Understanding Medical Malpractice and the Law
We expect healthcare professionals to perform their duties to the best of their ability. The same is true for other professions, such as engineering. However, the mistakes that a doctor makes have a higher probability of leading to grievous harm or even death.
According to medical malpractice information, errors committed during procedures are the third most common cause of death. Additionally, 10% of Americans die from mistakes as a result of oversight from healthcare professionals.
Medical Malpractice Information: Claim Statistics
Negligence incurs a lot of losses in the healthcare sector and society as a whole. Malpractices leave patients with both physical and psychological wounds that may take years to heal. Healthcare providers have to set aside part of their budget to respond to legal suits.
Medical malpractice information and statistics show that the phenomenon is still prevalent today. There are only two out of 100 people who are victims of medical negligence file a suit with a lawyer. Yet studies show every year, more than 12,000 people lose their lives from pointless surgical procedures.
Statistics show that close to 200,000 people die from unnecessary mistakes in the healthcare setting. With more diligence, it is possible to save more lives. Currently, medical malpractice is prevalent and often leads to wrongful death.
In the period between 2006 and 2016, medical malpractice information shows there were more than 440,000 claims. Out of those cases, more than 140,000 received payments for the malpractices. The process involved more than 68,000 practitioners who appealed to the National Practitioner Data Bank.
Almost half of all medical malpractice suits target surgical professionals. Surgery is an invasive procedure that is prone to complications, especially when the care is below standards.
Defining a Malpractice
Many errors can occur in the healthcare industry, including the US and other parts of the world. Experts often disguise the errors as system failure or lapses in the provision of care. In light of that level of ambiguity, it is important to understand legal malpractice information and criteria.
In the United States, laws governing malpractices have always been under the States. That is in contrast to many other nations around the world. It also can be confusing when trying to determine what law applies to your situation.
Generally, there are three conditions you need to meet to make a successful claim. They are:
- Legal Duty
- Breach of duty
The first condition that the claimant must fulfill is to prove that there was a legal duty. A legal obligation describes the responsibility we expect with every profession.
You can prove legal duty by showing that you had a professional relationship with the healthcare practitioner. This condition is the easiest to prove. Your medical malpractice attorney will need to show you received services from the healthcare provider.
However, the law disqualifies some situations to avoid unnecessary litigation. For example, bystanders giving a patient first aid by the roadside are not bound by legal duty. Similarly, a doctor is not liable if the services were outside a professional setting.
Breach of Duty
A much harder condition to fulfill is to prove that the care services were below standards. One reason it can be complicated is that the standard of care varies across jurisdictions. Such court cases may require expert testimony to reveal the nuances in cases of negligence.
Sometimes the breach of duty is clear enough that it does not require an expert witness. For example, an incompetent surgeon may give the wrong anesthesia to a patient. Or it may be a doctor pushing a prescription to increase their practice’s bottom line.
Causation is where the plaintiff demonstrates the link between the breach and the health consequences. A family medical clinic that gives the wrong prescription to a patient may cause wrongful death.
There are situations where proving causation is not as simple. For example, there are aspects of plastic surgeons services that experts cannot standardize. What may seem to the patient as malpractice could be a case of mismanagement of expectations.
When examining medical malpractice information, a court will consider the circumstances surrounding the incidence. Keep in mind that healthcare today is an effort between a close team of professionals. In such instances, it becomes much harder to determine where the buck stops.
The fourth condition is harm, which is when the court determines the penalties for the breach of duty. In most cases of medical negligence, the plaintiff will receive damages if they can prove there was a violation.
Patients ought to be aware that bad outcomes do not always amount to a violation of legal duty. Many cases require the evaluation of a professional to certify that there was malpractice.
Sometimes a patient may assume their claim is simple and straightforward. A doctor leaving a sponge inside the body of a patient during surgery is usually a clear indication of malpractice. However, the plaintiff should remember that they will have to face jurors.
Therefore, the plaintiff should work with their lawyer to find corroborative evidence to support their claim. By working with an experienced medical or work injury attorney, you can put together a compelling case.
Types of Medical Malpractices
We can place all medical malpractice information and claims into several categories.
The medical field has a variety of professions with their unique area of specialization. The healthcare professional must exercise caution to avoid a misdiagnosis. If the condition is beyond their expertise, an orthopedic surgeon may refer you to another specialty.
A misdiagnosis may also involve delays in providing care. For some medical conditions, an emergency response is necessary; otherwise, they would succumb to the symptoms.
One way you can show that there was malpractice is by comparing with care from other providers. A back pain treatment from another orthopedic practitioner can demonstrate that it was reasonable to expect better care.
Error in Treatment
An error in treatment occurs when the medical practitioner prescribes an incorrect medication or therapy. While the diagnosis may be correct, the drug diminishes healthcare outcomes.
The most prevalent causes of treatment errors come from wrong prescription medication. It may happen when a nurse misinterprets a doctor’s instructions. Medical drugs can have adverse side effects, and incorrect dosage can harm the patient further.
Negligence during Surgery
Some errors can happen during an invasive medical procedure. Surgeries are a specialty of practitioners who’ve spent years perfecting their skills in medical school. Negligence or incompetence can cause considerable harm and even death to the patient.
In surgeries, there are cases of surgeons leaving sponges and tools in the body. But negligence may include mistakes that complicate the health condition. The medical professional also has to adhere to the protocols of the procedure. The patient ought to get follow up treatment to improve the treatment outcomes.
Prenatal care ought to protect the baby and its mother. Mistakes during this period or childbirth can have adverse effects on both the mother and the child. Injuries can cause deformities and psychological anguish for the mother.
At birth, a doctor has to be diligent so that they don’t overlook signs of danger. Failure to respond to fetal distress during childbirth can harm both the child and the mother. A medical professional ought to be aware of the potential risks.
Errors in the administration of anesthesia can lead to severe health complications. Your healthcare provider may be liable for negligence if they fail to consider your medical history.
Another mistake is prescribing an incorrect amount of anesthesia to the patient. Such errors are responsible for brain damage and fatalities.
Vicarious liability is a legal doctrine that extends the responsibility for negligence to other parties. For example, a medical practice could be liable for the actions of its medical doctors. The law assumes it is the responsibility of the employer to vet staff. Therefore, the organization will pay for damages of errors arising from the incompetence of its employees.
Vicarious liability is a concept derived from the principle of respondeat superior. It is crucial for claimants when putting together medical malpractice information. If the staff was acting within the scope of the work, you may sue the hospital for negligence.
The concept helps to ensure that the complainant can get paid after the court awards damages. Individuals may not have the assets to pay for the injury, but that is often possible with an organization.
If a caregiver is negligent, the elderly home care services provider will cover the cost. A healthcare practice should have enough professionals to provide adequate care for its patients. A shortage of specialists can amount to negligence.
Vicarious Liability and Contractors
When compiling medical malpractice information, the plaintiff ought to establish if the doctor is working as a contractor. That is because; vicarious liability does not extend to temporary or contracted employees. In such cases, the practitioner is solely responsible for their negligence.
Besides the core staff, healthcare practices have other employees that work within the organization. A hospital may or may not be liable for the actions of a medical building contractor. It depends on the working relationship between the two parties.
Negligence by Pharmaceutical Companies
A drug manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the medication is safe and effective. The law expects pharmaceuticals to inform the consumer of the drug’s adverse effects. Otherwise, the manufacturer is, generally, not liable for the patient’s injuries.
The law instead places the liability on the healthcare practitioner. With their skill and expertise, they ought to know when the drug is unsuitable for the patient.
The Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act stipulates the standards for transacting medical information. Providers must comply with the regulations to protect their patient’s from a breach of their privacy.
Hospitals ought to have measures in place to ensure their patients don’t suffer unnecessary psychological harm. There are cases where an individual shares health records on social media. By revealing their health status, the hospital may be liable for mishandling medical data.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) under the US Department of Health and Human Services may enforce HIPPA rules. After receiving medical malpractice information, OCR will investigate the claims. In some cases, the organization may be subject to a compliance review.
The enforcement of HIPPA depends on the severity of the violation. Even in cases of non-compliance, OCR tends to favor negotiations and voluntary compliance. The department of health may give a warning and order corrective actions within a set period.
If they do not take action, the OCR can proceed to punish the offender. Most violations incur fines that may range from between 50,000 and 1.5 million. Sometimes the agency may take the case to court to enforce privacy rules.
However, the OCR hardly goes beyond fining violators of the HIPPA regulations. Even government agencies such as the Veteran Affairs, have had many cases of breach of privacy. Despite warning the VA, there is still no action taken to enforce privacy rules in that department.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is another legal doctrine that is useful when compiling medical malpractice information. The time limit helps to ensure that both the defendant and the plaintiff will get justice. When too much time has passed, lawyers argue, there may not be sufficient evidence to support a fair case.
However, there are situations where the statute of limitations may not apply. An attorney can evaluate your case and help you put together compelling medical malpractice information. Not all claims are the same, and the court of law may review your case based on the evidence you present.
There are approximately 20,000 people who lose their lives from negligence in the healthcare industry. Research shows the sector can prevent many of the incidences of malpractice. As it is with other injury cases, the law tries to be fair to both parties. It is advisable to seek the advice of a work or pedestrian accident lawyer whenever you have a malpractice claim.