As a healthcare professional, you know and understand the importance of providing quality care to your patients. Unfortunately, mistakes happen, and malpractice claims can arise as a result. While having proper legal representation is part of any defense strategy, there are many other preventative tactics that may be taken to avoid—or at least reduce the likelihood—of medical malpractice claims. In this blog post, we will look at what steps can be taken to strengthen protection against malpractice allegations before they become an issue.
It is not uncommon for medical professionals to face medical malpractice claims, as medical malpractice law has grown more stringent in recent years. While medical malpractice lawsuits can be costly to defend and require extensive research, there are defenses medical providers can use to protect themselves from these claims.
What Is A Malpractice Claim?
Malpractice is a term used to refer to any act or omission by a professional that falls below the expected standard of care and results in injury, harm, or death to a patient. When a professional’s negligence causes patients to suffer harm, they may be entitled to file a malpractice claim.
A malpractice claim can be filed against an individual healthcare provider (e.g., doctor, nurse) as well as other members of the medical team, such as hospitals, medical groups, and nursing homes. It is important to note that even if the medical care complied with the accepted standards of care at the time it was provided, victims of medical malpractice may still have recourse under state laws and common law theories.
The most common types of malpractice claims involve errors in diagnosis or treatment. This includes failing to diagnose a condition correctly (failure-to-diagnose), misdiagnosis, performing surgery on the wrong body part or wrong patient, administering drugs unsuitable for a particular condition, leaving objects inside the body during surgery, and errors in medication dosage or administration. Other types of claims include physical or mental abuse patients suffer while in healthcare providers’ care.
Filing a malpractice claim requires extensive evidence and testimony from experts who are familiar with established healthcare standards and practices. Also, each state has laws regarding when an action for malpractice can be brought and how much compensation can be recovered for injuries. An experienced attorney should be consulted if you feel you have been harmed due to negligent medical care so that your rights are protected, and you receive fair compensation for your losses.
What Is The Difference Between Negligence And Malpractice?
Negligence and malpractice are legal concepts that refer to a person or organization’s failure to meet their duty of care. Negligence is when someone breaches the expected level of care, meaning they do not act as a reasonable person would in that situation. Malpractice occurs when negligence causes injury to another person.
The main difference between negligence and malpractice is that for malpractice to occur, an injury must result from the breach of duty of care. With negligence, there is no requirement for an injury; rather, it simply represents a failure to fulfill the applicable standard of care.
Negligence cases generally involve disputes between two private parties (e.g., slip and fall cases). On the other hand, malpractice involves professional standards such as medical misconduct and errors committed by lawyers or professionals providing services in their field of expertise. As a result, malpractice is a more serious form of negligence due to the potential danger posed by medical mistakes or legal errors as opposed to other types of negligent actions.
Malpractice claims often require medical evidence or expert testimony regarding what constitutes a breach of the applicable standard of care and how the mistake caused harm. In contrast, most negligence cases only require proof that one party was more careless than the other party in order for liability to attach.
What Are The Most Common Medical Malpractice Claims?
Medical malpractice claims are complex and require a thorough review of the facts of each case. However, some common medical malpractice claims are seen in the legal system today.
One of the most frequent claims is failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis. This occurs when a patient suffers harm because their doctor could not recognize or rule out their condition correctly, resulting in inaccurate treatment decisions.
Another common type of malpractice claim is surgical errors. These include instances where surgeons operate on the wrong body part, leave instruments inside patients’ bodies during surgery, perform unnecessary procedures, or commit other mistakes that lead to further injury or complications.
Medication errors can also occur if clinicians prescribe drugs that are not suitable for a particular condition, administer incorrect doses, fail to take into account potentially dangerous drug interactions or overlook important information about preexisting conditions. These mistakes may result in serious adverse reactions for patients and even death in some cases.
Finally, physical and emotional abuse by healthcare providers can also lead to malpractice claims. Patients may file suits against doctors who fail to treat them with respect, dignity, and proper care while they are under their care. Abuse may range from verbal harassment to physical assault or sexual misconduct and should never be tolerated in any form.
Common Defenses Against a Medical Malpractice Claim
Show Avoidable Consequences
Showing avoidable consequences is a legal defense used in medical malpractice cases. The defense asserts that the plaintiff’s injury or worsening of an existing condition was caused by an event or circumstance which could have been avoided with proper care. This is generally presented as evidence that the defendant did not act negligently and/or failed to cause harm to the patient.
In order to use this defense, it must be established that there was a known risk that the plaintiff could have avoided if proper care had been provided. For example, if the patient followed their doctor’s instructions to take medication, but still ended up suffering from a complication due to an underlying condition, then this would be considered an avoidable consequence because the doctor warned them of the risks involved with taking such medication.
If all elements of this defense are met, then it may shift liability away from the defendant and reduce or fully eliminate any potential damages awarded to the plaintiff for their injuries. As such, establishing avoidable consequences can represent an important advantage for defendants seeking to escape penalties in medical malpractice claims.
Argue the Substantial Minority Principle
The substantial minority principle is a defense available to defendants in medical malpractice cases. This legal doctrine claims that, even if a doctor’s actions are considered negligent, the patient may still not be entitled to any damages if no significant harm was caused.
Under this principle, if a patient experiences an injury, but it can be argued that their condition would have been the same or worse even under the best care provided by another doctor, they may not be able to claim damages for medical malpractice.
This defense is often referred to as the “loss of chance” doctrine and essentially states that, even if it cannot be proved with certainty that the defendant’s negligence caused the injury, it is still necessary to determine what percentage of chance (if any) existed that proper treatment from another qualified doctor would have resulted in a better outcome for the patient. If this chance is found to be less than 50%, then the plaintiff cannot receive monetary compensation for their loss.
The substantial minority principle can be extremely beneficial for defendants seeking to reduce potential damages awarded by plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases. However, substantial evidence must be presented in order to clearly demonstrate that no more than a modest difference would have been expected had appropriate treatment been received instead.
Cite Good Samaritan Laws
Good Samaritan Laws can provide a legal defense for medical professionals who are charged with medical malpractice. Generally, these laws protect healthcare providers from lawsuits if they have acted in good faith and provided care in a non-emergency situation without expecting compensation.
In order to utilize this defense, defendants must be able to demonstrate that they offered medical assistance without any expectation of payment or reward and were acting in the patient’s best interests. Additionally, state laws may exclude certain types of medical cases or situations from being protected under Good Samaritan Laws.
Using this law as a defense against medical malpractice claims can help defendants reduce their liability for potential damages ordered by the court. It is important to note that this does not always prevent a patient from filing a claim; it just provides them with limited civil immunity from potential financial penalties should their case be unsuccessful.
Challenge the Evidence
Challenging the evidence is a valid defense option available to defendants in medical malpractice cases. This defense seeks to prove that the plaintiff’s case is based on insufficient or inaccurate evidence, making it difficult for them to successfully prove their claim in court.
Challenging the evidence typically involves scrutinizing any documentation related to the medical encounter and questioning any witnesses present during the treatment. Doing this may reveal mistakes in diagnosis, procedure, or paperwork that cast doubt on whether negligence occurred at all. It can also be used to establish plausible alternative causes for whatever injury was sustained by the patient, which could reduce any potential damages awarded by the court.
Challenging the evidence is often an effective way for defendants in medical malpractice cases to avoid liability for damages and potentially have their case dismissed entirely. However, most defendants seek a legal malpractice defense attorney when attempting this defense strategy due to its complexity and the level of expertise required.
Demonstrate Standard of Care
Demonstrating the standard of care is a valid defense for medical professionals facing a medical malpractice claim. It requires defendants to prove that they have provided the patient with an acceptable level of care based on their current circumstances, equipment, and environment.
This defense typically involves bringing in expert witnesses who can testify as to what constitutes a reasonable level of care in any given situation. The defendant must then demonstrate that they have met this standard or that an alternative course of action could not reasonably have been taken under the circumstances.
Utilizing this defense can be highly beneficial when defending against medical malpractice claims as it allows healthcare providers an opportunity to clear their names even if mistakes were made during the treatment process. This can help them protect their livelihood and reputation from having potential damage from financial penalties that may otherwise be awarded by the court.
Successfully defending against a malpractice claim requires identifying errors early, preparing your team, and showing the court that you have taken the necessary steps to improve patient safety. If you have been accused of medical malpractice, it is important to seek experienced legal counsel as soon as possible. The sooner you identify potential mistakes and take action to correct them, the more likely you are to prevail in court.