a disease or injury.
For example, if an individual dies after receiving cancer treatments, it must be proven that improper delivery of treatments—or perhaps a misdiagnosis—caused the individual’s death and not natural progression of the cancer. To prove a worse condition is the result of medical malpractice and not a natural result of a disease or injury, testimony from an expert medical professional will again be required.
Injury Resulted in Damages
In order for a medical professional to be held liable for medical malpractice, it must be proved that their negligence directly injured the patient. In other words, delivering poor care doesn’t alone constitute malpractice; an individual needs to be directly harmed by the medical professional’s negligence. Below are damages that are often associated with medical malpractice:
- → Physical injury
- → Mental anguish
- → Additional medical bills
- → Loss of work and/or earning capacity
While recklessness is rarely the cause of medical malpractice, there have been instances where recklessness on the part of a medical professional has led to injury and even death. For example, if a doctor performs surgery while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, such constitutes reckless endangerment. Similarly, a medical professional could be found to have acted recklessly if they administered an excessive amount of medication.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice
There are many kinds of medical malpractice. Therefore, if you’re a Long Island resident and you believe you’re a victim of medical malpractice, you should call medical malpractice lawyers in Long Island, as they’ll know right away whether you have a case or not. Below are some common types of medical malpractice.
Failure to Diagnose
If a medical professional fails to diagnose an illness that they should’ve seen—or if they misdiagnose an individual and such leads to a worse health outcome for the patient—then the medical professional can be held liable for medical malpractice.
If a medical professional treats a patient in a way that deviates from accepted practice, such can constitute medical malpractice. Similarly, if a doctor pursues an accepted treatment but delivers it improperly, they may be held liable for medical malpractice.
Failing to Disclose Known Risks
If a medical professional doesn’t warn a patient about the known risks that are associated with a procedure or treatment, this can constitute malpractice. A patient must be informed of all known risks before they can consent to treatment.