Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional is negligent, providing substandard care and causing injury or harm to a patient.
Medical negligence can result from actions and also from failure to act.
What is medical malpractice?
A claim of medical malpractice must show that:
- The patient received substandard medical care
- Negligence occurred as a result of the substandard care, resulting in injury or harm
- The injury or harm caused significant damage — physical, financial, or emotional
Common assertions of negligence include making an error in diagnosis, not recognizing symptoms, not ordering appropriate tests, not properly interpreting or using test results, performing unnecessary procedures, making errors in surgery or at births, and prescribing wrong drugs or wrong doses.
What kinds of damages are available in medical malpractice trials?
Most medical malpractice cases settle short of trial. However, the defending healthcare professional must usually approve any settlement, and for various reasons, including his belief that he did not commit malpractice, he may insist on going to trial.
Compensatory damages may include past and future medical costs, care costs, and other economic damages, such as lost earnings. This award may also include recompense for the damage caused to the patient by the injury itself, such as having to live in intense pain or having lost his ability to see.
Punitive damages are not normally awarded in medical malpractice cases. Exceptions occur if the guilty party intentionally caused harm or was exceedingly reckless.
In cases where health professionals provide substandard care resulting in injury to patients, medical malpractice claims can offer a remedy.