What You Need to Know About Healthcare - Medical Malpractice Claims

It might be healthcare malpractice when a patient has been injured or harmed after receiving treatment from a doctor, medical facility or its employees, dentist, physical therapist or other healthcare provider who has failed to competently perform their duties of care.

Basic requirements for healthcare - medical malpractice claims

There are specific criterions that must be met for healthcare malpractice claims. Your lawyer generally must prove all the following elements to prevail upon an action of healthcare negligence:

Duty of care. Your malpractice lawyer must show that a patient-healthcare provider relationship existed at the time of the injury. Generally this is easily proved by showing that the injured party was a recipient of healthcare services, whether in a hospital, chiropractic, dental, nursing home or other healthcare setting. All healthcare providers owe their patients a duty of care; a legal obligation that is imposed on all providers of healthcare services to any person seeking medical assistance.

Negligence. Medical related negligence is any deviation from the accepted standard of competent medical care committed by any provider of medical services or healthcare facility. Any failure to provide competent medical care or services constitutes professional and/or medical negligence. This is usually proved by showing that the medical provider or facility failed to meet their duty of care by performing negligent acts or omissions with regard to the medical services they provided. This generally involves showing that the doctor, hospital, or other medical care provider acted outside of the appropriate and accepted standard of care. Typically, a deviation from the accepted standard of care is proven with expert testimony. It is important to note that an unsatisfactory outcome alone is not enough to prove negligence.

Negligence caused the damage/injury/harm. Since most people go to a medical care provider when they are already sick, it is imperative that the medical care provider’s negligence caused the injury. For example, if a patient dies after being diagnosed with brain cancer and the doctor didn’t implement a reasonable course of treatment, then his care may have been deemed negligent. However, if the patient dies from brain cancer after his medical care team took all reasonable steps to treat the patient, they could not be held liable for the patient’s death. Your attorney will be required to present expert medical testimony in every case to prove that the negligence of the healthcare provider was the cause of the patient’s death or injury.

The negligence caused specific damages. It is not enough to prove that the healthcare provider’s services were below the accepted standard of care; you must prove that all of the harm suffered was caused by the negligent medical services. Harm includes physical pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages and earning capacity, mental anguish, disability and disfigurement.

Common types of healthcare negligence

Most healthcare negligence claims fall into one of the following categories:

Failure to diagnose / delayed diagnosis / failure to treat / failure to disclose test results. When a person is unwell and facing a set of symptoms, they often seek medical care from a qualified health professional. It is up to the health care provider(s) to assess the symptoms and perform follow up diagnostic tests to make a proper diagnosis. If the diagnosis requires additional tests or a referral to a specialist, the referral would also be part of the duty of care expected of a healthcare provider. It is also the healthcare provider’s duty to promptly relay the findings of all diagnostic tests to the patient so that treatment can begin as soon as possible. Failure to properly and promptly diagnose an illness often constitutes negligence, provided that the patient can show that the failure to promptly diagnose and treat caused the patient harm.

Improper treatment / medication errors. If a patient is treated for an illness in a negligent or incompetent manner, or in a way that no reasonable healthcare provider would have treated for that illness and a patient is injured as a result, then the patient may have a significant medical malpractice claim. An injured patient may also have a claim if the correct treatment was undertaken but was incorrectly administered and therefore caused harm. Common examples of negligent treatment are medication errors, failing to administer antibiotics before surgery to prevent infection, delaying or rushing surgery, prescribing a drug that has contraindictations with a current medication prescribed to the patient, prescribing the wrong drug, or the wrong dose of drug.

Failure to warn a patient of known risks / failure to offer alternative treatment methods. A physician is required to warn patients of all known risks of surgery, procedure, or drug and anesthesia reactions; this is referred to as the duty of informed consent. In addition to known risks, warnings should include the risk of not receiving the treatment, the treatment’s success rate and alternative treatments along with their potential risks and benefits. If the patient would have elected to undergo alternate treatment had they known about the risks of the procedure or been told about alternate treatment options, the doctor could be held responsible if the treatment option the patient selected caused injury.

Whether you have been injured in the care of an assisted living facility, dentist, surgeon, chiropractor or other healthcare provider, you will need to adhere to the requirements of malpractice claims. Many states have specific laws for healthcare malpractice claims including limits on damages. Each state also has a set time frame for filing from the date of the injury or from the time a patient could have known about the injury, called the statute of limitations.

This information is not meant to be legal advice; discuss your case with a local medical malpractice lawyer.

Call the caring, experienced accident attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom, Skagit, Island and Snohomish Counties since 1979.