Medical Malpractice – What Is Medical Malpractice?
When a doctor or other healthcare professional conducts a negligent act or omission that results in injury or harm to a patient, this constitutes medical malpractice. Medical malpractice laws and regulations vary by state, and medical malpractice claims are common enough that doctors and (some other medical professionals) are required to carry medical malpractice insurance to cover the cost of any lawsuits. If you or a loved one believes that you have been the victim medical malpractice, it’s important to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney right away, as in most cases you only have two years from the date of the allegedly negligent act to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Missouri.
What Constitutes Medical Malpractice in Missouri?
The majority of medical malpractice claims are brought due to a negligent act by the medical professional. Medical malpractice claims are on the rise due to hospitals forcing doctors to operate as more of a business than caregivers. The most common is medical misdiagnosis, followed by prescription drug errors, failure to treat, and surgical errors. However, nothing needs to have actually occurred to constitute medical malpractice. As in “failure to treat,” sometimes a health professional’s lack of action can be valid grounds for a medical malpractice claim.
Medical Malpractice Causes
Most cases of negligent behavior on the part of a medical professionals aren’t intentional. Many occur as a result of things like lack of sleep due to long work hours or improper training and supervision. However, intent isn’t necessary to prove medical malpractice in Missouri, as long as a negligent act (or omission) occurred.
Unfortunately, some cases of medical malpractice are intentional. When a medical professional exhibits negligent behavior on purpose, for reasons such as financial gain or otherwise, any resulting medical malpractice claim could result in additional punitive damages being awarded to the victim.
Requirements to Prove Medical Malpractice
Missouri statutory law requires that anyone bringing a medical malpractice case file with the court (within 90 days) a sworn affidavit stating that a legally qualified medical professional has provided an opinion that the defendant(s) failed to use reasonable care under the circumstances, and that this caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s damages. This is an effort to reduce unsubstantiated medical malpractice claims that use up the court’s time and other resources. However, it can be difficult for a layperson to obtain this opinion and prepare the affidavit. That’s why it’s a good idea to contact a qualified Missouri medical malpractice attorney as soon as you consider filing a medical malpractice action.
For a medical malpractice claim to be successful, the plaintiff must prove a few different things. First, that a doctor-patient relationship existed between them and the defendant, thus the doctor owed them a standard of care. They must also provide evidence that this duty of care was breached and that the breach was the cause of the damages they’ve suffered. Proving this can be difficult, as it often requires significant medical knowledge. St. Louis personal injury attorney Christopher Dixon can work with experts to help establish this causation. The last issue to be resolved is related to determining the value of damages to be awarded to the plaintiff.
Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases
Damages can include economic damages (such as reimbursement for medical bills, and lost wages,) non-economic damages (pain and suffering, economic distress) and punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish the healthcare professional and only apply when it can be proven that the defendant demonstrated willful or malicious conduct which contributed to the plaintiff’s losses. Determining the appropriate amount of damages can be complicated, especially when it comes to things like calculating future lost earnings and putting a monetary value on pain and suffering. In addition, it must be shown that there’s a direct link between the healthcare professional’s behavior and the patient’s loss.
How a Missouri Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help
Medical malpractice cases are complex. They usually revolve around medical issues and require a solid understanding of medical terminology and procedures. In addition, the requirements as far as proving negligent behavior and the method of calculating damages are best left to a qualified Missouri medical malpractice lawyer who is experienced at working with expert witnesses and has other resources on hand. Christopher Dixon can help with those who have suffered a loss to due to medical malpractice. If you believe that you have been a victim of medical malpractice, contact him right away at 1.314.409.7060 or 855-402-7274.
National Patient Safety Foundation; http://www.npsf.org/
Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality; http://www.ahrq.gov/
National Conference of State Legislatures, Chart of Medical Malpractice Laws by State; http://www.ncsl.org/Default.aspx?TabId=18516