Everyone will at some point have an experience involving a doctor or other medical professional from routine visits to specialized surgeries. Most result in positive outcomes. Yet, there are cases where incompetence is a factor and a patient is harmed by a medical professional in which case you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. These cases are medical malpractice situations and are ruled by each state.
There are, however, some basic and general principles that apply to most medical malpractice lawsuits. At Van Camp Law Firm, we think it’s important for you to be educated on these principles so that you can understand what constitutes malpractice and recognize a malpractice situation if you experience one.
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Medical malpractice is considered when a healthcare provider, hospital, doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional, causes injury to a patient through a negligent act or omission. Medical malpractice cases are to be taken very seriously. If you believe you're a victim of medical malpractice or medical negligence, contact our malpractice attorneys today.
Definition of Medical Malpractice
"Medical malpractice has occurred when a hospital, doctor, or other health care professional causes an injury to a patient through a negligent act or omission. The negligence can be the result of errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, or health management. In defining negligence, we look at the “standard of care” to see if the medical provider has deviated from it in some way. When a health care provider strays from the “standard of care” in the treatment, medical malpractice can occur. "
Examples of Medical Malpractice
There are many forms of medical malpractice. Here are some examples:
- Failure to diagnose
- Misreading lab results
- Unnecessary surgery
- Surgical errors
- Wrong site surgery
- Improper medication or dosage
- Poor follow-up or aftercare
- Disregard of patient history
- Failure to order proper testing
- Failure to recognize symptoms
- Wrong medication or dosage
- Emergency Room Misdiagnosis
Determining If Medical Malpractice Has Occurred
Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is a complex legal process that requires careful preparation and adherence to specific legal requirements. While the exact requirements can vary based on jurisdiction, there are characteristics in order to determine whether medical malpractice has occurred:
1. Doctor-Patient Relationship Existed
To pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit, the patient must be able to show that there was a physician-patient relationship. This means that you secured the doctor and the doctor understood and agreed to be hired. This relationship indicates that the healthcare provider had a duty of care toward the patient. Questions of whether or not the relationship exists usually arise when a consulting physician does not directly treat the patient.
2. Violation of the Standard of Care
There are certain medical standards, as recognized by the medical profession, that are acceptable medical treatment by health care professionals based on similar circumstances. The “standard of care” is what a reasonably prudent medical professional would or would not have done under the same or similar circumstances.
The plaintiff must demonstrate that the healthcare provider breached the standard of care owed to the patient. This involves showing that the healthcare provider's actions or decisions deviated from the accepted medical standard of care in a way that another reasonable healthcare provider in the same situation would not have done.
As a patient, you have the right to expect that healthcare professionals will deliver care that is consistent with the standards. If it is determined that the standard of care has not been met, then medical negligence may be established and a medical malpractice lawsuit could potentially be pursued.
3. The Doctor Was Negligent
In successfully having a valid claim, it is not sufficient that the health care professional violated the standard of care. Being unhappy with your treatment or the results does not justify a claim that the doctor is liable for medical malpractice. You are required to show that the doctor caused the patient harm such that a competent doctor under the same circumstances would not have.
Whether or not the health care provider was reasonably skillful and careful is at the core of a medical malpractice claim. The doctor’s care is not required to be the best possible, only “reasonably skillful and careful.” Typically, states require that the patient present a medical expert to discuss what the appropriate standard of care is and show how the defendant deviated from that standard.
4. Injury Is Caused by the Negligence
The patient must also prove he or she sustained an injury that would not have occurred in the absence of negligence. This isn’t always easy to show. Many malpractice cases involve patients that were already sick or injured so there can be a question as to whether what the doctor did actually caused the harm.
The patient must show that it is “more likely than not likely” that the doctor’s incompetence directly caused the injury. In order to make this case, usually you need a medical expert to testify that the doctor’s negligence caused the injury.
5. Injury Resulted in Significant Damages
For a case to have a reasonable chance of succeeding, the patient must show that significant damages resulted from an injury received due to medical negligence. To pursue a medical malpractice claim, the patient must show that the injury resulted in disability, unusual pain, loss of income, suffering, hardship, or significant past and future medical bills.
Medical malpractice lawsuits are very expensive to litigate, involving numerous subject matter experts and many hours of deposition. If the damages are small, the cost of pursuing the case may be greater than the eventual recovery.
Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Criteria in North Carolina
It is worth mentioning that medical malpractice lawsuit requirements vary state by state, but the majority of the criteria are similar. In North Carolina, filing a medical malpractice lawsuit involves meeting specific criteria that establish the basis for the claim.
- Proof of Negligence: One crucial criterion is demonstrating negligence on the part of the healthcare provider. This entails showing that the healthcare professional deviated from the accepted standard of care, which a reasonably prudent provider in the same situation would have followed.
- Causation: Negligence alone is not enough; the plaintiff must also establish a causal link between the healthcare provider's negligence and the injury suffered.
- Expert Testimony: North Carolina requires the involvement of expert testimony to support the case. Expert witnesses, usually other medical professionals, provide opinions about the standard of care, the breach of that standard, and how it directly caused the plaintiff's harm. This testimony is essential for the court to understand the complex medical aspects of the medical malpractice lawsuit.
- North Carolina Statute of Limitations: The state's statute of limitations also plays a significant role, setting a time limit within which the lawsuit must be filed from the date of the alleged malpractice or the discovery of the injury. Understanding and meeting these criteria are essential steps for pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit in North Carolina.
The terms of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit vary by state. If you're in North Carolina, you can visit the North Carolina General Assembly website to learn more about North Carolina medical malpractice lawsuit requirements. Contact our attorneys to discuss your medical malpractice lawsuit.
Contact Our Medical Malpractice Lawyers
If you have more questions about your medical malpractice lawsuit, contact our experienced medical malpractice lawyers. Our team of malpractice attorneys at the Van Camp Law Firm is experienced in representing medical malpractice claims. If you think you or a family member may have been harmed by a healthcare provider and experienced medical malpractice, call us locally at 910-295-2525 or fill out the form below.
Disclaimer: The information seen on this website, including the article above, is not legal advice or legal counsel. If you wish to speak to a medical malpractice lawyer, contact our North Carolina attorneys directly using our online form or by calling 910-295-2525. While our law firm is located in North Carolina, our attorneys have tried cases and work with clients across the country, from Raleigh, Fayetteville, Pinehurst, and Sanford, to Virginia, Illinois, Oregon, and California to Florida. Call our experienced attorneys today.