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What Is Medical Negligence? Do You Have A Case?

We trust doctors to help us when we get sick, or injured. We trust nurses to care for us, dentists to pull our teeth, and pharmacists to get us the proper prescriptions. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget that having a medical degree doesn’t make you a wizard, and that there really are some instances where medical professionals simply cannot help us. There are also times where complications occur, and medical practitioners simply have to do the best they can with the changing conditions. There are times, though, that a doctor’s skills should be up to the task, but due to inattention, unskilled, or improper treatment, a patient is harmed instead of helped by a medical professional.

That is when people start throwing around the term “medical negligence,” but before you get too invested in it, it’s important for you to know whether or not your case is, in fact, one of negligence.

What is Medical Negligence?

The legal definition of medical negligence, according to The Free Dictionary, is “the improper, unskilled, or negligent treatment of a patient by a physician, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care professional.” That sounds pretty straightforward. If you put yourself into the care of a physician (or any health care professional), then you’re trusting them to do their job to the fullest extent of their abilities. If that trust isn’t honored, and a health care professional’s actions lead to a patient being harmed, then the physician is liable for that harm.

It’s the idea of liability that puts medical malpractice squarely in the arena of tort law. It’s also been the subject of ongoing debate ever since the 1970s, with medical practitioners arguing that the threat of being sued makes it less likely professionals will take any risks, even if they might help a patient, and legal professionals arguing that medical negligence suits police the medical profession, and allow those with legitimate grievances to seek compensation for the damage done to them. It’s a sticky issue, however, in order for medical negligence to be argued, four points have to be proven.

– The physician owed a duty of care.

– The physician violated the acceptable duty of care.

– The person suffered a compensable injury.

– The injury occurred in fact and proximity to the negligence the physician is accused of.

Put another way, you need to be someone’s patient, the health care professional violated the acceptable duty of care, and that violation was the cause of a compensable injury. If even one of these elements is missing, then there’s no way for you to take a medical negligence case to the court.

So How Do You Know When You Have A Case?

The easiest way to know you have a medical negligence case is to approach a lawyer who specializes in this area of law, and let them review what happened. It’s important to remember that not being satisfied with the level of care you received, or being upset at a doctor’s manner, or at the cost, is not the same thing as negligence. A health care professional can be rude, unkind, and outright unpleasant, but those are not the same things as not performing his or her job to the standards set by the profession, and by the law.

That doesn’t always mean that identifying medical negligence is easy; if it was, then there would be no need for lawyers. For example, a doctor who knowingly goes into surgery while intoxicated is clearly putting a patient at risk. If, while in that state, the doctor causes an injury that is a direct result of his being drunk, then that is a clear-cut case of medical negligence. He should have known better, and the injury should not have happened in the first place. On the other hand, someone having a conversation with a doctor at a bar, who says that if a patient were in a given situation that she would recommend a certain drug be taken, the person in that conversation can’t get hold of that drug, and then claim medical negligence if it results in harm. Because, quite simply, that person was never the doctor’s patient in the first place.

Unfortunately, most cases fall into the gray area between those two, clear-cut examples. And, further complicating matters, every state has their own laws and rules when it comes to what does, and what does not, constitute medical negligence. It should be noted, however, that a physician who explains all the courses of action and treatment available to a patient, and who communicates clearly what the risks of those treatments are, should never have to worry about a medical negligence suit ever gaining real traction against them.

Do You Have a Case For Medical Negligence?

If you feel you have been the victim of medical negligence, then you should come forward to have your case evaluated by an experienced professional. A medical negligence lawyer, who can evaluate all the aspects of a case, will be able to go down the timeline of someone’s treatment, and with a few questions determine how strong the case is. The stronger the case, the more likely it is that a patient will be entitled to compensation for their injuries.

If you need to find out how strong your case is, then simply contact us today.