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When Is it Malpractice?

October 17, 2014

Many of us feel from time to time that we were not treated properly by a hospital or a doctor.  The question is: When is this treatment considered medical malpractice for which one can bring a lawsuit?

All doctors are required to exercise that degree of care of doctors of their specialty when treating a patient for a particular medical condition.  There are certain minimum standards of care which the doctor must meet.  If the doctor fails to meet this minimum standard of care, this is called a “departure from good medical practice”.  If there is a departure from good medical practice, then this is what is legally called “medical malpractice.

It is important to know that all bad results aren’t necessarily medical malpractice.  A doctor can exercise an appropriate degree of care, and the patient may still not recover from the injury or disease.  The question, once again, is: Did the doctor exercise the degree of care which is expected of physicians in his or her specialty in treating that injury or disease? If the doctor did and there is a bad result, then this is not actionable in a court of law. A doctor is also not responsible for what is called “an error in judgment”.  This means if there is more than one acceptable method of treatment and the doctor chooses treatment A over treatment B, and treatment A is not successful; the doctor is not liable as long as that treatment A is one of the acceptable treatment methods, thus; the doctor is given some leeway in exercising his or her judgment in choosing the method of treating injury or disease.

In order to pursue a medical malpractice case, the patient must produce in court an expert witness.  This is a physician of the same specialty as the doctor that’s being sued who is willing to testify under oath that the doctor’s treatment was substandard.  This is no easy task.  Many doctors do not want to testify against fellow doctors so that oftentimes, we are required to go out of state to obtain an expert willing to testify, many times at great expense.

Because of the great expense of malpractice cases, it is common for attorneys not to accept a malpractice case unless the end result to the patient is very severe or even catastrophic.

If you think you may have a medical malpractice case, feel free to call the HoganWillig Law Firm and we will provide you with a free case evaluation.