Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice occurs when a medical practitioner, whether a doctor, nurse, anesthesiologist, or health care provider, negligently or improperly practices his or her profession. Medical malpractice takes on many different forms and each case is different from the next. Some medical malpractice cases involve failure to diagnose illnesses that result in the wrongful death of the patient, while others include surgical errors such as leaving medical utensils inside a body cavity after surgery. There is simply no telling how or when a medical professional will fail to adhere to the Hippocratic Oath and fall short in practicing medicine to the best of his or her ability.

Medical malpractice is categorized as a tort because the basis of a medical malpractice lawsuit is to receive relief for damages acquired at the hands of a medical practitioner. State and federal law recognize tort laws as civil wrongs with grounds for a lawsuit. Emotional and physical damages inflicted on patients by health care providers such as doctors, physicians, and other medical practitioners classifies as a tort and a breach in the established standard of medical care. Any breach of the established standard of medical care resulting in physical and emotional damages constitutes medical negligence.

Burden of Proof in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

In medical malpractice lawsuits, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff. The failure of a health care provider to give adequate care to a patient is a difficult and complex thing to prove. Simply gathering evidence of medical negligence because of a bad result after receiving medical care does not equate medical malpractice or negligence. The plaintiff must provide evidence to support that medical professionals shirked or intentionally ignored standard operating procedures that caused his or her resultant damages.

Standard of care is a point of contention in many medical malpractice lawsuits. This begs an answer to the following question: just what is the established standard of care in the medical profession? In tort law, the established standard of care is the degree of caution fitting the minimum requirements of a duty of care or service. In the medical profession, however, how your average medical practitioner would manage a patient's care under similar circumstances is the established standard of care. A plaintiff must show a breach of this standard of care to receive compensation for damages due to the negligence of a medical professional.

The injured party in a medical malpractice case must prove the following to be awarded relief for damages:

  • the health care provider breached his or her duty to provide standard quality medical service
  • the health care provider was at fault for his or her injuries
  • the health care provider's negligence was the cause of the injured party's damages

Liability in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Medical malpractice is a civil wrong recognized by law. An individual or party found responsible for the civil wrong in a medical malpractice lawsuit is liable for his or her misdeeds and ordered to pay for the physical and emotional damages received by the plaintiff.

There are two types of liability in medical malpractice cases:

  • Individual Liability
  • Joint Liability

Individual liability occurs when the health care provider is directly at fault for the damages. Joint liability occurs when two or more people are at fault for medical malpractice damage claims.


In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that the damage or injuries he or she has incurred are the directly linked to the medical malpractice claim. Many medical malpractice lawsuits fail in directly correlating the damages with the claim. There are to types of damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit: compensatory and punitive.

Compensatory damages are both economic and noneconomic. Economic damages are determined on a case-by-case basis by tallying up loss of earnings, loss of earning capacity, medical expenses, and living expenses at the time of the claim. Noneconomic damages are determined by considering the mental distress, suffering, loss of function, impairment, disfigurement, and physical hardship.

Punitive damages are not awarded to a plaintiff as compensation in a medical malpractice lawsuit but to the defendant as a means of punishment to deter the individual or party from repeating the behavior that led to the lawsuit.

Statute of limitations

Each state has a different statute of limitation established on how long after an alleged medical malpractice incident occurred can an individual file a lawsuit. For the time being, there is not overarching federal law that uniformly establishes the statute of limitations on medical malpractice lawsuits, but several states have implemented stipulations to amend establish regional statute of limitations, including one called the "discovery rule". The discovery rule considers the time when the damages of an alleged incident are evident as the time when the statute of limitation begins. On average, the statute of limitations on a medical malpractice lawsuit is between 2-5 years.

If you or someone you know may have been harmed due to medical malpractice, contact a personal injury attorney to find out if you should take action.

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