Medical litigation is a term that is interchangeable with medical malpractice litigation. When a medical provider, in providing medical services, acts in a manner that falls below the accepted level of care in his or her sphere of the medical field, this is considered medical malpractice. Generally, medical malpractice results in personal injury litigation, however, if as a result of the malpractice the victim dies, then there could be a wrongful death action as well. Medical litigation is often the subject of possible reform, as advocates assert that exorbitant medical costs are partially due to excessive awards to victims of medical malpractice.
Doctors who are found to have acted below the standard of care in the sphere of practice in which they operate may be the subjects of medical litigation if their actions result in harm to a patient. Depending on the rules of the jurisdiction in which the alleged malpractice took place, the victim will usually have to submit his or her claim to a special board, which determines whether or not he or she may proceed with the medical litigation in a court of law. This board, generally made up of medical professionals who understand the laws and the industry, is used as a clearinghouse to prevent frivolous claims from wasting the court’s time.
If the claim passes muster with the board, then the next step in the medical litigation will begin in the appropriate court. Usually, medical malpractice actions involve claims of personal injury that occurred due to the doctor’s failing to observe his or her appropriate standard of care. In such cases, the victim will typically seek not only restitution for the subsequent medical bills to fix the damage caused by the doctor, but he or she will also seek compensation for pain and suffering. In the event the victim dies as a result of the malpractice, the victim’s family may bring a wrongful death action against the doctor. This type of medical litigation involves much more substantial awards to the victims.
The increasingly large awards given to victims of medical malpractice has resulted in a call for medical litigation reform. Advocates of such reform argue that these excessive awards drive up the price of the professional liability insurance policies that protect doctors from malpractice claims. Furthermore, advocates of medical litigation reform argue that because doctors are overly cautious of being subjected to malpractice claims, they insist that patients undergo costly and unnecessary diagnostic procedures to cover all possibilities. By placing a cap on the awards for pain and suffering, many of these costs could be avoided and as a result, the price of medical services will come down for everyone.