What is Medical Malpractice in Law?

Last updated on: September 30, 2022

The term negligence has a legal meaning just as it has a meaning in everyday conversation. Generally speaking, a person who fails to do or refrains from doing what a reasonable person under the same or similar circumstances would do, then that person is negligent under the law.

As members of a society each person has legal duties to every other member of society. Following the speed limit, refraining from conduct that injures another person, and keeping a proper lookout while driving are examples of this duty. These rules constitute a person’s duty of care.  

When a doctor or medical provider violates the duty of care and a person suffers an injury as a result, the doctor or medical provider may be said to have been medically negligent. The common way of referring to this type of conduct is to say that the doctor or medical provider has committed medical malpractice.

Higher Standards Of Care For Medical Providers

When a person has a special level of knowledge or skill, that person is held to a higher standard under the law. Similarly, if a person has a particular license or enters into a special relationship with another person, that person will be held to a higher standard of care than the average person. This is true of doctors and other medical providers.

Rather than being held to the standard of care of a civilian, doctors are held to the standard of the average doctor in the same field. This means doctors within a specific practice may not even be legally required to give you the best care possible; just as enough that they meet the standards of their given practice. 

Examples of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor injures someone by breaching the appropriate standard of care. As you might imagine, many scenarios can fit into that definition. However, some types of medical malpractice are more common than others.

One common example of medical malpractice is the doctor’s failure to warn a patient about known risks of a treatment or procedure. If a doctor did not warn a patient about the risks of a particular treatment, then the doctor failed to obtain the patient’s informed consent to go through with the treatment. It is part of the doctor’s duty of care to obtain a patient’s consent before performing a procedure or providing treatment to that patient.

If the patient would not have gone through with the treatment had he or she known the risk involved, the doctor may be held liable for medical malpractice. For this kind of medical malpractice claim, the patient must have been injured in a way that he or she would have been warned about if the doctor had upheld the proper duty of care. For example, if the doctor failed to warn the patient that heart attacks were the side effect of a medication, the doctor may be held liable if the patient suffered a heart attack from taking the medication.

Another example of medical malpractice is a doctor’s failure to correctly diagnose a patient’s illness in a timely manner. Some final examples of medical malpractice include a doctor’s improper treatment of a patient or improper administration of a treatment.

What Is the Main Cause of Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when doctors and nurses fail to provide the appropriate standard of care to patients, resulting in harm to the patients. As we discussed earlier, a doctor must use the amount of care that an average doctor working in the same field would use. An experienced attorney can help you determine whether your doctor broke the standard of care by violating commonplace regulations and safeguards.

The doctor’s mistake does not constitute medical malpractice if no one was injured. To prove your case, you must show that you received an injury for which you can be legally compensated and that the doctor’s actions directly caused your injury.

Consequences of Medical Malpractice

Medical Malpractice has far-reaching consequences even beyond the actual injury to the patient. For instance, the costs resulting from preventable medical errors to citizens, families, and communities are estimated at $1.3 billion to $2.2 billion each year in the state of Texas alone. However, the cost of medical malpractice insurance to Texas doctors is only $421.2 million a year.

Medical Malpractice Statistics

Repeat offender doctors are responsible for the bulk of these malpractice payments. However, repeat offenders make up a small percentage of the number of doctors making medical malpractice payments.

The insurance lobby and several doctor-friendly organizations would have the public believe that doctors are being run out of business by trial lawyers. The data does not support that assertion.

Medical Malpractice State Laws

States have varying medical malpractice laws. Perhaps the biggest difference among state laws is the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims. A statute of limitations governs how much time you have to bring up your claim after the accident occurs.

Statutes of limitations can be trickier in medical malpractice cases, since a patient often does not experience the harm until the statute of limitations has already expired. For this reason, many states provide exceptions to the statute of limitations in medical malpractice claims.

First, several states have a discovery rule to protect victims of medical malpractice. The discovery rule delays the ticking clock until the patient discovers the harm the doctor committed. Sometimes, the clock for the statute of limitations begins when the victim should have perceived the harm from the doctor.

Next, there are often exceptions to a state’s ordinary statute of limitations if you are completing continuous ongoing treatment with the doctor. That is, if the same doctor who harmed you is providing you continuous treatment, the statute of limitations does not begin until the doctor finishes treating you.

Finally, many states provide an exception for children. If the medical malpractice was committed to a child under the age of eighteen, the statute of limitations does not begin until the child turns eighteen.

Need Help? Speak to a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

Because a medical malpractice lawsuit requires a great deal of time, expense, and risk, it’s vital to contact a law firm specializing in malpractice suits. With all the stringent requirements prior to filing a suit, it can be easy to let a case slip away and forever lose the right to recover for an injury. Time is of the essence in every lawsuit, that is especially true in a medical malpractice case.

If you or a loved one were the victim of a doctor’s negligence, speak with a professional medical malpractice attorney at Zinda Law Group. Call 888-449-1160 to schedule your free consultation with our medical malpractice lawyers.

Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.