What Is Medical Malpractice?

In medical malpractice, a doctor or medical facility has failed to live up to its obligations, resulting in a patient’s injury. Medical malpractice is usually the result of medical negligence – a mistake that was unintentional on the part of the medical personnel.

Determining if malpractice has been committed during medical treatment depends on whether the medical personnel acted in a different way than most professionals would have acted in similar circumstances. For example, if a nurse administers a different medication to a patient than the one prescribed by the doctor, that action differs from what most nurses would have done.

Surgical malpractice is a very common type of case. A cardiac surgeon, for example, might operate on the wrong heart artery or forget to remove a surgical instrument from the patient’s body before stitching the incisions closed.

Not all medical malpractice cases are as clear-cut, however. The surgeon might make a split-second decision during a procedure that may or may not be construed as malpractice. Those kinds of cases are the ones that are most likely to end up in a courtroom.

The majority of medical malpractice lawsuits are settled out of court, however, which means that the doctor’s or medical facility’s malpractice insurance pays a sum of money called the “settlement” to the patient or patient’s family.

This process is not necessarily easy, so most people are advised to hire an attorney. Insurance companies do their best to keep the settlement amounts as low as possible. A lawyer is in a position to help patients prove the severity of the malpractice and negotiate a higher sum of money for the patient/client.

Lawyers generally work on “contingency” in these types of cases, which means they are only paid when and if a settlement is received. The lawyer then takes a percentage of the total settlement amount as payment for his or her services.

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