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Overview of Medical Malpractice Law

Overview of Medical Malpractice Law

Overview of Medical Malpractice Law Law

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Medical malpractice is often referred to by the term medical negligence. Legally, it is a form of professional negligence caused by a healthcare worker who either acts or fails to act in a manner inconsistent with medically-accepted standards of practice or care. While it would seem that this would be quite enough to define medical malpractice, in the legal world, it is only one of four elements necessary for a malpractice claim to be valid. The four elements of medical malpractice are as follows:

1. The medical practitioner, who is the defendant in the case, had a legal duty to provide health care to the patient, the plaintiff in the case.

2. A breach of duty existed due to the medical practitioner acting or failing to act in a manner inconsistent with medically acceptable standards of practice. Medical standards can be proven by expert testimony if the breach of care is not grossly obvious.

3. The negligent action or inaction caused an injury.

4. The injury was in some way damaging to the patient. Damage may be defined as physical, psychological or emotional, but it varies from state-to-state.

Even though the first three items are enough to prove that medical negligence occurred, without any damages, there is no basis for a medical malpractice claim. A judge cannot award a plaintiff with any form of compensation when no damages have occurred.

Filing the Claim

Claims of medical malpractice are filed in a court of law in the jurisdiction where the event took place. The claim is usually filed by an attorney on behalf of the plaintiff. Because of the extremely complex nature of medical malpractice cases, most judges will not allow a plaintiff to continue a medical malpractice case without an attorney.

In the case, the burden of proof on the plaintiff. This means that the former patient must have a preponderance of evidence supporting all four elements of the case. Many malpractice claims are settled out of court through negotiations between the plaintiff’s and defendant’s attorneys or through binding arbitration. If a case goes to trial, it will primarily consist of the testimony of experts called in by both parties. Some cases are decided by the bench and others are decided by a jury. The final judgment is decided upon by the court. The verdict or the judgment may be appealed in a higher court by either party.


Defendant’s found guilty of malpractice must pay the plaintiff damages. Damages may be compensatory or punitive. Some states have placed limits on punitive and non-material damages, which are emotional or psychological damages not causing a loss of finances or income.

Statute of Limitations

Medical malpractice suits are subject to a state’s statute of limitations. Some states have an umbrella statute of limitations, while others have a specific statute for malpractice cases. After the time limit has expired, the case cannot be filed.

Peter Wendt is a writer and researcher who writes about all sorts of topics. He recommends you also check out medical malpractice lawyers and attorney medical malpractice.


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    October 12, 2013 at 12:30 am - Reply

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