When a doctor errs in the treatment or diagnosis of a disease, it raises several concerns: the effect of the mistake on the patient’s condition and his/her well-being. Eventually, the error raises other red flags when a patient enquires whether the mistake amounts to medical malpractice.
What is medical malpractice?
There is so much more to a valid medical malpractice case than an error on the part of the health practitioner. The following is an overview of the elements that must exist – and that, when disputed, must be proved through testimony and evidence by the plaintiff and his lawyers – for a case to be a legit medical malpractice lawsuit:
- A causal link between the patient’s harm and the doctor’s medical negligence
- An existing relationship between the patient and doctor
- Measurable harm to the patient as result of the error
- The provision of care that did not meet the accepted standard of medical care
When defining medical malpractice, these elements should also be defined. Malpractice specifically hinges on the medical standard of care as well as the breach of this standard.
Medical standard of care
The right medical standard is usually very contentious in a medical malpractice case. Proving it is a two-pronged task, comprising:
- An establishment of the appropriate medical standard of care that applies to a patient’s case
- Showing how the defendant – medical care provider in this case – fell short of meeting it
The medical standard of care refers to the amount and type of attention and skill that a wise, similarly trained medic in the same area as the defendant, would have given the patient.
The simpler question is; what are the conventional practices surrounding the course of treatment or medical procedure that led to the supposed mistake? The answer to this question needs to be provided through testimony by the medical experts of the plaintiff, usually healthcare professionals who know about the patient’s medical condition.
The plaintiff and his team now have to prove that the medical standard of care was breached – figure out how the doctor fell short of meeting the medical standard of care when caring for the patient.
You should note that the medical standard of care means that a mistake may occur during treatment even if the doctor’s conduct and decisions fell within the medical standard of care. Maybe the procedure or decision was very difficult from a medial point of view – or a procedure had its own risks that the patient was made aware of and the mistake was a result of the risks.
It is not enough to say that the doctor made an error. The plaintiff’s expert witnesses have to prove a causal link between quantifiable harm to the patient and the mistake. Basically, this means that the error must be the cause of the patient’s decline in health.
Questions to ask your attorney
If you are considering talking to a lawyer about a possible medical malpractice case, you should know that you do not have to pay legal fees at the beginning. Many lawyers who deal with medical malpractice usually charge contingency fees: they only ask for payment when you win the case.
Aside from the fee agreement, here are a few other things that you should discuss with your lawyer:
- Is there a statute of limitation for filing medical malpractice cases? This information is useful because some patients only discover the doctor’s error years after treatment.
- Does the state have “tort reform” laws, which limit the amount of money I can get?
If you are looking for a medical malpractice attorney in Baltimore, you need to ask these questions.