Medical malpractice, it’s the last thing patients—and their families—ever expect. A medical professional deviates from accepted standards of care and causes harm in the course of treatment. That deviation—which can cause great injury and even death—can be in the form of an improper, negligent act (removing the wrong organ during surgery, for example), or it could be the omission of an act that should have been done, such as ordering an X-ray or blood tests when a patient presents certain symptoms).
Either way, the consequences can be devastating. Unfortunately, medical negligence like this happens far too often—and in many cases, the injuries and the responsibility, go unaddressed.
That’s where a medical malpractice lawyer comes in. The best—like the Grossman Roth Miami injury attorneys who specialize in medical negligence—have vast experience trying medical malpractice claims and know how to work with clients and medical experts to best present a case and obtain accountability and compensation.
By understanding how medical malpractice lawsuits work and what steps and requirements are involved, patients who have been injured can become advocates in their own recovery. They can obtain damage awards and settlements that help pay the medical bills and make up for the loss of income that never should have happened.
In any medical negligence case, the plaintiff and his or her medical malpractice attorney must establish a number of common elements:
1. A duty was owed to the patient. This exists whenever a hospital or medical provider undertakes patient’s treatment.
2. That duty was breached. In other words, the hospital or medical provider failed to follow the relevant standard of care.
3. The breach caused an injury. In legal terms, the breach of duty is the “proximate cause” of the injury that was suffered.
4. Damages. These are losses—financial, emotional and often both—that resulted from the medical professional’s (or hospital’s) negligent act or omission. Damages can include reduced employment due to a disability, severe pain and emotional distress, or reduced enjoyment of life due to the loss of a loved one.
It’s important to note that a medical negligence claim cannot be brought successfully unless all four of the above elements are present.
After a case is filed by the plaintiff’s medical malpractice lawyer, the discovery process begins—a period in which both sides share information that pertains to the case, such as medical records and patient histories. Many medical malpractice claims are settled during this time, but if the parties cannot agree on a fair resolution, the case will proceed to trial. There, the plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of evidence, the four elements of his or her medical malpractice claim. Expert witnesses—individuals with specialized knowledge, training or experience regarding specific medical issues—are particularly important, helping the plaintiff establish the prevailing standard of care and how the defendant’s action or omission deviated from it.
At the end of the trial, a jury (or, in some cases, the judge) will weigh the evidence that was presented and determine which side has the more credible case. If that determination is a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, the jury or judge will calculate damages, typically awarding a monetary sum to compensate the injured party. Awards can consist of punitive damages, as well, though these are typically granted only when the negligence was particularly outrageous. Either side can appeal the court’s judgment; a losing defendant can also ask to have a large judgment reduced. These requests may—but often do not—succeed.
Medical malpractice lawsuits are complex, and even the most egregious medical negligence can go unanswered if the cases are not handled properly. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can increase one’s chances of prevailing by presenting a comprehensive, documented, easy-to-follow explanation of what went wrong—and why it shouldn’t have.