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Medical malpractice is the term used to describe the legal action against a medical professional whose conduct has been alleged to be negligent. The medical professional’s conduct is measured by comparing his or her performance to the “standard of care”. The standard of care is typically defined as that level of competence that would be expected of a physician of average skill and ability practicing within the same specialty as the medical professional in question.
What is Medical Malpractice and Negligence?
According to the Journal of Patient Safety, nearly 450,000 Americans die each year as a result of preventable medical mistakes. Many of these cases go unreported because victims are unaware that they have any legal recourse.
If a physician does something the average practitioner in the same field of medicine would not have done, or if the physician fails to do something the average practitioner in the same field of medicine would have done, that physician is said to have deviated from the standard of care, i.e., acted negligently.
In addition to proving negligence the plaintiff must also prove that some damage occurred as a result of the negligence, or that the negligence significantly increased the risk of the patient suffering the harm which then occurred.
What is the Difference between Medical Malpractice and Negligence?
The major factor distinguishing medical malpractice and medical negligence is intent. Negligence characterizes a medical professional who has made a mistake during the course of treatment, unknowingly causing harm or suffering to a patient. Malpractice, on the other hand, is applicable when a medical professional, hospital, or entity took action or failed to act and knew harm to the patient could result.
Pursuing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
If there are grounds to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit, the patient needs to understand the following information:
The patient or person bringing the action is called the plaintiff. The medical professional being sued is referred to as the defendant. In addition to proving negligence, the plaintiff must also prove:
- The negligence significantly increased the risk of the plaintiff incurring harm or suffering;
- The defendant had exclusive control over the course of treatment that caused harm or suffering;
- The harm or suffering is not the kind that regularly occurs in the absence of negligence;
- The plaintiff was not responsible for his or her own harm or suffering; and
- The harm or suffering could not have been caused by any treatment other than that over which the defendant had control.
Learn more about frequently asked questions related to medical malpractice lawsuits. If you believe that you or a loved one are entitled to compensation due to medical malpractice, call our firm today for a free consultation.