It is possible, however, to commit a criminal homicide based on wanton or reckless behavior. In other words, if someone acts with such disregard for the safety of others that death or serious injury is almost a given, this is often enough for certain types of criminal charges. However, doctors and other medical professionals are highly trained, very knowledgeable individuals. They are heavily regulated to prevent those with serious problems like substance abuse or mental disorders from causing harm. They are also under constant scrutiny and required to undergo continuing education to ensure that they are not engaging in techniques that could imperil a patient's life.
There are any number of scenarios under which a physician can be negligent. Keep in mind that in the examples above -- and in every other case -- it is incumbent upon you to prove that your physician breached his duty to practice according to the standard of care, and that breach caused you harm. See What You Need to Prove to learn about the key legal pieces you and your attorney would need to put together.
However, an attorney may be able to help you file a law suit against the negligent physician. When seeking your legal expert, the single most important factor is the attorney’s reputation. If you hire an attorney that is notorious for settling claims for less than they’re worth, you are less likely to receive the money you deserve. For more information on attorneys and the legal processes involved in medical malpractice law suits, please read our article Medical Malpractice and the Legal Process
Medical malpractice involves an injury brought about by a breach in the duty of care that a doctor or another medical professional owes their patient. A glaring example might be if the doctor sewed you up with a medical tool left inside of your body, but a less obvious one might be misdiagnosing you and treating a disease that you do not have while neglecting to treat the one they failed to diagnose.
For example, Ex parte Young allows federal courts to enjoin the enforcement of unconstitutional state (or federal) statutes on the theory that "immunity does not extend to a person who acts for the state, but [who] acts unconstitutionally, because the state is powerless to authorize the person to act in violation of the Constitution." Althouse, Tapping the State Court Resource, 44 Vand. L. Rev. 953, 973 (1991). Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman (465 U.S.) ("the authority-stripping theory of Young is a fiction that has been narrowly construed"); Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho ("Young rests on a fictional distinction between the official and the State"). The Young doctrine was narrowed by the court in Edelman v. Jordan, which held that relief under Young can only be for prospective, rather than retrospective, relief; the court reasoned that the Eleventh Amendment's protection of state sovereignty requires the state's coffers to be shielded from suit. Prospective relief includes injunctions and other equitable orders, but would rarely include damages. This limitation of the Young doctrine "focused attention on the need to abrogate sovereign immunity, which led to the decision two years later in Fitzpatrick." Althouse, Vanguard States, supra, at 1791 n.216
If you don’t file a medical malpractice claim or lawsuit against your doctor within the prescribed time period, absent some exceptional circumstances you will be barred from seeking monetary compensation for the injuries and damages you sustained. A medical malpractice lawyer should know the statute of limitations deadline in your jurisdiction and can work to make sure that a claim or lawsuit is filed in your case in a timely manner.
Somewhere between 210,000 and 400,000 Americans die each year due to a medical error (James 2013); it is now the third leading cause of death in the United States (Makary 2016). Many more sustain injuries that leave them with lifelong disabilities. Moreover, a recent national survey revealed that 21% of Americans have personally experienced a medical error, and 31% have been involved in the care of a family member or friend who did. As discussed above, tort reform measures may be effective in limiting the number and success of malpractice lawsuits, but don’t necessarily address the underlying issue of the malpractice epidemic in America.
In 2013, BMJ Open performed a study in which they found that "failure to diagnose" accounted for the largest portion of medical malpractice claims brought against health professionals. Furthermore, the study found that the most common result of this negligence was death of the patient. The other most common categories of malpractice include negligent treatment and failure to warn.
The United States Government will pay $42 million to the parents of a young child who suffered a permanent brain injury, resulting from improper use of forceps during his delivery. After a six day trial in Federal Court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the verdict for $42 million was rendered by U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia Rambo. The parents sued the Federal Government in a malpractice claim involving an Ob/Gyn physician, who was employed at a federal facility. The lawsuit claimed that the doctor improperly used forceps on the baby’s head during the delivery, which caused skull fractures and bleeding on the brain that resulted in permanent brain damage. Evidence presented during trial showed that the now five year old boy cannot speak, read or write and eventually will require a motorized wheelchair to get around.
In Federal tax refund cases filed by taxpayers (as opposed to third parties) against the United States, various courts have indicated that Federal sovereign immunity is waived under subsection (a)(1) of 28 U.S.C. § 1346 in conjunction with Internal Revenue Code section 7422 (26 U.S.C. § 7422), or under section 7422 in conjunction with subsection (a) of Internal Revenue Code section 6532 (26 U.S.C. § 6532). Further, in United States v. Williams, the U.S. Supreme Court held that in case where an individual paid a federal tax under protest to remove a federal tax lien on her property where the tax she paid had been assessed against a third party, the waiver of sovereign immunity found in 28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(1) authorized her tax refund suit.
We'll see what ends up happening on retrial, but I thought this was an interesting emerging area of law. What if the issue wasn't technical incompetence? How much "personal background" should a doctor have to tell a patient before treatment can begin? Medical school grades? Failure to pay income tax? Should doctors be required to disclose to patients the fact that they've been treated for mental illness themselves?
Negligence is the predominant theory of liability concerning allegations of medical malpractice, making this type of litigation part of Tort Law. Since the 1970s, medical malpractice has been a controversial social issue. Physicians have complained about the large number of malpractice suits and have urged legal reforms to curb large damage awards, whereas tort attorneys have argued that negligence suits are an effective way of compensating victims of negligence and of policing the medical profession.
Here is the step most people don’t realize. If the patient’s lawyer wants to take the case further, they need to get an expert witness. That will cost them a lot of money. So if the case is weak, they will do some sort of calculation. For example, they will say they spent 50 hours so far, and they want to make 10,000 for that, so they will offer to dismiss the case for 20,000, which they will split with the patient. Many cases will settle at this point, because it’s easier to spend a little money and avoid the massive costs of going to court, as well as avoiding the risk of a big payout to the patient. This is the reason I say it’s easy to sue a doctor for malpractice, lose the case, but still make some money.
The principle was not mentioned in the original United States Constitution. The courts have recognized it both as a principle that was inherited from English common law, and as a practical, logical inference (that the government cannot be compelled by the courts because it is the power of the government that creates the courts in the first place).
The more common (and some believe more reliable) approach used by all federal courts and most state courts is the 'gatekeeper' model, which is a test formulated from the US Supreme Court cases Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals (509 U.S. 579 ), General Electric Co. v. Joiner (522 U.S. 136 ), and Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael (526 U.S. 137 ). Before the trial, a Daubert hearing will take place before the judge (without the jury). The trial court judge must consider evidence presented to determine whether an expert's "testimony rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand." (Daubert, 509 U.S. at 597). The Daubert hearing considers 4 questions about the testimony the prospective expert proposes:
Another motivating factor: A quick, honest “apology” might prevent a future claim, or provide an opportunity for a settlement without the need for litigation. Insurance companies typically want to settle with an injured person directly if they can, and this allows them to do so before the full extent of injuries are known, as well as preventing the injured person from hiring an attorney who could increase the settlement value of the claim through their representation.
The FTCA provides a legal window for veterans who believe they may be victims of medical malpractice on the part of VA personnel to file suit and recover compensatory damages. The law forbids punitive damages, however, and also does not apply to willful torts committed by government employees. However, you may have recourse under other areas of law to sue these individuals, personally.
Among the acts or omissions that may potentially support a medical malpractice claim are the failure to properly diagnose a disease or medical condition, the failure to provide appropriate treatment for a medical condition, and unreasonable delay in treating a diagnosed medical condition. In some jurisdictions a medical malpractice action may be allowed even without a mistake from the doctor, based upon principles of informed consent, where a patient was not informed of possible consequences of a course of treatment and would have declined the medical treatment had proper information been provided in advance.
It is very common for an injured person to consult a lawyer saying ‘if Dr Smith had told me I would end up like this I would never have agreed to the procedure’. While the saying ‘hindsight is always 20/20’ is often appropriate, there are situations where an injured person could and should sue their doctor or other professional for failing to warn them of significant risks of a procedure.
If the injured patient is able to prove – through qualified expert testimony – that the doctor committed an act of medical negligence, then the patient has satisfied the first step of proving a malpractice claim against the doctor. However, the injured patient must also be able to show that the doctor’s negligence resulted in certain injuries or damages.
In the vast majority of cases, the Doctor who takes on your care will do so in a highly professional manner, but there may be occasions when their standards fall short of acceptable. If it can be shown your Doctor failed in their duty of care, in a manner tantamount to negligence, and that you suffered some form of loss, damage, or pain as a result, you may have cause to pursue a claim for medical negligence.
Various studies have shown that the Texas tort-reform law has had no effect on healthcare costs or the number of physicians practicing in the state. A February 2014 study found "no evidence to support" the claim that "there had been a dramatic increase in physicians moving to Texas due to the improved liability climate." The study found that this is true "for all patient care physicians in Texas, high-malpractice-risk specialties, primary care physicians, and rural physicians.
In California, for example, recovery for non-economic damages are limited to $250,000. According to the Supreme Court of California, "noneconomic damages compensate the plaintiff for 'pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement and other nonpecuniary damage [as per Cal.Civ.Code section 3333.2, subdivision (a)].' Section 1431.2, subdivision (b)(2) similarly defines noneconomic damages as 'subjective, non-monetary losses including, but not limited to, pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental suffering, emotional distress, loss of society and companionship, loss of consortium, injury to reputation and humiliation.'” Tort reform supporters argue that states have enacted such laws in order to keep health care costs low, in addition to helping curb medical malpractice litigation. However, according to the Supreme Court of California, the state's non-economic damages caps are "not a legislative attempt to estimate the true damages suffered by plaintiffs, but rather an attempt to control and reduce medical malpractice insurance costs by placing a predictable, uniform limit on the defendant's liability for noneconomic damages."
Causation may also be a vigorously litigated issue because a physician may allege that the injuries were caused by physical factors unrelated to the allegedly negligent medical treatment. For example, assume that a physician is sued for the negligent prescription of a drug to a patient with coronary artery disease and that the patient died of a heart attack. The plaintiff's estate cannot recover damages for the heart attack unless there is sufficient proof to show that the medication was a contributing cause.The critical element is standard of care, which is concerned with the type of medical care that a physician is expected to provide. Until the 1960s the standard of care was traditionally regarded as the customary or usual practice of members of the profession. This standard was referred to as the "locality rule," because it recognized the custom within a particular geographic area. This rule was criticized for its potential to protect a low standard of care as long as the local medical community embraced it. The locality rule also was seen as a disincentive for the medical community to adopt better practices.
In order to take legal action against a medical doctor for malpractice, you cannot just simply file a lawsuit with the court. Rather, you must first send a notice to the doctor, indicating to him or her that you are planning to file a lawsuit for medical malpractice. After filing the notice, there may be a waiting period before the injured patient is eligible to file a lawsuit.
This list is not exhaustive. Nor is every item on the list a malpractice lawsuit per se. Recall the four elements above. For a psychiatrist to be liable for malpractice, he or she must have failed to take reasonable care, and the patient must have suffered injury as a result. A doctor can take reasonable care and still make an incorrect judgment call, so not every incorrect decision is actionable as malpractice. However, some items on the list—for example, engaging in a sexual relationship with a patient—almost always lead to prevailing malpractice claims.
Communication and Resolution Programs: When a medical error is identified, the patient is approached by the physician and/or health care system and they mutually arrive at a settlement. Several laws have been passed to facilitate communication and resolution (Mandatory presuit notification laws, apology laws and State-facilitated dispute resolution laws).
People go to see the doctor when ill or after suffering a serious injury. When you make an appointment to see your doctor, you trust that the doctor will help to improve your condition or injury – not make it worse. Doctors and other healthcare providers hold people’s lives in their hands. Consequently, when providers make serious medical mistakes, they can and should be held responsible for their negligence.