Think you’ve been a victim of medical malpractice? You do have recourse: You can take legal action against the medical care professionals you think responsible for it. But in Maryland, as pretty much anywhere, actually, the burden of proof lies with you. And proof is seldom easy, even if you’ve suffered injuries medical malpractice might reasonably be assumed to have caused. You’ll need a lawyer to help prove it. Here in Maryland, many people turn to the team at Bowers Law Baltimore for help with their medical malpractice cases. The difficulties are as follows.
Basic Legal Requirements for Medical Malpractice
Anyone who claims to have been injured as a result of negligence on the part of a health care provider and who seeks to recover damages must show that certain conditions existed:
- The health care provider had a duty to the patient.
- The duty was breached.
- The breach of duty was the cause of harm to the patient.
- The injuries suffered by the patient resulted in damages.
A duty of care arises from the relationship between a health care provider and a patient. For example:
- Hospitals have a duty to patients who are admitted.
- Doctors have a duty to patients under their care.
- Nursing homes have a duty to their residents.
It’s a matter of professional ethics that such standards exist. They’re called “reasonable professional” standards, and they’re based on this simple notion: that a medical professional should provide a level of care similar to what any other medical professional in his or her position, with his or her education and experience, would provide in a similar situation. Hospitals and nursing homes set up policies and practices that determine what’s reasonable in order to provide a safe environment for patients. In cases of medical malpractice, expert witnesses are usually required to describe these “reasonable” practices and policies to a jury.
Once a reasonable duty of care has been established for a particular case of medical malpractice, the injured person must demonstrate that the doctor or health care professional breached that duty.
Common Breaches of Duty in Medical Malpractice Cases
- Failure to Diagnose. If a doctor fails to diagnose a condition that should have been diagnosed, the doctor can be held liable for injuries arising from the misdiagnosis or delayed treatment.
- Improper Care. If a health care professional provides care but fails to meet the required standard of care, then he or she may be held responsible. Actions falling below the standard of care may involve leaving an instrument inside a patient’s body following surgery, not performing CPR with a reasonable degree of skill, amputating the wrong foot, or performing any type of medical procedure without the skill reasonably needed to perform it.
- Neglect – a common complaint against nursing homes. Sadly, it’s all too often revealed that staff members in such facilities have failed to feed patients sufficiently resulting in serious malnourishment, or they haven’t turned patients over in their beds often enough to relieve pressure and prevent bed sores, or they haven’t made sure their patients take their medications on schedule. There’s more than one way, of course, to neglect someone, and too many nursing homes have added to the list.
- Medication Errors typically involve a doctor prescribing the wrong dosage of a medication or not paying attention to drug reactions the doctor should have known about. In such circumstances, it may likely be shown that a breach of duty occurred.
- Unclean Environment. It’s a clear breach of duty if a hospital or nursing home fails to take reasonable precautions to ensure a clean, sterile environment, thus exposing their patients to bacterial or viral infections.
While there are other acts and omissions that may constitute a breach of duty, those are the more egregious examples that can lead to a malpractice suit.
Proving Causation in Medical Malpractice
If one hopes to recover damages in a medical malpractice case, a breached duty must be the proximate and direct cause of the patient’s injury. It doesn’t even matter if the health care provider was in fact guilty of substandard care or negligence. If it can’t be shown that that substandard care or negligence directly caused the patient’s injury, no damages are forthcoming.
Patients should collect as much evidence as possible regarding the cause of their injuries, including medical records. Expert witnesses are often employed to testify that the injuries resulted from the negligence.
Medical Malpractice Damages
The patient must also show that the medical malpractice which harmed him or her actually caused damages, which typically include …
- medical bills and costs, past and future, associated with treating the injury that resulted from the negligence;
- lost wages, including all past losses and any future losses that will result if the plaintiff expects to miss more work or be less able to earn income than in the past as a result of the injuries;
- pain and suffering;
- emotional distress;
- wrongful death if the patient was killed by the medical negligence; and
- punitive damages if the doctor’s behavior was negligent enough to be deserving of such.
If you believe you’ve been the victim of medical malpractice, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to speak with an experienced malpractice attorney. Determining causation and proving malpractice is often difficult. Bowers Law Baltimore can help you gather the right evidence as well as the witnesses you’ll need to make your case. You can count on us as well to defend your rights in court – just as we’ve done successfully for so many other Marylanders. To learn more, call 410-975-7000 or otherwise contact Bowers Law Baltimore.