Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other health care professional provides inadequate care to a patient, resulting in an injury. Malpractice may involve an incorrect or delayed diagnosis, ineffective treatment, or medication errors. Understanding the basics of medical malpractice is important to make informed decisions when seeking justice for negligent care. Icon

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Medical Malpractice Definition

Medical malpractice is when a health care provider fails to meet the accepted standard of care and causes harm to a patient.

The standard of care is the level of skill and competence that a reasonable health care professional would use in similar circumstances.

Proving medical malpractice can be a complex and challenging process. It often requires the testimony of expert witnesses who can evaluate the health care provider’s actions and determine if they fell below accepted standards.

Each state has laws and regulations that govern medical malpractice claims. These laws define the time limits for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, the burden of proof, and the potential compensation available to injured patients.

It’s important to understand that medical malpractice laws can vary by state and type of health care provider involved. For example, laws governing malpractice related to physicians may differ from those related to nurses, pharmacists, or other health care professionals.

Common Types of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice can take various forms and affect patients in different ways. In some cases, medical malpractice can leave patients with catastrophic injuries that result in life-long disabilities.

Common types of medical malpractice include:

  • Anesthesia errors, like administering the wrong dosage or failing to monitor the patient
  • Birth injuries resulting from mistakes made before, during, or shortly after childbirth
  • Emergency room errors that prevent patients from getting the critical care they need
  • Failure to diagnose, which involves a physician making a delayed or incorrect diagnosis
  • Failure to obtain informed consent, which occurs when a doctor doesn’t explain a procedure properly and get your permission to proceed
  • Medication errors, like prescribing the wrong medication or dosage
  • Surgical errors, like leaving tools in the body or operating on the wrong body part

Anesthesiologists, doctors, nurses, technicians, and dentists can all be held accountable for medical malpractice. Similarly, a hospital or health care facility may also be sued for medical malpractice if a lawyer finds they hired a negligent doctor or failed to uphold safety standards.

Proving Medical Malpractice Claims

The litigation process for medical malpractice claims can be lengthy and complex.
Expert witnesses are often key in these cases since they involve complicated medical information.

“A jury will consider testimony by experts—usually other doctors, who will testify whether they believe your physician’s actions followed standard medical practice or fell below the accepted standard of care.”
– American Bar Association

To prove medical malpractice, your lawyer must show:

  1. A health care professional had a duty to take care of you
  2. The physician failed to do their job properly
  3. You were injured as a result
  4. The injury led to medical bills, lost wages, or other damages

In addition to expert testimony, other evidence that can be used to prove medical malpractice includes medical bills, photos of any injuries, and witness statements.

Medical Malpractice FAQs

What are the four elements of medical malpractice?

The four elements of medical malpractice are:

  1. You were a patient
  2. A health care provide failed to do their job properly
  3. You suffered an injury as a result
  4. The injury resulted in medical expenses, lost wages, or other losses

Which is an example of medical malpractice?

Some examples of medical malpractice include:

  • A surgeon amputating the wrong limb
  • A doctor failing to diagnose a medical condition
  • A nurse ignoring signs of fetal distress during childbirth

Medical malpractice can have serious consequences that affect a person for the rest of their life.

What is the most common type of medical negligence?

Misdiagnosis is one of the most common types of medical negligence. It occurs when a physician fails to identify a health condition that a patient has.

As a result, the doctor may prescribe the wrong treatment or medication. When patients have an illness like cancer, they may not get the treatment they need, leading to serious injury and even wrongful death. Icon

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  1. American Bar Association. “Medical Malpractice.” Retrieved April 29, 2024, from
  2. Cornell Law School. (2023, July). “malpractice.” Retrieved April 29, 2024, from
  3. MedicalNewsToday. “What is medical malpractice?” Retrieved April 29, 2024, from
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