Medical negligence law is commonly referred to as medical malpractice law. This area of jurisprudence addresses situations where medical professionals or facilities provide substandard levels of care for their patients. Liability arises, however, only when there is actual harm as a result. When all of the elements of an offense are proved, a plaintiff is generally awarded monetary damages. These cases are commonly handled by lawyers who specialize in medical malpractice.
When it comes to health care, the term professional is not taken lightly. Being a health professional obligates a person to deliver a certain standard of care. If that person fails to do so and a patient suffers some injury, medical negligence law allows the patient to take action. Although legislation does vary, these laws usually are applicable to a wide range of medical professionals, such as doctors, dentists, and psychiatrists. These laws can even include nurse’s aides, anesthesiologists, or entire facilities, such as a hospital or assisted living center.
While medical negligence law exists for the protection of individuals, there are also aspects that protect the people working in these professions. There are normally several elements that a plaintiff must prove if her medical malpractice lawsuit is to be successful. One important element is that actual harm occurred. There are usually legal mechanisms in place to prevent using this legislation to punish medical professionals simply because patients are dissatisfied with the services rendered.
Medical negligence law is usually a subcategory of personal injury law and is strictly civil in nature. In most jurisdictions, this legislation does not outline criminal punishments. The remedies that a plaintiff may seek tend to be purely financial. The awarded amounts can include several categories of costs, such as pain and suffering, lost wages, and future medical care. Another way in which these laws tend to vary is that some jurisdictions have implemented caps, which limit the amount that a court can award a plaintiff regardless of her circumstances.
The area of medical negligence law is often very complex. Instead of being federal legislation, these laws are usually made at lower levels of government. For example, in the U.S., this sort of legislation varies in each state.
Lawyers tend to specialize in this branch of law in the jurisdiction of their practices. Some lawyers even specialize in certain areas of medical negligence law. For example, one lawyer may deal only with nursing home negligence, while another limits his practice to birth defects.