Medical negligence is a form of malpractice that occurs when a doctor or other healthcare professional fails to perform his or her medical duties in a competent manner. What constitutes medical negligence and the specific legal steps one must take to file a claim vary depending on the location of the incident. The basic requirements for a medical malpractice claim are to show that a doctor-patient relationship existed, the doctor was negligent, the doctor’s negligence caused injury, and that injury led to damage or harm.
A variety of situations can lead to filing medical malpractice claims — from a doctor misdiagnosing an illness to failing to inform a patient about the risks involved with a certain medical procedure. There are rules and procedures for filing medical negligence claims depending on where you live and where the suspected malpractice occurred. It is important to learn the rules for your specific locality and follow them carefully. Legal counsel may be required to advise you about your rights and to handle any specific legal issues or paperwork.
General tips to keep in mind when filing medical negligence claims are that the case should be made relatively quickly, because there is a limitation on the amount of time in which one can file a claim; this can range anywhere from two months to a couple of years, depending on the locality. If one does not file a claim within the specified period, a court or other ruling body will not consider the case, regardless of evidence. When filing a claim, you must show that a doctor and patient relationship existed at the time of the incident. This means you hired a healthcare professional and began treatment. Concerns about whether a relationship existed usually arise when a consulting physician did not render treatment but did give medical advice.
Another factor in a claim for medical malpractice is to show that the doctor was negligent or did not display the skill or diligence expected of a competent doctor. One will have to provide a means of proving that the doctor acted without skill, which involves the patient presenting a medical expert to review the relevant documentation and provide testimony regarding the standard of treatment. The evidence will have to prove the medical negligence directly caused the injury in question.
In addition to the doctor’s lack of prudence, medical negligence claims have to show the injury led the patient to suffer some harm. Harm can constitute such things as pain, psychological distress, loss of money, or employment. Be sure to gather all relevant documentation regarding these factors, because your attorney will likely request them.
Another thing to consider is that your claim may not go directly to court, but to an intermediary such as a medical review board or council. These entities typically consist of a peer group of medical experts that will determine, based on various testimony and evidence, if medical negligence occurred. It is important to keep in mind that the review board is not a court and cannot award damages, nor is it a replacement for filing a lawsuit in court. The review board’s decisions do hold some weight, however, because the court may rely heavily on those opinions to determine whether to proceed with a trial.
As with many areas of the law, medical negligence claims have a complex set of rules and procedures that vary widely between jurisdictions. As such, it is highly advised to seek professional legal counsel from a lawyer specializing in that area of law. In addition, it is advisable to keep copies of all relevant bills, receipts, and medical records in your possession, because they will assist you in filing your claim.