Medical Malpractice Frequently Asked Questions
January 10, 2023 @ 3:10 pm
Even under normal circumstances, receiving medical care can be stressful—getting an appointment, undergoing tests and examinations, receiving results and diagnoses, enduring hospital stays, and sorting through the bills and insurance coverages, for example. Emergencies only intensify the experiences for all parties involved.
When medical treatment causes harm to the patient, you may start wondering if and when the problems you’re encountering cross over into the realm of medical malpractice. Moreover, you wonder what you can do about it. Knowing the answers to a few frequently asked questions can get you pointed in the right direction.
1. What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a type of personal injury claim that seeks to demonstrate that a physician or other healthcare provider was negligent and that their negligence resulted in injury to their patient. Claims must typically prove four legal elements:
- Professional Duty—The patient was in the provider’s care, so the doctor or other health professional owed a duty to provide proper care to that patient.
- Breach of Duty—The care provider failed to act in a way consistent with their professional duty to the patient.
- Injury Due to the Breach of Duty—The patient suffered injury as a result of the care provider’s breach of duty.
- Damages Due to the Injury—The patient suffered losses due to the injury.
Related: Medical Malpractice 101
2. How does medical malpractice differ from ordinary negligence?
Negligence is a key element for many personal injury claims. For medical malpractice, some form of negligence will almost always be a part of the claim. However, not every act of negligence warrants the label of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice typically involves negligence (or intentional harm) caused by a healthcare provider.
Determining whether an injury was caused by ordinary negligence, medical malpractice, or both, can be a complex process that looks at all circumstances leading up to the medical care provided as well as care provided during and after treatment.
3. What is considered medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice often occurs when a healthcare provider fails to follow accepted guidelines and protocols and causes an injury that results in a loss. Some common examples of medical malpractice include misdiagnosing a medical condition, injuring a patient during treatment, failing to treat a patient’s condition, failing to document a patient’s care accurately and completely, and making errors in prescribing or dispensing medications. Louisiana law further defines medical malpractice as follows:
Malpractice includes “a failure to exercise the standard of care owed by a medical professional to a patient, resulting in injury or death to the patient.”
4. What is standard of care, and why is it so important to a medical malpractice suit?
Many legal standards rely on the reasonable person standard. In short, what would a reasonable person do in a given situation? In medical malpractice cases, however, the standard of care is the level of care that a reasonable and competent medical professional would have provided under similar circumstances.
A health care provider is expected to act not as a “reasonable person” but as a competent health care provider bound by the standards, rules, guidelines and protocols of their profession. The question of standard of care asks whether the physician or other care provider gave the same ethical, quality care to you, for example, as they would be expected to give another patient. Because these standards are so technical and condition-specific, input is often requested from expert witnesses.
5. What is the statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims?
The statute of limitations establishes how much time you have to file a medical malpractice suit. In Louisiana, you typically have one year, beginning with the date of the injury. The year can also begin with knowledge of the injury. In other words, you may not recognize the injury immediately or even for a period of time, but once you do realize you suffered an injury, you have a year to pursue a claim. Louisiana adds an overriding time limit, however, stating that, without exception, any malpractice suit must be filed within three years of the alleged event of negligence.
Because these time limitations can vary, and typically depend on the particular facts of each case, you should contact legal counsel as soon as you become aware of a potential claim so that you do not lose your right to do so.
6. Who do you sue in a medical malpractice suit?
Knowing exactly who to sue can be tricky. Typically, it’s the health care provider who breached their duty and caused your injury. Louisiana law includes an exhaustive list of what qualifies as a health care provider, from a person, partnership or company to a corporation, facility or institution “licensed or certified by the state to provide health care or professional services.” It includes everyone from physicians, hospitals and nursing homes to nurse practitioners, therapists, radiologists, optometrists and pharmacists. It even includes offshore health service providers.
However, the intricacies of who actually works for a hospital, for example, or health care provider and who did what and why can affect who can be held at fault. It may be one person, many people, an entire institution or several entities. A medical malpractice claim may also involve allegations of fault against defendants who are not healthcare providers, or against healthcare providers from separate entities.
When Healthcare Fails You, We Won’t
Medical malpractice suits are often highly technical and complex, yet have a limited timeframe in which to pursue the case. Meanwhile, the person injured already has plenty of battles to fight just to get well and maintain a good quality of life. In some cases, the person may have died from the error.
If you suspect that you or someone you care about may have been the victim of medical malpractice, reach out to the personal injury attorneys at Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett & Haik. Our team understands the complexities of medical malpractice law, and we are prepared to fight for you.
You can arrange a free consultation by contacting us on our website or by calling 800-655-4783.
Negligence vs Medical Malpractice
Statute of Limitations