ERNST & YOUNG
Patients are often in a vulnerable state when they seek medical treatment. By definition, they have a health concern that needs resolution. Doctors are supposed to be highly skilled, licensed professionals that solve problems to the best of their ability. They are also required to meet a standard of practice set by the medical community.
On occasion, something goes wrong. Patients are in a position of little power, since they don't know as much about medicine as doctors. Those medical professionals, however, can make mistakes. Those mistakes may not be mere inconveniences: they may have serious long-term effects for patients.
Doctors may have to take legal responsibility for egregious medical errors. In addition, the clinic or hospital where they work may also hold fault. For patients to get the care and justice they require, it may be necessary to seek a medical negligence action.
What is Negligence Law?
The law puts an obligation on individuals to act responsibly towards others. This means that if one fails to act in a way that falls short of the standard of care, the victim can sue. Negligence applies to everyone, but is particularly well-established in certain professional relationships. Lawyers owe a duty of care to clients, for example, and doctors owe a duty of care to patients.
There are many technical aspects that are important in a negligence case. Although professionals have high responsibility, that higher duty only kicks in once a relationship is established. Once a patient-doctor relationship is in place, a physician must act in accordance with significant professional standards to that particular patient. That goes whether the patient had one consult with the doctor, or dozens.
How Does Negligence Apply to Medical Malpractice?
A case of medical malpractice rests on the argument that a medical professional who holds a duty of care to a patient has failed in that duty. Patients expect that the physician providing treatment meets the standard of care of a physician of similar training. In short, the doctor must demonstrate reasonable competence in the performance of his or her job, given all the circumstances.
A doctor's failure to act accordingly does not, in and of itself, qualify as negligence. To demonstrate negligence, a patient has to show that the doctor's actions or inactions caused them harm. The harm a patient suffered has to be the direct result, at least in part, of the doctor's failure to meet the professional standard.
What Are Some Examples?
Medical negligence can take many different forms. A number of scenarios seem to be particularly common. In all of these examples, patients may have the right to seek a remedy from the doctor in question.
Failure to diagnose. This is when a doctor's failure to diagnose led to delayed treatment or a reduced number of treatment options. This may be malpractice if a reasonable physician would have made the correct diagnosis.
Improper treatment. This is when a doctor causes harm by recommending or performing an inappropriate treatment. It is also when the doctor recommends the right treatment, but does not perform it in a correct or competent way.
Failure to provide informed consent. This is when a doctor does not tell the patient of the potential risks of a treatment or a procedure, and one of those risks comes to pass. If the patient would have chosen not to undergo the treatment had they known of the risks, the doctor may be liable.
While these are three of the broadest categories of medical negligence, the complexity of the medical profession means there are many potential scenarios. Speaking with an attorney experienced in malpractice claims can help patients to see whether or not they have a case.
What Can Patients Do?
Patients can file a complaint with the professional college in the state where the doctor is licensed. However, there are things to think about before doing this. The doctor in question will probably know which patient filed the complaint. He or she may or may not be sanctioned for the behavior, and may continue to practice as normal even when an investigation is ongoing.
Typically colleges do not have the power to provide a remedy to victims. In order to get a settlement for medical costs and other hardship, a patient still has to take further legal action. This also comes with risks, but by working with a good lawyer patients can get the right medical treatment they need now and for years to come.
Are There Legal Options?
Medical negligence cases are highly technical. They require in-depth knowledge of medical procedures and the workings of medical teams. In order to have a successful lawsuit, patients must partner with a group of lawyers who understand the unique aspects of the medical industry. That is because doctors are typically backed by a powerful defense, who will choose to fight the case hard.
The Maryland law firm of Weltchek Mallahan & Weltchek has the capacity to fight and win these cases. The firm's attorneys have settled several high-profile cases against large corporations, many in the health sector. The core of the firm's work is medical malpractice, demonstrating a long-term commitment to patient welfare. To learn more, contact the firm today.