The medical world thrives on precision and care, on decisions made in seconds, and on choices between life and death. In such a delicate environment, mistakes are bound to occur. Medicine remains a human endeavor despite its march toward perfection. And where humans tread, error often follows. Recent studies indicate that medical mistakes cause up to 251,000 deaths in the United States every year.
So if you’re a victim of a medical mistake, you’re probably wondering whether you have any options to get some kind of recovery for your losses. You’re also probably wondering whether your doctor is guilty of something or whether what happened to you was an unavoidable medical mistake that you simply have to accept.
The truth lies somewhere between the two. Few medical mistakes qualify as actual crimes. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t obtain financial compensation for your doctor’s actions. Read on to learn more about medical mistakes, how you can obtain compensation for your losses, and the benefits of hiring a lawyer for medical mistakes.
Criminal Liability vs. Civil Liability
When we say that someone is guilty of something, we mean that they committed a crime. However, not everyone who makes a mistake or does something wrong is a criminal. There’s also something called civil liability.
Civil liability is fundamentally different from criminal liability. Criminal liability is about violations of the law for which the government imposes penalties. These are usually intentional acts against society as a whole, like theft or murder. Criminal guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The consequences of criminal guilt include jail time and financial penalties.
On the other hand, civil liability addresses wrongs that occur between individuals. It’s about righting a personal wrong and compensating for someone’s losses. A person who is civilly liable has not committed a crime. Instead, they are the author of a civil wrong or tort.
Examples include things like negligence or breach of contract. It’s easier to find someone responsible for a civil wrong than for a criminal act. In fact, the plaintiff only needs to show a preponderance of the evidence. Rather than leading to imprisonment, civil liability typically results in monetary damages awarded to the injured party.
Understanding the Relationship Between Medical Mistakes and Civil Liability
So how does civil liability relate to medical mistakes? How can you hold your doctor accountable for their errors if they aren’t guilty of a crime? The answer is simple: negligence. Medical negligence (also known as medical malpractice) is one of the most common types of civil actions in the United States.
It involves someone’s failure to exercise the care that a reasonable person with their background and experience would exercise under similar circumstances. In the medical world, it means a departure from the accepted standards of care, a deviation from the good judgment that characterizes sound medical practice.
Proving Medical Negligence
Making a case against your doctor for their medical malpractice involves proving four elements. These elements are duty, breach, causation, and damages.
The first step in proving negligence is to show that a duty of care existed between you and your doctor. Generally, you can show that your doctor owed you a duty of care simply by showing that you had a doctor-patient relationship with them.
If you are their patient, your doctor has a professional obligation to provide you with competent and reasonable medical care. In other words, they need to provide you with the same standard of treatment as any other reasonable doctor acting in the same situation.
The next step is to prove that your doctor breached their duty to you. A breach occurs when the doctor fails to abide by the recognized standard of care relevant to their field and the patient’s condition. It’s important to note that the standard of care varies due to multiple factors. These factors include the patient’s age, overall health, and specific medical condition.
One way a medical mistakes lawyer can help prove a breach of duty is by hiring medical experts to testify in court. These experts can talk about how a reasonable physician should have acted. They can also explain whether your doctor’s actions were outside the standard of care.
Once you demonstrate in court that your doctor breached their duty, you need to connect this breach to your injury. This element is often the most challenging to prove because patients in need of medical care often have pre-existing conditions.
Proving causation can get especially tough if the consequences of your doctor’s actions did not appear immediately. Ultimately, you need to show that it is more like than not that your doctor’s actions led to your injury.
The last piece of the puzzle is proving that your doctor’s injury caused you harm. This is generally easy for victims of medical errors, who often suffer debilitating injuries. You can show physical damages, such as pain, suffering, disability, or a worsened medical condition.
However, you can also obtain relief for financial losses, like past and future medical bills, lost wages, and reduced earning capacity.
How Can a Lawyer for Medical Mistakes Help Me?
Medical malpractice lawyers are knowledgeable about medical procedures, terminology, and standards of care. This background enables them to evaluate the medical aspects of your case effectively and argue your case convincingly.
Moreover, they have unprecedented access to medical experts, who can show that your doctor’s actions were not aligned with the typical standard of care. Finally, an attorney can apply their legal knowledge to help you understand the kinds of damages you qualify for based on your injuries. That means you’ll have a general idea of how much you can expect to recover for your doctor’s errors.
We’re Leaders in the Medical Malpractice Arena. Let Us Help You.
Medical malpractice cases require an experienced, meticulous, and skilled legal team to ensure the injured and their families are appropriately compensated. At Dempsey Kingsland Osteen, our sole focus is helping those who have been harmed by the negligent acts of others.
Our firm’s three seasoned partners, Leland Dempsey, Robert Kingsland, and Jason Osteen, bring over 100 years of combined experience and a proven track record in securing significant verdicts and settlements across a broad range of cases. We’ve consistently achieved multimillion-dollar recoveries in medical malpractice, catastrophic injury, and wrongful death cases.
With our exclusive relationship with a board-certified physician and a distinguished nurse consultant, we bring an unprecedented level of medical expertise to our case evaluations. Our firm also has nurtured a nationwide network of top-tier professionals, from accident reconstructionists to economists.