7 Things You Need to Know About Medical Malpractice

It may seem simple to decide what is or isn’t negligence, but medical malpractice cases require experienced and skilled attorneys to help you navigate the legal process and acquire the damages you deserve. Medical malpractice is defined as “any act or omission by a physician during treatment of a patient that deviates from accepted norms of practice in the medical community and causes an injury to the patient.” Medical malpractice cases include birth injuries, such as cerebral palsy and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, that result from errors made by healthcare providers during labor and delivery.

Here are 7 things we think you should know about medical malpractice in the United States: 

1. You must prove the medical provider breached their standard of care.

If you feel you are a victim of medical malpractice, you must be able to prove a doctor’s legal duty to provide treatment to the patient (you). It is fairly easy to prove a doctor-patient relationship, but without that, there is no obligation to treat you, and therefore no malpractice. The “breach of professional duty” is the part in which you must prove that the medical provider did something wrong. This is where expert witnesses come in to determine what a reasonable “standard of care” would be in the given situation. If your doctor does something that violates this standard, it may be considered malpractice.  

2. Expert witnesses are required.

As mentioned, expert witnesses are brought in to determine the standard of care required by a medical professional and if that standard was “breached” during your interaction. These witnesses must practice in the same field of medicine as the negligent doctor.  

3. Damages will likely be calculated if harm is shown.

Proving your healthcare provider was negligent is not enough to recover “damages”, or monetary compensation. You also need to show that the negligence caused an injury and that the injury resulted in damages (i.e. lost wages, medical expenses or pain and suffering). At firms like ours, we prove negligence, causation, injury, and damages through the litigation process, which starts months before a lawsuit is even filed, and oftentimes ends before a trial. It doesn’t just mean going to court. 

4. Some things will not rise to the level of a malpractice case.

There is a big difference between a doctor acting out of line for their practice, and you as a patient simply regretting getting a procedure done. Some circumstances that would not rise to the level of a malpractice case are: 

  • Rude providers: No one likes rude people, but it is not against the law. 
  • Untreatable conditions: A doctor can correctly diagnose a condition but still not be able to cure or treat it. This would not be an appropriate lawsuit to file.  
  • Worsening conditions: If your condition is not worsening as a direct result of the care received by a doctor, you would likely not have a good malpractice case.   

5. Medical negligence is the 3rd leading cause of death in the US.

It’s true – while many of us fear death at the hands of violent strangers, we may want to look closer at the everyday mistakes that happen in trusted medical facilities. Not every medical professional will commit medical malpractice, but there is a reason malpractice attorneys are essential today.  

6. Sometimes the suit settles before it is brought to court.

Sometimes cases go all the way to trial, but many times, the suit may settle out of court. Medical malpractice litigation is a long process and many things are learned during written discovery, depositions, and motions, that affect both sides’ willingness to take the case all the way to trial. There are typically several opportunities throughout the litigation process to discuss settlement. Typically, many cases resolve in the months before trial during mediation.  

7. There is a strict statute of limitations of medical malpractice cases.

A statute of limitations means that you only have a certain amount of time to file a suit before it is too late. In our home state of Michigan, the medical malpractice statute of limitations is 2 years from the date of the negligence or 6 months from the time the patient discovers (or should have discovered) the alleged negligence, whichever is later. 

Every case is different, and Hoffer & Sheremet aims to keep our clients informed during every step of the process. For more information about our firm and medical malpractice cases we take, visit our website.  For your free case review, email us at info@hoffersheremet.com or call 616.278.0888.