What is Medical Malpractice?

Friday, November 24, 2023

What is Medical Malpractice?

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

Patients rely on medical professionals to ensure their physical well-being. However, there have been several instances where a physician or other medical professional acted negligently, resulting in injuries. According to research, medical errors account for around 251,000 deaths annually in the United States.

The victims of medical malpractice are entitled to legal rights in pursuing injury claims. One must, however, understand what medical means so that they can successfully bring a claim against the liable party. Medical malpractice involves situations where a healthcare professional deviates from the standard of care and results in harm to the patient.

At Malman Law, we provide compassionate representation for victims of negligence to ensure they receive their rightful compensation. When it comes to medical malpractices, we have a track record of impressive rights, winning significant amounts in settlements. If you suffer a medical malpractice injury, we can assess your case and develop a strategy to help you fight for your rights.

Read to find out more about medical practice and how our lawyers can guide you through.

Types of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is a reality that has continued to breach trust in the patient’s pace of the healthcare system. Within this intricate landscape, various types of medical malpractice can occur. These may include the following:

Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

One of the most common forms of medical malpractice is misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. Misdiagnosis is a leading cause of not only malpractice claims but, unfortunately, death and disability.

In these cases, a healthcare professional fails to accurately identify a patient’s medical condition or arrives at a diagnosis later than warranted. The ramifications of such errors can be severe, as delayed or incorrect treatment may exacerbate the patient’s condition, leading to prolonged suffering or irreversible harm.

Surgical Errors

Surgery, often viewed as a precise and meticulous medical procedure, is not immune to errors. Surgical malpractice can manifest in various ways, mostly arising from negligence.

Common surgical errors include:

  • Wrong-site surgery
  • Incorrect procedure
  • Surgical instrument errors
  • Nerve damage
  • Infection control failures
  • Failure to control bleeding
  • Postoperative care negligence
  • Lack of informed consent

These errors can result in severe injuries, infections, or the need for additional corrective surgeries. These issues may add an extra layer of trauma to the patient’s experience.

Medication Errors

The administration of medications demands precision, yet medication errors remain a prevalent form of medical malpractice. This category includes errors such as:

  • Incorrect dosage
  • Wrong medication
  • Incorrect frequency
  • Wrong patient
  • Timing errors
  • Inadequate follow-up
  • Omission errors
  • Incomplete records
  • Lack of communication
  • Inadequate patient education
  • Faulty equipment
  • Technological glitches
  • Patient misunderstanding
  • Overlooking potential drug interactions

Medication errors can lead to adverse reactions, allergic responses, or worsened health conditions.

Birth Injuries

Childbirth should be a joyous occasion, but unfortunately, birth injuries due to medical malpractice can mar this experience. These injuries may result from:

  • Improper use of assisted delivery tools
  • Delayed or incorrect response to fetal distress
  • Inadequate monitoring
  • Medication errors
  • Mismanagement of high-risk pregnancies
  • Failure to perform a timely cesarean section
  • Incorrect handling of shoulder dystocia
  • Negligent handling of breech births
  • Poor communication among healthcare providers
  • Lack of informed consent

Birth injuries can have lifelong consequences for both the child and the parents, which may necessitate long-term care and emotional support.

Anesthesia Errors

Anesthesia is a delicate aspect of medical procedures, and errors in its administration can have severe consequences. Anesthesia errors may involve administering the following:

  • Administering too much or too little anesthesia
  • Failure to consider the patient’s medical history before administering anesthesia
  • Neglecting to monitor vital signs during anesthesia administration
  • Anesthesia awareness (patient regains consciousness during a procedure)
  • Delayed recognition or response to complications during anesthesia
  • Incorrect administration route of anesthesia
  • Inadequate communication between anesthesia providers and other medical staff
  • Failure to adjust anesthesia dosage based on changes in the patient’s condition during surgery
  • Inaccurate documentation of anesthesia-related information
  • Use of faulty or malfunctioning anesthesia equipment
  • Failure to properly educate patients about the risks and side effects of anesthesia
  • Lack of preoperative assessment to identify potential anesthesia-related risks
  • Allergic reactions to anesthesia drugs
  • Inadequate postoperative monitoring of patients recovering from anesthesia

How To Prove Liability in a Medical Malpractice Case

Proving liability in a medical malpractice case is not an easy process. However, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff, who must demonstrate that a healthcare provider’s actions deviated from the standard of care, resulting in harm.

Here are the key elements involved in proving liability in a medical malpractice case:

Establishing the Standard of Care

The foundation of any medical malpractice case is the establishment of the standard of care. This refers to the level of care, skill, and diligence that a competent healthcare professional in the same field would provide under similar circumstances. Expert testimony from qualified medical professionals is often essential to define and articulate this standard. It offers a benchmark against which the defendant’s actions will be assessed.

Demonstrating Deviation from the Standard

Once the standard of care is established, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the healthcare provider in question deviated from this standard. This involves showcasing that the actions or decisions made were not in line with what a reasonably skilled and careful professional would do. Expert witnesses may come in here to provide opinions on whether the defendant’s conduct fell below the accepted standard.

Establishing Causation

Proving a breach of the standard of care is not sufficient; there must be a clear link between the healthcare provider’s actions and the harm suffered by the patient. Causation involves establishing that the deviation from the standard directly resulted in the injuries or adverse outcomes experienced by the plaintiff. Medical experts are often called upon to offer opinions on the causal connection between the alleged malpractice and the harm suffered.

Documenting Damages

In a medical malpractice case, damages refer to the harm or losses experienced by the patient as a result of the healthcare provider’s negligence. You must demonstrate the error caused significant damage, such as:

Your attorney will help to document a detailed presentation of the extent of the harm to help strengthen your medical malpractice claim.

Who is at Fault for the Medical Malpractice?

Determining who is at fault for medical malpractice involves a careful examination of the circumstances surrounding the alleged negligence. This is because responsibility may extend to various parties within the healthcare system. The potential culprits in medical malpractice cases may include:

Individual Healthcare Professionals

The primary focus often centers on the actions of individual healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other practitioners directly involved in patient care. If a healthcare professional deviates from the accepted standard of care, they may be held individually liable for the resulting harm.

Medical Institutions

Hospitals, clinics, and healthcare facilities can also be held accountable for medical malpractice. This is especially true if the negligence is attributed to systemic issues, such as inadequate staffing levels, lack of proper protocols, or faulty equipment.

Additionally, institutions in Chicago may be responsible for the actions of their employees under the legal doctrine of vicarious liability. Vicarious liability is rooted in the notion of an employer’s responsibility for the actions of their employees. In the medical field, this typically involves healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, and other staff employed by hospitals or clinics. If their actions lead to medical malpractice, the institution may bear the responsibility.

Pharmaceutical Companies

In cases where medication errors or defective drugs contribute to harm, pharmaceutical companies may face liability. This could involve issues related to the manufacturing, labeling, or distribution of medications that lead to adverse effects or complications.

Medical Device Manufacturers

When medical malpractice involves the use of defective medical devices, manufacturers of these devices may be implicated. Issues related to design flaws, manufacturing defects, or inadequate warnings can lead to manufacturer liability.

Do Victims of Medical Malpractice Have Rights?

Victims of medical malpractice have well-defined rights that serve to protect their interests and seek recourse for the harm they have suffered. These rights are grounded in legal principles that acknowledge the vulnerability of patients and aim to ensure accountability within the healthcare system.

One of the fundamental rights of victims of medical malpractice is the right to seek compensation for the damages they have incurred. This compensation may cover medical expenses, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, and even non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.

Also, patients have the right to be fully informed about the risks, benefits, and alternatives of any medical procedure or treatment. If a healthcare provider fails to obtain proper informed consent, the patient may have grounds for a legal claim.

Importantly, victims of medical malpractice have the right to file a lawsuit seeking legal remedies for the harm they’ve endured. This includes the right to engage legal representation to navigate the claim processes.

Usually, the claim process may involve evidence of the medical records. Patients have the right to access their medical records. This access is crucial for understanding the details of their treatment, identifying potential malpractice, and providing evidence in legal proceedings. Additionally, they can obtain testimony from qualified medical professionals who can attest to the deviation from the standard of care.

Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Are Tough To Win

Proving liability in cases of medical malpractice is an uphill task. However, that is not to say victims cannot get justice when negligence in medical practice causes them harm. Overcoming these challenges requires a meticulous approach, but engaging legal professionals can help establish liability. They can present a compelling case when seeking accountability for medical malpractice.

Here is why proving liability against medical professionals can be challenging:

Specialized Knowledge and Experience

Medical professionals, including doctors, surgeons, and specialists, are endowed with specialized knowledge that is often beyond the understanding of the average person. Therefore, proving negligence on their part requires not only a deep comprehension of medical procedures but also the ability to communicate these complexities effectively to a non-medical audience.

Diversity of Medical Practices

Medicine encompasses a vast array of specialties and practices with a unique set of standards and protocols. What may be considered appropriate in one medical context might differ significantly in another. It may be challenging to use a universal standard of care due to the diversity within the medical profession.

Constant Evolution of Medical Knowledge

The field of medicine continues to make continuous advancements in technology, treatments, and understanding of diseases. Proving liability requires staying abreast of these developments to accurately assess whether a healthcare professional adhered to the prevailing standard of care at the time of the alleged malpractice.

Defensive Medicine Practices

Healthcare providers often adopt defensive medicine practices, ordering additional tests or procedures to mitigate potential legal risks. This can create a challenging landscape for proving negligence. Particularly, the sheer volume of interventions may cloud the distinction between appropriate medical caution and actual malpractice.

Subjectivity in Medical Decisions

Medical decisions often consider individual patient circumstances, preferences, and potential unknowns. Distinguishing between a reasonable medical judgment and negligence becomes a nuanced task that may further complicate the effort to prove liability.

Legal Protections

Medical professionals are often protected by legal mechanisms such as the “error in judgment” defense. This defense acknowledges that medicine is an imperfect science, and not every negative outcome is indicative of negligence.

Other legal protections include good samaritan law and the substantial minority. Such protections may be applied to defend medical malpractice in a court of law.

Let a Chicago Medical Malpractice Attorney Handle Your Case

Medical malpractices can be life-threatening in the manner in which they cause harm and suffering to the victims. Additionally, the burden of proof in holding the liable particles accountable is more challenging. However, victims are entitled to compensation from the parties deemed liable.

At Malman Law, we understand this unique set of challenges. We usually devise a unique set of legal strategies aimed at ensuring the victim’s rights are duly protected under the law. Therefore, if you or a loved one suffers due to medical errors, don’t hesitate to reach out for legal assistance. Call us today to speak to a lawyer.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2023

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