Can You Sue for Medical Malpractice?

Suing for medical malpractice is complicated and mired in pitfalls, and you will need a medical malpractice attorney to get you through it. Most states have a statute of limitations that are specific to these kinds of cases. If you’re thinking about suing for medical malpractice, you’ll want to know the ins and outs of the law.

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice looks like a number of different things, but the simplest definition of it is when a doctor, hospital, or other health care provider causes harm or injury through negligence. This negligence itself can be a diagnostic error, mistreatment, poor aftercare, bad health management, or direct harm to the patient. 

Doctors, nurses, and other health care providers can violate the standard of care, disregarding the law and the rules of their profession to put patients at considerable risk. All patients deserve this standard of care and have a right to it, and when this right is violated you have grounds to sue for medical malpractice. You can also sue for dental malpractice.

Injuries can also be caused due to negligence, and when suing for medical malpractice your attorney will need to prove that the patient sustained injury due to this negligence. If the injury resulted in significant damages or lowered care, or if their entire standard of living was eroded due to the health care professional, it is easier to pursue the lawsuit. The patient needs to show that the injury caused loss of income, disability, extended suffering, pain, or other hardships.

Basic Requirements for a Medical Malpractice Claim

A Doctor-Patient Relationship Existed

Your medical malpractice lawyer must prove that there was an established relationship between the physician and the patient, meaning that the doctor agreed to be hired and was present during the care. You cannot sue a doctor for medical malpractice if they, say, give you bad advice at a picnic. Medical malpractice has to come as a direct result of the primary care physician.

The Doctor Was Negligent

Medical malpractice requires negligence—you cannot simply sue someone because you were unhappy with the care or treatment. The doctor, nurse, or health care professional needs to have caused harm to the patient. While your doctor is not required to be the best physician on the planet, their care should be reasonable, skilled, prudent, and satisfactory. 

The Doctor’s Negligence Caused the Injury

Medical malpractice cases involve patients who were already unwell, and in some cases, it’s difficult to prove that the physician caused harm—especially if negligence is difficult to prove. It can be especially hard to prove these cases after the patient dies, and the medical malpractice attorney must find proof of the doctor’s incompetence, and how that incompetence caused the injury or death.

The Injury Led to Specific Damages

The patient can ultimately only sue for medical malpractice if they suffered direct harm. If the patient suffered physical pain, mental anguish, additional and unnecessary medical bills, or lost work or their ability to work, you have grounds for a lawsuit.

Determining Whether Medical Malpractice Has Occurred

To determine whether or not medical malpractice has occurred, you must prove that the physician violated a standard of care, caused or worsened an injury or illness due to negligence, or if there was an injury that resulted in significant damages.  If the hospital, doctor, physician, nurse, or other health care professional caused injuries to the patient due to negligence, mistreatment, misdiagnosis, or mismanagement, medical malpractice has occurred.

Types of Medical Malpractice

There are a few types of medical malpractice to be aware of, and if any of these have happened to you, a family member, or a patient you know, that person might have grounds for a lawsuit:

  • Unneeded surgeries
  • Delayed, failure or misdiagnosis
  • Overlooking or ignoring lab results
  • Negligent surgical errors
  • Incorrect medical dosage, whether too much or too little
  • Poor or negligent aftercare
  • Early discharge
  • Ignoring or misreading patient history
  • Misidentifying symptoms

Special Requirements in Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical Malpractice Cases Must Be Brought Soon After the Injury

Most states require that medical malpractices claims be filed quickly, between six months and two years after it occurs. The court may dismiss your cause due to an untimely filing, even if there is evidence of negligence. If you suspect medical malpractice, don’t wait.

Special Medical Malpractice Review Panels

Most states require the medical malpractice claim to be submitted to a special review panel. This panel of experts reviews the evidence, hears all arguments, and brings forth expert testimony to ascertain if medical malpractice has occurred. This panel can’t award damages or exist in place of a lawsuit, but it’s a step that must occur before going to court. The panel’s findings are presented in court and are often relied upon by the courts before going to trial.

Special Notice Requirements

Many states require that the patient suffering from medical malpractice deliver a notice to the doctor outlining the malpractice claim, prior to filing anything with the courts.

Expert Testimony is Required

Qualified medical experts are often required at a medical malpractice trial, though it varies state by state what makes a person qualified to be expert testimony. Typically, someone providing expert testimony is someone with experience in that field or with that issue, and expert testimony can often sway the court in your favor.

Limits on Damage Awards

Some states cap the amount of money awarded via a medical malpractice lawsuit—it’s important to know this detail ahead of time and to consult with your trusted medical malpractice lawyer. There are State-by-State Medical Malpractice Damages Caps.

If you believe that you or a loved one have suffered due to medical malpractice and desire to file a claim or pursue a lawsuit, contact the experts at Skyview Law. You don’t have to go it alone, and you need a personal injury attorney that will properly represent you in court and see that your needs are met during this difficult time.

Jarrod Hays

Jarrod Hays

Jarrod Hays is the founder of Skyview Law. He is licensed to practice law in Washington State and the Western District of Washington State Federal Court.