Medical malpractice is a legal term used to describe a medical professional’s failing to uphold the acceptable standard of care in a situation. Doctors must adhere to accepted medical community standards concerning treatment methods and technique, and failing to do so can leave them liable for any resulting damages.
One of the most common causes of medical malpractice lawsuits in the United States is surgical error. Medicine is sometimes uncertain, and honest mistakes can happen. However, when health care professionals make negligent errors that harm patients, they commit medical malpractice.
Proving Fault for a Surgical Error
It’s important to realize that a doctor making a mistake during a surgical procedure doesn’t automatically constitute medical malpractice. Malpractice occurs when a medical professional fails to meet the acceptable standard of care for a given situation or acts in a way contrary to what another reasonable and equally skilled professional would in the same circumstances. Additionally, for a plaintiff to have a claim, he or she must have suffered some injury or loss from the error. If the patient did not suffer any damages from the mistake, he or she has no claim.
Proving fault in a medical malpractice claim is similar to how one does so for personal injury lawsuits with a few exceptions. Like personal injury law, medical malpractice cases hinge on the concept of negligence, and in a medical setting, negligence describes violating or failing to meet the acceptable standard of care for the situation. Plaintiffs in medical malpractice claims for surgical errors have the burden of proving four facts before the court:
- An official doctor-patient relationship existed between the plaintiff and the defendant. This means that the plaintiff must have agreed to treatment and that the defendant agreed to treat the plaintiff.
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
- The defendant made an error that constitutes a failure to meet the appropriate standard of care for the situation.
- The plaintiff suffered actual harm from the defendant’s negligence.
Every medical malpractice claim will involve expert witnesses on both sides. The defense will call expert witnesses to testify as to the validity of the defendant’s actions or to attest as to whether the doctor met the appropriate standard of care for the situation. The plaintiff will call on expert witnesses to prove that the defendant in fact failed to meet the acceptable standard of care and may also ask them to attest as to the level of physical pain and mental anguish the plaintiff endured.
Expert witnesses in medical malpractice lawsuits are usually medical professionals with expertise in the type of medicine in question. For example, a patient who suffers blindness or vision loss from a botched eye procedure may call on ophthalmologists who can explain to the court how the defendant was negligent in his or her treatment.
Winning a Surgical Malpractice Lawsuit
Plaintiffs in surgical malpractice lawsuits can sue for various types of compensation, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost income or lost earning capacity. It’s important to note that most surgical malpractice claimants were already sick or injured when the malpractice took place and that these individuals can only sue for the damages resulting from the defendant’s negligence.
For example, if a patient spent a week in the hospital and underwent a surgical procedure before a negligent action occurred, the patient would not be able to claim compensation for the original cost of the week in the hospital or for the surgical fees for the first procedure as damages. If the negligence necessitated a longer hospital stay and additional corrective procedures, the plaintiff may claim those expenses as damages since they are the result of the defendant’s negligence.
The right attorney can make a tremendous difference in a medical malpractice case. Bode & Collins has built a strong reputation for successful cases in Arizona. We provide our clients with the full range of resources and expertise they might expect from a larger firm in a more intimate setting. We take the time to get to know our clients so we can provide the best legal counsel possible.
Reach out to our team to schedule a case evaluation and start building your medical malpractice case today.