From novel viruses to everyday operations, it’s no secret that the healthcare industry has taken a more central role in the lives of Americans than ever before. A statistical report on community hospitals alone showed that over 33 million Americans went to the hospital in 2019.
With so many people going to the hospital, it’s not a shock that one in five Americans has experienced some sort of medical error. There are over 20,000 malpractice lawsuits brought against practitioners every year, making it important for both patients and practitioners to know their malpractice facts.
What is medical malpractice?
Under medical law, healthcare providers are expected to reach a standard level of care for all patients. Failing to reach this degree of care due to neglect or omission can cause injury, illness, or, in extreme cases, death. When neglect occurs, medical malpractice may be considered.
Medical malpractice occurs when a hospital, doctor, or healthcare provider negligently harms a patient. Malpractice can look like medical errors in diagnosis, medical treatment, or other forms of health management.
There are three basic requirements in establishing a malpractice medical claim. These are:
- A Violation of Standard Care: Patients have the right to expect a certain level of care. When this standard is not met, and an injury is sustained, negligence can be established.
- An injury was caused by negligence: In addition to a violation of medical standards, a patient will also need to show evidence that the established negligence caused a secondary injury that would not have occurred in the absence of the error.
- An injury resulted in significant damages: Finally, the patient must prove that the sustained injury caused significant damage. Damages can include but are not limited to economic loss, both current and future costs that are a direct result of malpractice, and noneconomic pain and suffering.
Establishing that you may be a victim of medical malpractice or have a legitimate case can be extremely difficult without the help of a practiced attorney. Between varying state laws and lofty legal jargon, knowing what is considered medical malpractice can feel overwhelming.
What is considered medical malpractice?
When determining a medical malpractice claim, understanding what qualifies as medical negligence is essential. Here are a few specific instances that would be considered malpractice:
- Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis: A doctor does not identify or misidentify an illness/other problem by way of examining the symptoms.
- Misreading or ignoring laboratory results: A doctor or clinical laboratory fails to give complete and accurate consideration to a patient’s testing results, often leading to mistreatment or misdiagnosis.
- Unnecessary surgery: Surgical intervention that is not necessary or is not found to be in the patient’s best interest.
- Surgical errors or wrong site surgery: A surgeon makes a preventable mistake during surgery or performs an operation at the wrong site.
- Improper medication or dosage: A practitioner makes a preventable mistake that causes a patient to have an inappropriate medication or to use the medication incorrectly.
- Poor follow-up or aftercare: A medical professional fails to take all reasonable steps to follow up with a patient and provide ongoing care, advice, or treatment.
- Premature discharge: A hospital releases a patient from the hospital before they are physically or logistically ready to be released.
- Disregarding or not taking appropriate patient history: A medical professional ignores or fails to account for patient records, ultimately leading to substandard treatment of the patient.
- Failure to order proper testing: A medical practitioner does not order a test that would provide essential information in treating or diagnosing a patient.
- Failure to recognize symptoms: A practitioner fails to consider all the symptoms of a patient resulting in the patient receiving a lower standard of care.
What is the statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims?
Knowing what medical malpractice is and what isn’t can require overwhelming research. Once negligence, injury, and significant damages have been established, it must then be determined that the claim is within the prescribed period allowed to be legitimate, also known as the statute of limitations.
The Statute of limitations can vary from state to state; however, most allow for claims to be filed between two and three years with occasional outliers. Like most litigation, legitimate malpractice claims can be costly to both parties, regardless of the outcome.
What is the likelihood of winning a medical malpractice lawsuit?
Becoming involved in a medical malpractice suit is nothing to be taken lightly, but you may be wondering what the percentage of winning a medical malpractice lawsuit is. In a report that collected data on malpractice outcomes over a 20-year period, it was found that hospital doctors won 80 to 90 percent of cases where there is little or poor evidence, 70 percent in borderline cases, and 50 percent in instances with strong evidence of negligence or other malpractice.
Even with statistics that seem to favor practitioners, many healthcare professionals carry malpractice insurance with them as a form of professional liability coverage.
What is medical malpractice insurance?
Medical malpractice insurance is a type of coverage that helps to protect practitioners against patients and clients who claim that the practitioner neglected them or that there was a willful treatment error.
Malpractice claims can be extremely expensive, costing the healthcare system approximately $ 55.6 billion annually. Most providers carry malpractice insurance throughout their careers and into retirement as a protective measure.
Should I get malpractice Insurance?
If you are a practitioner, malpractice insurance is essential in protecting yourself against the catastrophic effects of a lawsuit. Depending on the type of coverage you need, malpractice insurance can cost anywhere from $7,500 to 35,000 per year. This may seem like a hefty number, but when compared to the out-of-pocket costs of entering into a legal battle, it quickly becomes the cheaper option.
In addition to the cost, many states require doctors to carry some sort of protective cover in order to practice lawfully. When considering purchasing malpractice insurance, it is important to know your local laws and regulations.
Unfortunately, malpractice litigation is becoming more common. Whether you’re a patient or a practitioner, it is important to understand care standards and risks that could be incurred when you step into a hospital or begin to offer care. In this way, we, as patients and providers, can build a safer, healthier, and happier community.
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