The term “medical negligence” is often used interchangeably with “medical malpractice,” but medical negligence technically describes one facet of medical malpractice. Any action or inaction that leads to a violation or deviation from an acceptable standard of care is medical negligence. Medical negligence on its own does not necessarily constitute medical malpractice nor does it validate a medical malpractice claim. However, if medical negligence causes harm to a patient, it’s the determining factor for legal fault in the incident.
Proving Negligence in Medical Cases
Personal injury law hinges on the concept of negligence, which defines any individual’s breach of duty to act with reasonable care. In typical personal injury cases for situations such as car accidents and slip and fall injuries, the plaintiff simply has to prove that the damages were preventable had the defendant taken appropriate action. When a medical professional breaches his or her duty to uphold a standard of care for his or her patients, that medical professional is guilty of medical negligence.
Medical malpractice lawsuits differ from other personal injury claims in several ways. One of the most significant factors is the requirement for expert witness testimony. Expert witnesses in lawsuits provide judges and the court with understandable interpretations of events through the lens of their medical expertise.
For example, a patient who suffers a traumatic eye injury and vision loss due to a defendant’s actions may rely upon expert witness testimony to explain to the court the levels of physical pain and emotional anguish the plaintiff suffered. Additionally, expert witnesses typically testify as to the justifiability of a defendant’s actions and will explain to the court how a defendant’s actions did or did not violate accepted medical community standards.
Another key concept to understand concerning medical malpractice cases is the idea of “actual harm.” If a plaintiff did not suffer any injury or incur any other losses as the result of negligence, there’s no claim. To file a medical malpractice lawsuit for medical negligence, the medical negligence in question must have had some measurable or tangible result. Actual harm is the determining factor in deciding whether an act of medical negligence constitutes malpractice.
Damages for Medical Negligence
Plaintiffs in medical malpractice lawsuits can obtain compensation for both measurable losses like hospital bills and emergency vehicle transportation and intangible damages like pain and suffering. Typically, most plaintiffs in medical malpractice suits can potentially secure compensation, including:
- Repayment of all medical expenses resulting from medical negligence. It’s important to remember that most medical malpractice plaintiffs were patients before the events in question took place, so they will likely still need to pay for their original costs of treatment. However, if an incident of medical negligence results in the plaintiff needing additional surgeries, corrective procedures, or a more prolonged hospital stay, the plaintiff can sue for these expenses.
- Lost income or lost earning capacity. Medical negligence may cause a plaintiff to miss work for an extended time, and in some cases, a plaintiff’s injuries may prevent him or her from resuming work at all. Plaintiffs can sue for the wages they would have earned in the missed time or reasonably expected to earn in the future had the injury not occurred.
- Pain and suffering. Again, expert witness testimony is incredibly valuable to plaintiffs in medical negligence lawsuits. A judge will consider the physical pain and mental distress a plaintiff suffered to award an appropriate figure.
- Punitive damages. As the name suggests, punitive damages exist to “punish” defendants for gross negligence or recklessly dangerous or intentional acts.
Medical malpractice lawsuits are notoriously complex and time-consuming, so it’s wise to hire an attorney with the experience and resources to handle all of the details of your case. If you’ve suffered injuries or other damages due to medical negligence in Arizona, contact the Bode & Collins team today to start building a case. We’ll assess your options and let you know what you may expect from a settlement or trial award.