Injury Newsletter

Medical Malpractice Claims

There can be no absolute guarantees in regard to medical procedure outcomes. Some results may be unavoidable or unexpected and, even though the results were negative and the patient was injured, they were not due to medical malpractice. A health care professional must have been negligent in treating the patient for an injury (or undesired outcome) to be malpractice. Negligence may be due to the medical worker's actions or inactions and that behavior must have failed to meet industry standards. The plaintiff (injured party) is responsible for proving his or her case to the court and establishing that medical malpractice occurred. If you think you may have been a victim of medical malpractice, it is important to speak to a knowledgeable personal injury attorney in your area evaluate your circumstances and help you determine if you have a medical malpractice claim.

To determine if a medical professional was negligent and caused the patient's injury, the plaintiff (patient) must be able to establish certain elements to the court. The first necessary element is that the responsible party had a legal duty to the plaintiff. If the duty is established and the defendant (responsible party) did not meet that standard by his or her actions or inactions, the second element has been met; breach of a legal duty.

This can be shown by establishing the industry's standard of care and showing that the defendant did not meet it. This standard is the level/amount/type of care other health care employees would give a patient under similar conditions. A wide variety of workers must meet this standard, including doctors, nurses, chiropractors, dentists, hospital or health care facility employees or any other health care workers. If the health care employee failed to meet this standard, the legal duty has been breached.

The third element a plaintiff must prove to the court is that the defendant's breach caused the plaintiff's injury. This element is called causation and can be actual or proximate. Actual causation is when the defendant's behavior was the direct cause of the plaintiff's injury. If the defendant had not been negligent, the plaintiff would not have suffered injury. If the cause was proximate, it may have indirectly caused the plaintiff's injury. For example, the doctor's negligent behavior triggered a number of occurrences that led to the plaintiff's injury.

The final (fourth) element is that the breach of duty caused harm to the plaintiff.

Medical Malpractice Damages

The plaintiff must establish not only the elements of the defendant's negligence to the court, but also the damages incurred because of the defendant's negligence. Damages in personal injury claims can be compensatory or punitive. Compensatory damages reimburse (compensate) the injured party for financial and nonfinancial losses sustained as a result of his or her injuries. Examples of financial loss may be lost wages and medical expenses. Additionally, loss of future earnings and additional medical treatment may also be recoverable in some circumstances. Other types of compensatory losses include emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of consortium and damages for permanent disabilities or impairments.

In addition, punitive damages may be awarded to the plaintiff by the judge or jury; availability is determined by the facts of the case and the jurisdiction of the court. Some states do not award punitive damages under any circumstances. The intent of these types of damages is to punish the defendant for wrongdoing and help prevent future harm to others. Punitive damages are awarded to a plaintiff in addition to compensatory damages. If you would like to learn more about types of damages in medical malpractice cases and what is available in New York, speak to a personal injury attorney at Ellis Law today.

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