What Exactly Constitutes Medical Malpractice?

Updated on May 26, 2023
What Exactly Constitutes Medical Malpractice?

While medical professionals go through years of intense education and training to be able to provide you with medical care, that doesn’t mean mistakes can’t occur. Sometimes, these incidents are so damaging and egregious that the law considers them malpractice. However, for many, this term is simply too broad and leaves people wondering what exactly constitutes medical malpractice.

Medical Malpractice vs. Medical Negligence

Before we can better understand what medical malpractice is, we must first understand what medical negligence is. Negligence can become malpractice, but they aren’t interchangeable terms. Essentially, medical negligence occurs when a medically trained professional deviates from the accepted standard of medical care. This can include but is not limited to anesthesia mistakes, improper drug administration, failure to monitor a patient adequately, and so on.

When Negligence Becomes Malpractice

If the negligence leads to financial, physical, or mental harm or results in the patient’s death, it constitutes medical malpractice. For example, medical negligence occurs if a doctor fails to differentiate between a bacterial versus a viral eye infection and gives the wrong medication, but the patient recovers independently. However, if the patient suffers from vision damage or loses their eyes due to getting prescribed the wrong medication, then negligence becomes malpractice.

Who Can Get Held Accountable for Malpractice

Any trained healthcare professional can get held accountable for medical malpractice, nurses and lab technicians included. However, there are certain instances when you can sue the facility itself for medical malpractice. When the professional who caused the injury is an employee of the hospital, then you can sue the facility for hiring the employee in the first place. However, not everyone who works at the hospital is a hospital employee. Some staff, often doctors, are independent contractors, and if they cause the injury, but are not an employee, then you can’t sue the facility itself.

The Elements of a Malpractice Claim

Before you file a doctor harassment complaint, you must be aware of the four elements of a malpractice claim you and your attorney must prove in court. You must prove that:

  • The healthcare provider had an obligation to you.
  • A standard of care got breached.
  • You experienced harm as a result.
  • You suffered damages that you deserve to get compensated for.

Ultimately, some cases are so obvious that you don’t need to prove negligence occurred. However, regardless of how obvious you believe your case to be, you should always work with an attorney to help you navigate the complexities of patient law.

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