Physician negligence can result in devastating ramifications. However, with the exception of a handful of claims, filing a lawsuit is seldom a straightforward process.
According to An Introduction to Medical Malpractice in the United States, medical malpractice lawsuits are extremely common, with rates of claims increasing since the 1960s. In the United States, medical malpractice law is administered on a state level, including the “statute of limitations.” Varying on a state level, this legal aspect specifies the time the injured party can file a claim. Cases are typically filed in state trial court and, in some instances, could move to federal level.Do you want to learn more? Visit Medical Malpractice Claims.
Medical malpractice falls under tort law, which concerns professional negligence. Typically, the goal of such cases is resolving the dispute before it goes to trial, and few of these claims actually end up in court. According to a study led by Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School with results published in May 2012, the majority of medical malpractice claims lead to litigation, but from here, they are dismissed. With claims involving defense costs from 2002 to 2005 examined, the study found that 55.2 percent of claims result in litigation, but 54.1 percent overall are eventually dismissed by courts. Percentages, as well, vary with specialty. Additionally, the study revealed, cases that do result in a verdict are ruled 79.6 percent of the time in the physician’s favor.
Reflecting this aspect is the difficulty of proving a claim. Not getting the desired outcome from treatment is not considered a valid enough case. Instead, four points must be fulfilled for a case to be considered malpractice: a physician’s obligation and standard of care must be established, a breach of this standard must be shown, an injury resulting from the breach must additionally be indicated, and damages related to the injury must further be present.
Several errors may qualify as negligence if injury and damage occurs: improper diagnosis, medication errors, poor health management, treatment, or aftercare, or an act of omission. While many of these instances are open-ended, others clearly point to negligence: equipment left inside a patient during a procedure, operation on the wrong limb or spot of the body, and performing a non-emergency procedure a patient did not consent to. However, patient harm in a hospital is not negligence; instead, for a medical malpractice case, a physician’s care must specifically veer off from the standard level expected.
Proving this aspect and the lengthy legal procedure are why such cases last, on average, 19 months before a verdict is announced. The pre-trial period of discovery, particularly, extended the lifespan of a case. During this time, a medical malpractice attorney requests documents, such as patient records and tests, interrogations, and depositions. The lawyer, after the case is filed, gathers information about the opposing party and then, during the deposition, formally questions the opposing party, who is under oath, for later use in court.