Knowing what medical malpractice is as a legal concept may be important to you. If you are (or were) injured by a doctor or medical facility, and those injuries can be linked to the negligence or incompetence of the medical professional from whom you sought treatment, you may have a case for medical malpractice against that provider.
Making this determination requires you to understand the legal definition of medical malpractice. You should also know what acts or practices constitute medical malpractice. Finally, you should understand how different states view justifiable cause for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Having this information can help you determine if you should seek legal counsel and pursue a claim.
The information presented here is not legal advice and should not be taken as such. Questions specific to your situation should be addressed by a qualified legal professional.
Defining Medical Malpractice
The best way to define medical malpractice is to use the same sources that lawyers use. An injured patient has to prove that his or her doctor acted negligently when providing medical care, and that the action caused the patient injury. To show this, four legal elements must be proven: a professional duty owed to the patient, a breach of that duty, an injury caused by that lapse in care, and a resulting injury.
The definition is very broad, but suggests that a number of areas regarding conduct and the results of that conduct may fall into the definition of malpractice by a medical professional. As an example, a doctor who administers a drug for which they were not trained or qualified to administer that results in the death of a patient may constitute an act of medical malpractice. This type of medical malpractice received a lot of media attention recently when Michael Jackson’s physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
What Determines Medical Malpractice?
The focus for determining the existence of medical malpractice hinges on performance and competence of any medical professional (including doctors and dentists) in providing their patients with medical care.
There are different factors that determine whether or not the actions (or inactions, in some circumstances) of a medical professional constitute medical malpractice. Focusing on the criteria in the definition above, it would appear that any act performed by a medical professional that results in injury or harm (including death) borne of the physician’s not following a procedure properly, or conducting a procedure that they may not be well versed or trained to conduct, constitutes an act of medical malpractice.
Medical Malpractice Laws by State
The laws on medical malpractice, on a state-by-state basis, may vary on points regarding the amount of the damage award, the statute of limitations to bring suit against a medical professional, and other provisions of law. Working with an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice will give you the best chance of winning your case. For more information, contact us to see if we can help!