Saturday, January 31, 2009

Know Your Options If You Are a Victim of Medical Malpractice

Knowing what to do, much less what to look for when you're confronted with medical malpractice can be a real conundrum for those people not very familiar with medical issues.

Strictly speaking, the legal definition for medical malpractice states that it is "...professional negligence by act or omission by a health care provider in which care provided deviates from accepted standards of practice in the medical community and causes injury to the patient." This can include improper, unskilled, or negligent treatment of a patient under the treatment of a physician, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care professional. The standards and regulations for medical malpractice have been found to be different by country and jurisdiction within countries.

If you feel that you or a loved one is suffering due to mistreatments or mis-diagnosis from medical malpractice, there are some specific steps that you can take. First of all, try to educate yourself as much as you can about the condition you're suffering from. You can find this information online, or through other avenues, like the public library, where you can access medical definitions. Make sure you understand just exactly what each term or medical phrase that your doctor uses is, so that is completely comprehensible to you as a non-medical professional.

The next step is to research just exactly where what would be considered to be the "standard of care", which is concerned with the type of medical care that a physician is expected to provide in light of each particular condition the patient is suffering from. If the patient receives care or treatment that differs significantly from the standard, then there's a good possibility that you may be dealing with medical malpractice.

If this is indeed the case, make absolutely sure that you take copious amounts of notes, including the date, time, type of treatment received, and most importantly the name of the health care professional who is responsible for this treatment. Be as detailed as you possibly can, and even if you don't know the correct spellings of the drugs or procedures used in the treatment, spell it out as closely as you can in a form of phonetic script (for example, someone who might not know the proper spelling of "carburetor" spell it out as "kar-burr-ay-ter") and look up the proper spelling at a later time. In the instance where legal action might be taken, this will prove to be invaluable for legal professionals who might be working on your behalf.

In recent years, specific rules known as the "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act" (HIPAA) were enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1996. Even though HIPAA requires that patients be able to access their medical records, it doesn't say just how this access is to be given. As a result, the majority of patients have to go to the medical records departments of doctor offices and hospitals to get paper copies of their charts at whatever cost the caregiver wishes to charge. HIPAA's complexity in combination with the potential of stiff penalties for violations can cause doctors and clinics to keep information from people who might have a right to see it, and there have been cases where certain institutions guilty of medical malpractice find ways to hide this potentially damaging information from the client.

Someone who alleges they are the victim of negligent medical malpractice has to legally prove four elements in a court of law. These four elements are: (1) that a duty of care was owed by the physician; (2) the physician violated the applicable standard of care which is determined by others in the medical profession; (3) the patient suffered a compensable injury; and (4) the injury was caused in fact and proximately caused by the substandard conduct. The burden of proving these elements is always on the plaintiff in a malpractice lawsuit.

For more insights and additional information about Medical Malpractice as well as finding additional resources to help you with your case, please visit our web site at

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