Many people have heard the term medical malpractice. Law firms like the Law Offices of Dr. Bruce G. Fagel & Associates exist to help people with their medical malpractice cases. But what is medical malpractice exactly?
If you run into a doctor or another medical professional and ask, “What is medical malpractice?” the first answer that might come to mind would be: it’s when a health care provider doesn’t provide proper care to his patients. But, unfortunately, this definition is not entirely correct.
Simply put, medical malpractice occurs when a health care provider does something (or fails to do something), and this action (or lack of action) causes injury or death to the patient. For example, if your doctor has you on a new medication for diabetes, but that medication gave you an allergic reaction. It caused you to go into a coma; that would be medical malpractice.
That’s why we have created this guide to help you better understand medical malpractice. It covers topics like what types of cases are considered medical malpractice, the different categories of medical malpractice, and some information on how much money victims can get in a successful lawsuit.
What’s Considered Medical Malpractice?
Under California law, medical malpractice has nothing to do with health care providers not giving their patients proper treatment. Instead, it’s all about whether or not they provided the standard of care that other doctors in similar circumstances would have given.
If a doctor provides substandard care and acts below the normal standards of what most other professionals in the field would have done, then that’s medical malpractice.
Here’s a good example from a real case to help illustrate the point: A man went to his doctor because he had been suffering from abdominal pain for weeks. The doctor ordered an x-ray and told the patient that nothing was wrong with him. Several months later, the patient reportedly found a mass in his abdomen. After going to another doctor, he was diagnosed with bowel cancer and had surgery to remove the tumor. The patient sued the first doctor for medical malpractice. In the end, a jury awarded him $290,000 in damages after finding that the defendant physician committed medical malpractice by failing to follow standard diagnostic procedures and provide proper treatment.
What Types of Medical Malpractice Are There?
There are three general types of medical malpractice: negligence, battery, and wrongful death. But, first, we’ll explain what they mean.
Negligence occurs when your doctor doesn’t do things that a reasonably competent health care provider would have done under similar circumstances. For example, if your doctor is supposed to send your x-ray results to a specialist and fails to do that, that could be negligence.
Battery occurs when a doctor or nurse does something unnecessary – like performing surgery on the wrong body part.
Wrongful death happens when a doctor’s carelessness causes a patient’s death. For example, if a doctor prescribes the wrong dosage of medication and the patient dies, then that would be wrongful death.
Categories of Medical Malpractice
There are two types of medical malpractice: standard medical malpractice and experimental medical malpractice. These terms refer to different types of cases. Here’s an explanation:
Standard medical malpractice cases deal with injuries that happen in a doctor’s office or hospital.
Experimental medical malpractice cases involve a health care provider doing something new, different, and experimental in his treatment of a patient without getting the patient’s consent. It can also involve health care providers doing things that they lack the skills to do – like giving a child a complicated medical procedure that only an adult should receive.