Medical malpractice law is the body of civil law that compensates victims of poor medical treatment. It’s a body of law that provides financial compensation when a person seeks medical care and receives care that falls below reasonable, professional standards. Medical malpractice law is the law that allows victims of poor medical care to receive financial compensation for their increased medical costs as well as for their pain and suffering.
What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor’s negligence, recklessness or intentional conduct creates a poor medical result for a patient. All healthcare professionals must take care when they provide treatment to patients. The care that they provide must be up to reasonable professional standards. Medical professionals are presumed to be competent, and they’re presumed to do their jobs in a reasonable, professional way. When they don’t do their job up to professional standards and you get hurt as a result, you’re the victim of medical malpractice.
How do I determine if medical malpractice has occurred?
The standard for medical malpractice is based on the care that’s reasonable given what’s normal in the local area. Medical malpractice depends on the level of care that a person should receive compared to what’s customary. In order for medical malpractice to occur, there must be some harm that occurs to the patient. Even if a doctor or other professional doesn’t do their work carefully, if no one gets hurt, there are no grounds for legal action.
What are the standards for medical malpractice?
Most medical malpractice cases come from state negligence laws. Negligence is a standard that requires each person involved in your medical care to use reasonable care and caution based on their professional training and the professional training that a person should have in the same circumstances. To prove negligence, you must show that a medical professional breaches their duty in a way that brings you harm. Any medical professional can commit malpractice including doctors, nurses, specialists and consultants.
Where does medical malpractice law come from?
State laws create medical malpractice laws. They either come from general common law principles that develop over time, or they come from statutes that the state legislatures pass in order to say what medical malpractice laws are in their state. Some states have a combination of both common law and statutory law. Not all medical malpractice laws are created the same. There are significant differences between states that determine what you must do in order to bring a case and what you can recover in damages.
State limits for certain types of medical malpractice damages
One of the significant limitations that may exist in state medical malpractice law is a limit on pain and suffering damages. Pain and suffering damages compensate a victim for the emotional trauma and physical pain that comes along with a medical malpractice injury. Some states impose arbitrary caps on the amount of pain and suffering damages that a victim can claim.
Of course, one of the key parts of practicing medical malpractice law is challenging the law when it’s appropriate. For example, Florida courts recently declared that their medical malpractice non-economic damage caps are unconstitutional. Medical malpractice lawyers must help their clients understand how the law applies to them and what they can expect from their case as it moves through the courts.
Expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases
One of the key parts of successfully bringing a medical malpractice claim is the use of expert witnesses. You must explain to the jury how the care that the client receives falls below professional standards. It’s not enough to merely allege it; instead, you have to have the right medical expert to come explain to the jury how exactly what happened falls below standards of what’s normal. Without expert medical evidence, it may be impossible to win a medical malpractice claim on behalf of your client.
States often have very strict requirements for how to present medical evidence. Some states require you to have a certification of a medical professional before you even begin a case. Other states require you to submit your claim to a review panel for their opinion before you can begin a case. You may need to prepare a report from your expert and disclose their name and contact information on your witness list. A state may also have standards for what qualifications a person must have to even be a medical expert. Practicing medical malpractice law means knowing and using your state’s unique rules for medical experts and medical testimony in malpractice claims.
Who practices medical malpractice law?
A legal practice that focuses on medical malpractice requires a number of skills. To be successful, medical malpractice lawyers must excel at all of the following:
- Marketing – The area of medical malpractice law is very competitive. You’ve got to be able to get clients in the door. Successful medical malpractice attorneys are great at marketing. Television, print and online advertising are all ways that medical malpractice lawyers connect with clients.
- Drafting – When you bring a medical malpractice claim, what you put in the first court pleadings is very important to the final outcome of the case. Even though trial law like medical malpractice is a lot of public speaking, a focus on medical malpractice also requires great drafting skills.
- Civil procedure – Medical malpractice lawyers depend on civil procedure to build their case. Most of the work that goes into a medical malpractice case happens outside of the courthouse. You can expect to spend your time drafting interrogatories and motions, conducting depositions and chasing down evidence. Being able to harness civil procedure and use it to your advantage is critical to helping clients pursue their medical malpractice claims.
- Negotiations – The vast majority of medical malpractice cases reach a resolution without trial. To succeed in medical malpractice law, it’s important to learn the art of negotiation. You may engage in formal negotiations like mediation, and you can expect to participate in informal negotiations with opposing parties.
- Trial law – Ultimately, medical malpractice lawyers are trial lawyers. They must be prepared to present a case to the jury. Medical malpractice lawyers must be comfortable with the rules of evidence in their jurisdiction, and they must be comfortable telling a story and captivating an audience.
Where do Medical Malpractice Lawyers Practice?
Medical malpractice lawyers live and work throughout the United States. Because most medical malpractice laws are state laws, a lawyer must typically be licensed in each state where they take cases. Most lawyers focus on a certain geographical area within a state, but it’s not uncommon for a lawyer to take medical malpractice cases throughout the state where they practice. Medical malpractice attorneys may work in small law firms, but they also work in large law firms. Medical malpractice attorneys tend to have offices in mid-size and large cities.
Why Become a Medical Malpractice Lawyer?
Medical malpractice lawyers perform an important service for society. They help medical professionals remember that they need to provide competent service. They make sure that medical care providers have accountability when their work falls below professionals standards. Because they raise professional standards, medical malpractice lawyers perform an important function that serves all of society. Attorneys in the field also have the personal rewards of helping clients when they’re hurt and they need help. In that way, medical malpractice lawyers are needed advocates for people who are facing trying circumstances. On the other side, medical malpractice lawyers provide a necessary balance by defending competent medical services and representing the interests of medical care professionals.
Focusing on medical malpractice can provide a sound career for an entire lifetime. Even a small caseload can provide steady work for a medical malpractice attorney. An attorney isn’t limited to a geographical area within the state for their cases. In addition, medical malpractice attorneys can use their outstanding skills in a variety of ways including drafting documents, speaking and presenting evidence in court and negotiating on behalf of deserving clients.
Upholding professional standards with medical malpractice law
Medical malpractice laws compensate deserving victims of malpractice while helping all medical professionals remember to work to professional standards. Attorneys who specialize in medical malpractice are civil attorneys who prove the elements of negligence, recklessness and intentional misconduct in a professional setting. Using a variety of professional skills, medical malpractice lawyers work on behalf of clients throughout the United States.