Medical Malpractice—What is It?
The term is commonly used in law firms, but what does medical malpractice actually mean? For a very broad non-legal definition medical malpractice simply means there was foul play between a doctor and their patient. For a more legal definition, medical malpractice can be defined as any sort of act or omission by a physician during treatment of a patient that deviates from the standard of care in the medical community. That’s a mouthful.
Let’s dive into the deep end here—there are four main parts to a malpractice case.
Duty: It’s a legal obligation, a responsibility. In the medical community, there exists a defined “standard of care”. It is every facility and physician’s duty to live up to this standard so that the patient gets the medical treatment his or her condition requires.
Dereliction of duty: Failure to fulfill one’s own obligations. For instance, if a doctor breaches the standard of care (either by not adhering to a policy, choosing to do things their own way, not monitoring a patient when they should be, or not taking the advice other medical professionals of different expertise recommend). This means the doctor, hospital or HMO didn't do what they were supposed to.
Damages: This one’s straightforward. It's the harms and losses you suffered because of the malpractice. Were you scheduled for surgery and there was a mistake when there shouldn’t have been - and no system in place for the hospital to catch it? Was there a premature birth when the baby should have gone to full term because an infection wasn't diagnosed? Did you go into the hospital for a routine procedure and leave the hospital with severe injuries so that you can't work, care for yourself and need assistance? Those are examples of legal damages.
Direct Cause: Direct cause is the contributing factor that makes something occur. If you’re involved in a medical malpractice case, causation just means that your damages (injuries) came from the malpractice and not from some other cause or condition.
Do you have more questions about medical malpractice in D.C., Maryland or Virginnia and how it works? Call us today at 202-393-3320.
We will speak to you for no cost or obligation, it's all confidential - and best of all, we'll explain it in plain English, not the legalese that is in all of these definitions!