What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is defined as the harm or injury of a patient as a consequence of a physician’s negligence and/or inappropriate behavior. Within the U.S. legal system, persons harmed by the wrongful act of a physician during treatment, are protected by a subdivision of tort (negligence) law- medical malpractice laws. “Tort,” by definition, means “wrong”; thus, a medical practitioner being sued for medical malpractice would be regarded as the “tortfeasor” or “wrong-doer.” Tort laws have been intended to promote good social conduct for several decades.
Rooted in the belief that certain professionals have a legal responsibility to provide adequate care and services to persons seeking help, tort laws promote optimal behavior from practitioners by threatening financial liability. There are two major exceptions to being medically liable for negligence or wrongful conduct:
- Unofficial doctor-patient relationship. If a person unofficially seeks help from a medical practitioner and is injured as a result, said person is unable to file a medical malpractice claim. In these instances, a person is unable to file a claim because there was no legally established relationship between the physician and patient. Since the seeking of professional care was done unofficially, a physician is not legally bound to proper conduct.
- Good Samaritan laws. If a person is injured during a medical emergency, the “wrong-doer” is not a liable party under Good Samaritan laws, even if the person’s injuries led to death, disability, etc. However, Good Samaritan laws are only applicable under specific conditions, usually determined by a judge. For example, a judge could determine that a person’s reckless actions led to the further injury of a patient during a medical emergency. In this instance, the court could establish that the best action would have been contacting 911 and wait for medical assistance rather than taking further action.
Legal Elements of a Medical Malpractice
Although medical malpractice laws vary between states, four legal elements lay the foundation for all medical malpractice lawsuits/claims. The first element or criteria that must be satisfied is (1) Establishing a legal relationship between the physician and the patient. To file a medical malpractice claim, one must also prove that (2) the medical professional responsible for providing treatment has failed to meet the standard of professional care. This breach is usually supported by the expert witness who is capable of understanding the appropriate conduct of the physician as well as how the practitioner has deviated from the standard of care. A medical expert also proves to be a beneficial/necessary witness when (3) demonstrating a clear causal relationship between the physician’s negligence and the patient’s injuries.
Lastly, (4) the plaintiff- harmed person filing a lawsuit- must have an injury that the legal court can compensate. Suppose a person’s injuries or concerns heal appropriately. In that case, that person cannot file a claim because, regardless of the physician’s negligence, there are no damages that the court can legally help intervene. There are two forms of damages that a person can be legally compensated for:
- Economic Damages. Economic damages include any past, present, or future medical bills. Persons filing a medical malpractice claim can also be compensated for a loss of income in the past and future. For example, suppose you are a construction worker, and a doctor injures your leg, the court can compensate you for the future loss of income attributed to your leg injury, making you incapable of working in a construction zone.
- Non-Economic Damages. Non-economic damages are more subjective, given that a person is being compensated for psychological and physiological suffering. Suppose you have been hurt by a medical practitioner, and, as a result, have a life-long fear of hospitals. In that scenario, a Seattle medical malpractice lawyer will ensure that you receive monetary compensation for your anxiety and fear of future harm.
Medical Malpractice Laws in Washington State
Given the state-to-state variation in medical malpractice laws, working with someone well-versed in Tort law within your jurisdiction is of utmost importance. If a physician’s negligence has caused you physical harm, in the state of Washington, it is then recommended that you seek assistance from the best medical malpractice attorney Seattle. A victim of medical malpractice within the Washington medical sector must take into account the following points:
- Washington state’s statute of limitations (deadline) requires that a medical malpractice case (e.g., medical errors leading to injuries or wrongful deaths) be reported within three years of the incident or within one year of gaining awareness of the injury. For example, suppose ten years after a procedure, you discover that you have indeed experienced medical malpractice. In that regard, you may still contact a Seattle medical negligence attorney to file a claim and receive the compensation you deserve.
- Many avoid getting help from law firms for fear of paying outrageous attorney fees; nonetheless, the state of Washington has placed a cap on the amount of money a medical negligence attorney Seattle can collect. There are, however, no monetary caps placed on the amount of compensation of damages the injured patient may receive.
- Although Washinton’s medical malpractice laws do not require a person’s claim to be validated by a medical expert, it demands that an expert in the medical practice area testifies. The expert’s testimony demonstrates the physician’s breach of standard conduct (e.g., prove the physician’s negligence ).
Medical malpractice laws are quite complex, regardless of your jurisdiction. Thus, being informed by a legal professional is imperative to your success in filing and winning a medical malpractice lawsuit.