Understanding Medical Malpractice: What You Need to Know

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Medical malpractice is a complex and often devastating occurrence that affects thousands of individuals each year in the United States. It is a legal concept that occurs when a healthcare professional fails to provide proper treatment to a patient, resulting in injury or harm. Understanding the intricacies of medical malpractice is crucial for patients to protect their rights and seek justice in case they become victims of negligence. Here, the Law Office of David M. Kennedy delves into the essential aspects of medical malpractice to provide you with the knowledge you need. 

Defining Medical Malpractice 

Medical malpractice encompasses a wide range of errors or negligent actions committed by healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses, surgeons, pharmacists, dentists, and other medical professionals. These errors can occur during diagnosis, treatment, surgery, medication administration, or post-operative care. It’s essential to note that not every unfavorable medical outcome constitutes malpractice. To establish malpractice, it must be proven that the healthcare provider breached the standard of care expected in their profession, resulting in harm to the patient. 

Common Examples of Medical Malpractice 

Medical malpractice can manifest in various forms, including misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, surgical errors, medication errors, birth injuries, anesthesia errors, and failure to obtain informed consent. (Review our Litigation History). According to the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, diagnostic errors are the leading cause of medical malpractice claims and account for the most severe patient harm. Surgical errors and medication errors follow closely behind, contributing significantly to malpractice claims. 

Statistics on Medical Malpractice

According to a study by Johns Hopkins University, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, with over 250,000 deaths per year and may be as high as 440,000 according to other studies. This alarming statistic highlights the importance of understanding malpractice and knowing your rights as a patient. In addition to the human cost, malpractice also has a significant financial impact. According to a study by the National Practitioner Data Bank, between 2009 and 2018, there were over $38.8 billion (about $120 per person in the US) in medical malpractice payouts. 

Legal Elements of Medical Malpractice 

To succeed in a medical malpractice claim, several legal elements must be established: 

  • Duty of Care: The healthcare provider owed a duty of care to the patient. 
  • Breach of Duty: The provider breached the standard of care through negligence or omission. 
  • Causation: The breach of duty directly caused harm or injury to the patient. 
  • Damages: The patient suffered damages, such as physical injury, emotional distress, loss of income, or additional medical expenses, as a result of the negligence. 

Proving these elements often requires expert testimony from medical professionals familiar with the standard of care in the relevant specialty. 

Statute of Limitations 

It’s important to be aware of the statute of limitations for filing a malpractice lawsuit. In most states, including Texas, there is a limited window of time within which a patient can file a malpractice claim, typically ranging two years from the date of the injury, regardless of whether you were aware of the negligence or your failure to discover the malpractice. Failing to file within this timeframe can result in the loss of the right to pursue compensation. We urge you to contact our law office if you have been a victim of malpractice.

Compensation for Medical Malpractice 

Victims of malpractice may be entitled to various forms of compensation, including: 

  • Medical Expenses: Coverage for past and future medical bills related to the malpractice injury. 
  • Lost Income: Compensation for wages lost due to the injury and potential future earning capacity. 
  • Pain and Suffering: Damages for physical pain, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. 
  • Punitive Damages: In cases of extreme negligence or intentional misconduct, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future. 

The amount of compensation awarded varies depending on the severity of the injury, the impact on the victim’s life, and other factors. 

Preventing Malpractice 

While patients may feel vulnerable in healthcare settings, there are steps they can take to reduce the risk of becoming victims of medical malpractice: 

  • Be Informed: Ask questions about your diagnosis, treatment options, and potential risks. 
  • Seek Second Opinions: If you’re uncertain about a diagnosis or recommended treatment, don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion from another healthcare provider. 
  • Keep Records: Maintain copies of your medical records, including test results, treatment plans, and prescriptions. 
  • Communication: Maintain open communication with your healthcare providers and ensure you understand all instructions and recommendations. 

By being proactive and informed, patients can play an active role in their healthcare and minimize the likelihood of experiencing medical malpractice. 

In conclusion, understanding medical malpractice is crucial for protecting patients’ rights and holding healthcare providers accountable for negligence. By familiarizing yourself with the common types of malpractice, legal elements, and preventive measures, you can navigate the healthcare system with confidence and advocate for your well-being.

Understand one more thing particular to medical malpractice cases: few are taken by the firm if the malpractice occurred in Texas. The reason for this is that the law has placed caps on the amount of damages that can be awarded in Texas, requires some grueling pre-filing notices and expert reports, and if filed, the cases are very expensive. As a result, even clear malpractice cases are often rejected by the firm as being simply too cost-prohibitive to pursue versus the limited amount that can be recovered. Just know this going in, although it is advisable to at least contact us and let us give you our opinion.

If you believe you’ve been a victim of malpractice, contact the law office of David M. Kennedy for a consultation. Call us at (903) 819-0720.

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David M. Kennedy

David M. Kennedy has over 30 years experience representing individuals and businesses in matters of civil litigation, especially personal injury and wrongful death. He is licensed in Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado.

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Contact Us

Call Us 903-819-0720

Law Office of David M. Kennedy, P.C.

320 N. Travis St., Suite 207
Sherman, TX 75090

Email: Click Here

Map and Directions

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