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What are the Basic Requirements for a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Worried doctor telling bad news on wife's patient.

Many patients are harmed by medical errors every year. But not every medical error involves malpractice by the doctor or other health care provider. Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional injures a patient by failing to follow the recognized standard of care.

To bring a successful medical malpractice claim, an individual must establish that there was a doctor-patient relationship, that the doctor provided substandard care, that the doctor’s negligent care caused the patient’s injury, and that the injury resulted in significant harm to the patient. Medical malpractice lawsuits are complex, and the elements of proof are difficult for individuals to establish without the help of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.

Individuals who are hurt by medical malpractice by a doctor or hospital may be entitled to file a claim and recover compensation for the costs related to treatment and injuries. An experienced Washington, D.C. medical malpractice attorney can help injured patients gather evidence of malpractice and seek full compensation.

What Exactly is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or healthcare worker deviates from the established standard of care and fails to provide the kind of care that a prudent healthcare provider would offer in a similar situation. This is also known as medical negligence. When healthcare workers are negligent, it can cause great harm to patients and require that the patient undergo additional surgeries or treatment. In some instances, such as misdiagnosis of cancer, the negligence may allow a disease to advance and be harder to manage.

It is important to understand that not all unsuccessful treatments constitute medical negligence. Sometimes doctors must try different courses of treatment before they find the one that works. As long as the recommended courses of treatment are considered appropriate for a certain condition or illness, the doctor may be acting within the standard of care, even if the treatment proves unsuccessful.

What are Different Types of Medical Malpractice?

Patients can be injured by medical malpractice in a number of ways. There are some examples of medical malpractice that are more common than others. These include:

  • Misdiagnosis: One of the most common types of medical malpractice, a misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor fails to properly identify a patient’s condition or injury. Cancer, organ damage, heart problems, and AIDS/HIV are among the conditions misdiagnosed.
  • Delayed diagnosis: Doctors are expected to order appropriate diagnostic tests based on the patients’ symptoms and to diagnose illnesses and conditions in a timely manner. When they fail to order proper tests or fail to communicate the test results, and a patient is harmed as a result, the doctor may be liable.
  • Failure to treat: In certain instances, a doctor may properly identify an illness or injury but may not recommend the proper treatment.
  • Surgical errors: Surgery has risks, and an unsuccessful procedure is not necessarily malpractice. Only if the surgeon failed to adhere to the standard of care does the patient have the basis for a medical malpractice claim. Determining that can be complicated and requires an experienced malpractice lawyer. When the wrong surgery is performed, the wrong body part is operated on, or equipment is left in the body cavity, it causes serious harm and can be the basis of a malpractice claim.
  • Birth injury: Labor and delivery rooms are hectic places. The healthcare workers must be attentive to the risks involved in certain deliveries and be ready to respond if complications arise. When medical errors occur during the birthing process, the infant may suffer severe harm as a result and require months or years of care. An obstetrician or hospital delivery team may be liable for a birth injury caused by the failure to follow the standard of care.

These are some of the most common types of medical malpractice. Injured patients who suspect they have been harmed by medical malpractice in the Washington, D.C. area should speak to a medical malpractice lawyer that can evaluate their legal options.

Surgery team operating in a surgical room.

How Do You Establish a Medical Malpractice Claim?

There are four main elements required to establish a medical malpractice claim. These include:

  • A relationship existed: To file a medical malpractice claim, there must be a patient-doctor relationship. This does not mean that malpractice cases can only involve a patient and their family doctor. Even registering at an emergency room can create that relationship. However, if a doctor did not help a fellow diner that had a heart attack in a restaurant, this would not constitute medical malpractice.
  • Negligence: Medical malpractice claims, like all personal injury cases, are based on negligence. To have a successful malpractice claim, you must prove the doctor or healthcare worker was negligent.
  • Causation: Negligence is not enough to have a medical malpractice claim. You must also prove that the negligence caused your injuries.
  • Losses: Damages represent the losses in a medical malpractice claim. These are meant to compensate the victim for the losses they sustained as a result of medical malpractice. When there are no losses, there is no medical malpractice case.

What Evidence Do You Need for a Medical Malpractice Claim?

There are several types of evidence that are useful to a medical malpractice claim.

Medical bills can prove the amount of expenses you incurred as a result of the malpractice, while pay stubs can establish the amount of income you have lost. Testimony of medical professionals can also speak to the extent of your injuries and whether a healthcare worker acted negligently.

Testimony from you, your family members, and friends can help show how the injuries have affected your life.

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Medical Malpractice Claim?

The statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim is 3 years. Be sure to file your medical malpractice lawsuit before that 3 year time frame expires, or you will have lost your opportunity to have your case heard in court.

Do You Need an Expert for a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Many states require a certificate of merit in medical malpractice claims. This is a certificate that shows a statement from a healthcare worker that works or worked in a similar field as the accused healthcare worker. This doctor is considered an expert and the statement must include language showing that the accused doctor was negligent. However, there is no such requirement in Washington, D.C.

Get Help from a Washington, D.C. Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

When you have been injured as a result of medical negligence in the District, it is crucial that you speak to a Washington, D.C.  medical malpractice attorney at The Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, MD, JD

Dr. Michael Wilson is both an attorney and a physician with medical and law degrees from Georgetown University and he has obtained more than $100 million in compensation for his clients. He has unique qualifications to analyze and pursue medical malpractice cases for malpractice victims and their families who have suffered significant harm. If you have been injured, contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation with our malpractice law firm so we can review your claim.

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