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What is Medical Malpractice?

In general, medical malpractice/medical negligence refers to the situation where a medical health professional, such as a doctor, nurse or other hospital staff acts below the standard of care for his or her particular area of medicine, and as a result, a patient sustains harm. In such situations, it may be possible to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, in some circumstances, a medical professional may make an error, but the patient does not suffer lasting harm. Where no harm results (or the harm is temporary), the doctors error may not be sufficient to bring a lawsuit.

Do I Have a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Certain factors must exist in order to have a claim

First, a doctor/patient (or health care professional/patient) relationship must exist. Thus, relying on a friend’s advice – who is also doctor – not to obtain medical treatment when it’s necessary and you sustain additional harm – is typically not actionable.

Further, you must be able to show that the doctor owed a certain degree of professional care (duty of care) and that they breached this duty. For example, typically expert opinion will be necessary to establish what steps are usually taken and expected as the standard of care in a particular medical scenario, and that the medical professional treating you failed to take those steps. This is typically referred to as a “breach” of the professional duty.

The next step is to show that this breach caused your harm. If you suffered an injury but the doctor did everything correctly, then a claim for medical malpractice does not likely exists. Likewise, if the physician breaches the requisite duty, but you do not suffer harm as a result, you also will not have a strong medical malpractice claim. The best medical malpractice claims have a strong connection between the doctor’s breach and harm sustained.

Finally, it is important to be able to show that the breach caused significant, potentially permanent harm. Bringing a successful medical malpractice suit can be very expensive. Thus, the strongest cases that have the best chance of a meaningful recovery include those where the damages are significant, such as a catastrophic injury, the loss of a limb, paraplegia and in the worst-case scenario, death.

Examples of Medical Malpractice

Although medical malpractice can take many forms, the majority of claims fall into four different categories.

  • Medical misdiagnosis/failure to diagnose. One of the most common areas of medical negligence is the misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a condition. In order to receive proper treatment and have the greatest likelihood of a positive outcome is to receive a prompt and accurate diagnosis. The failure to receive an adequate diagnosis, and receive proper treatment diminishes the likelihood of a full recovery.
  • Surgical negligence. Another frequent area of medical negligence includes errors made during surgery. This includes wrong-site surgeries and surgery where objects (such as sponges) are accidentally left inside the body. The results of surgical errors can be catastrophic, and in the worst cases, fatal.
  • Medication errors. Medication errors include among other things, administering the wrong type of medicine or giving the wrong dosage. Either can have potentially serious consequences.
  • Pregnancy and birth errors. Pregnancy and birth errors are some of the most serious errors as the consequences can last a lifetime.

If you have any question concerning a potential medical malpractice case, please contact our compassionate and knowledgeable Los Angeles medical malpractice lawyers at Bostwick & Peterson, LLP for an immediate consultation.



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