Medical Malpractice Information Center
What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a medical practitioner acts in a negligent manner when treating a medical condition. This negligence must be the cause of the injury to the patient beyond that already suffered by the patient. Thus, the negligence must cause an injury beyond that which would have resulted had the physician acted in a responsible manner, and liability does not flow to injuries resulting from the initial problem.
Medical malpractice can occur through physician action and inaction (doing some overt act and doing nothing). Some examples follow:
- Failure to diagnose a disease, delay in treatment, or improper treatment;
- An error resulting from an affirmative act of the physician (i.e. – surgery, reading x-rays);
- Failure to properly inform a patient about a procedure (resulting in the lack of informed consent).
What are the obstacles to obtaining remedies?
There has been a fair amount of reform in the law of medical malpractice. Much legislation that has been passed which limit the rights of victims, resulting in the limitation of damages in some cases to the point that litigation will not result in adequate compensation. Current expert testimony law, however, has made is arguably easier to get expert testimony on the record to support a claim.
However, physicians and insurance companies often refuse to admit their mistakes, even where blatant, and vigorously fight the charges. This can result in the unwillingness of experts to testify in cases where they live in the same community as the physician charged with malpractice. These obstacles in getting experts to testify, which can seriously harm an injured party’s case, are not insurmountable however.
Another obstacle is the expense of litigation. It is the injured party’s decision whether or not to litigate. Talking with other persons, including an attorney, can help an injured party determine whether it is possible to recover compensation sufficient to cover the costs of litigation. Frankly, the injury may not be severe enough to justify the time and costs of litigation. However, it is not always about money, but a matter of conscience.
How do I decide who should represent me in court?
It is an important decision which should be made only after discussing the situation with an attorney and determining whether the attorney can sufficiently protect your interests. Factors to help you make this decision include:
- The expertise of the attorney with the subject area of the litigation.
- The experience the attorney to be representing you has with similar malpractice cases.
- The knowledge of the attorney, and whether the knowledge is current.
- The resources of the attorney.
- The attorney’s fee and the method of payment.
- The reputation and experience of the experts which the attorney utilizes.
Attorneys do not take lightly the idea of retaining clients to sue others. Suing people is a laborious process, as well as an emotionally exhausting exercise, through which one party is going to be injured. Often, neither party wins in the end. Make sure that the attorney you choose to represent you has your best interests in mind. This does not mean that the attorney who will give you the best deal, when you first enter the office, is the attorney you should hire. The choice should be made deliberately and carefully. Make sure the attorney you choose is thorough and chooses to sue only after understanding the issues of the case.