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When Do You Have a Medical or Professional Malpractice Case?

When you hire a professional, you expect them to do their job to the best of their ability. However, this isn’t always the case. Research shows that while most Americans trust medical doctors, for example, there is also a great deal of concern about malpractice.

Medical or professional malpractice can leave victims with serious consequences like injuries and financial strain. However, proving professional negligence isn’t always easy.

Consulting an attorney is the best way to determine whether or not you have a case. Understanding the basics of malpractice law can help.

Read on to learn more about medical and professional malpractice.

Defining Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is one of the most common forms of professional malpractice lawsuits. These cases are filed against a health care provider, which can include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Doctors
  • Surgeons
  • Nurses
  • Specialists
  • Technicians
  • Pharmacists

In the simplest terms, medical malpractice occurs when a health care professional causes an injury or wrongful death due to a negligent act (or failure to act).

Example of Medical Malpractice

In this example, a patient visits their primary care practitioner complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath. Though the PCP knows about the patient’s family history of cardiac disorders, they send the patient home with an anxiety diagnosis and no further testing. The patient returns home and later suffers an acute heart attack that may have been preventable with proper intervention.

In this case, the PCP did not exercise the duty of care (aka standard of care) because they failed to take reasonable steps to reach a proper diagnosis. By misdiagnosing the patient, they increased the patient’s chances of a worsening health outcome. The patient files a lawsuit to recover damages, including medical bills, lost income due to missed time at work, and pain and suffering.

Defining Professional Malpractice

Professional malpractice is an umbrella term that can encompass medical malpractice, legal malpractice, and more. When hiring an attorney, make sure that they have experience with the specific type of professional malpractice you have experienced.

Professionals, by definition, should have a certain level of training and experience to provide the duty of care to their clients. Professional malpractice occurs when the professional causes damages due to a negligent act (or failure to act) or acts with intent to harm.

Example of Professional Malpractice

In this example, a personal injury victim hires an attorney to handle their case. The attorney misses several document filing deadlines and does not perform a thorough investigation of their client’s claims. The client does not receive compensation from the defendant because their case does not meet multiple legal requirements.

In this case, the attorney did not exercise the duty of care because they failed to take reasonable steps to represent their client to the standard expected of someone in their profession. The client suffered financial setbacks as a result. The client files a lawsuit to recover the damages owed in the original case as well as any additional damages incurred during the original case.

Conditions of Medical or Professional Malpractice

If you believe that you have a malpractice case on your hands, it’s crucial that you hire a lawyer. In order to file a successful lawsuit, you must provide substantial evidence that the case meets all proper legal conditions. Read on to learn what conditions you must establish to file medical or professional malpractice.

Duty of Care

The first thing you must establish is that the professional owed you duty of care. Duty of care entails that the professional was obligated to apply their training and expertise in your relationship.

For example, if you hired an attorney or had an appointment with a doctor, they owed you duty of care. If a professional gave you unofficial advice in an unprofessional setting (e.g., during a social gathering), they did not owe you duty of care.

Breach of Duty of Care

Professional negligence is defined as the breach of a duty of care. In other words, the professional failed to meet the duty of care by:

  • Acting in a way that another professional in their line of work would not act
  • Failing to act in a way that another professional in their line of work would act
  • Acting with intent to harm

It’s not enough to establish that a professional’s behavior led to your harm. For example, not all misdiagnoses constitute medical malpractice. You must prove that the misdiagnosis occurred because the medical professional failed to meet reasonable standards given their status and expertise.

Breach of Duty of Care Results in Damages

To file a malpractice lawsuit, you must then prove that the breach of duty of care resulted in damages such as:

  • Substantial injuries
  • Loss of income due to a reduced capacity to work
  • Additional financial burdens
  • Pain and suffering

Professional negligence occurs on a regular basis, but it doesn’t always result in damages. For example, a lawyer may fail to investigate all possible evidence in a case but still secure a win for their client. Though their actions were irresponsible and unprofessional, their client doesn’t have grounds to file professional malpractice because their actions did not lead to damages.

Damages Are Financially Quantifiable

Both medical and professional malpractice claims fall under civil law. This means that plaintiffs are seeking financial justice rather than criminal justice (e.g., jail time). The final condition you must prove is that the damages in question caused significant financial strain.

In civil court, there are both tangible and intangible damages. Tangible damages are easy to quantify financially and include things like medical bills or lost income. Intangible damages include things like pain and suffering and tend to require legal expertise to establish.

Statute of Limitations

Finally, you must file your medical or professional malpractice claim within the statute of limitations. For example, you have two years to file a medical malpractice claim. In most cases, the clock starts ticking when the malpractice occurs.

Call David Bell Law Firm About Medical or Professional Negligence

If you believe that you’ve faced medical or professional malpractice, it’s time to consult an attorney. David Bell Law Firm can help.

The David Bell Law Firm has been helping clients in the greater Augusta area for over 30 years. Contact us to begin a free case consultation.

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If you have been injured in a car accident, it is important that you contact us right away. Schedule your consultation with one of our truck and car accident attorneys to discuss your options moving forward. You may also call (706) 724-1882

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