What Is Actionable Medical Malpractice

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Medical negligence is often called actionable medical malpractice. Both terms describe a situation in which the negligent treatment or diagnosis of a medical condition causes another new or more exacerbated injury. In these instances, the doctor cannot be held liable for the original underlying medical problem. Not just any situation satisfies this definition.

There are four major requirements for the classification of actionable medical malpractice.

First, there must be an established doctor/patient relationship. A doctor has a duty to the patient, but a relationship must be established before that duty can be fulfilled. A patient cannot bring action against a doctor who has not previously established a relationship with them by treating them. However, when the doctor begins to treat a patient, a doctor/patient relationship is established.

Next the standard of care must be examined. Every patient is entitled to the same care that any patient in his or her geographic region, with a similar condition, could receive. A physician must render to that patient the same care that would be given by a physician in similar locale, with similar skill, expertise, and access to similar facilities and equipment. This is what is known as the standard of care. If the patient suffers injury due to receiving care that is does not meet this definition, then there is a breach of the standard of care, which is malpractice.

The third requirement for actionable medical malpractice is proximate cause. This requires an examination of the events that led to the injury in question. There is proximate cause if a patient can prove that a series of chronological events led from the alleged negligence to the subsequent injury. In other words, there cannot be gaps or breaks in the chain of events. A clear line must be made from negligence to injury.

The forth and final major constraint is informed consent. Both doctor and patient have duties in the doctor/patient relationship. Throughout the relationship, the doctor and patient communicate on the diagnosis and treatment of a condition—this is informed consent. When the two make a decision in either area, the doctor is bound by informed consent to adhere to that decision, and so is the patient. A breach in informed consent is actionable; a patient's breach of the same is patient negligence and is therefore not actionable.

Medical negligence can occur in several situations, such as:
medical malpractice stemming from a delay or failure to diagnosis a disease;
Surgical or anesthesia-related mistake during an operative procedure;
a physician who makes the proper diagnosis but fails to treat it properly;
misuse of prescription drugs, medical device, or implant

There are other requirements which vary from state to state, and also federal laws which change frequently. Consult a malpractice attorney to know if your situation is actionable medical malpractice.

Medical malpractice lawsuits can be very expensive to pursue. Significant technical skills may be needed in prosecuting a malpractice claim. This creates a risk that an inexperienced lawyer may not be sufficiently conversant with the medical issues, or might make a technical error, which causes a case to be lost or dismissed. In addition, substantial costs may need to be incurred to prepare for the malpractice prosecution.

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