What Constitutes Medical Negligence?
Medical negligence is the central issue involved in medical malpractice claims in Pennsylvania. It refers to one of four main elements a patient needs to present a claim against a physician or other healthcare provider. It is, strictly speaking, the main required legal element of a valid medical malpractice claim. Knowing what may constitute medical negligence can help you understand whether you have grounds for a case. To discuss the specifics of your case, contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney in Philadelphia.
Legal Definition of Medical Negligence
Negligence is the center of almost all personal injury lawsuits. The legal definition of negligence is a failure to provide the level of care that someone of reasonable prudence would have provided under the same circumstances. Regarding a medical malpractice claim, negligence is the failure to provide a level of patient care that a physician with ordinary prudence would have in the same situation. Negligence can refer to both an action and a failure to act, or an omission.
It is every physician’s duty to care for patients in a way that will not reasonably result in harm or risk of harm. A healthcare provider may be guilty of medical negligence if his or her conduct lacked the required degree of reasonable care. What constitutes reasonable care depends on the title of the physician and the circumstances. A cardiovascular specialist, for example, will have different definitions of reasonable patient care than an OB/GYN. Every physician, however, must act within the best interests of the patient.
Common Examples of Medical Negligence
Every year, thousands of patients fall prey to medical negligence. Many examples exist of what could constitute medical negligence; however, some types are more common than others. Anything a healthcare provider does that a reasonable one would not have in the same situation could constitute medical negligence. The following are some of the most frequent examples of medical negligence that results in a malpractice claim:
- Anesthesia errors
- Birth injuries
- Diagnosis errors (misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose)
- Emergency room errors
- Failure to treat
- Lack of informed consent
- Medication mistakes
- Poor patient care
- Surgical errors
If you believe you were the victim of one of these common forms of medical negligence, speak to an attorney right away. Some forms of medical negligence are subtle and may remain undiscovered for weeks or even months after the fact. Others are blatant and can cause immediate serious harm to a patient. Either way, the injured patient may have the right to seek compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Proving Medical Negligence
You bear the burden of proof as a plaintiff in Pennsylvania. It is not enough to believe you have a case of medical negligence on your hands. You must prove a defendant’s guilt with evidence and the four main elements of a claim. You will only truly have a case of medical negligence if you have the following four elements:
- The defendant must have owed you a duty of care as your practicing physician, surgeon, nurse, etc. at the time of alleged malpractice. You need proof of a doctor-patient relationship.
- The defendant must be guilty of medical negligence. In other words, you must demonstrate that the defendant breached his or her duty of care to you in a way that a reasonable and prudent doctor would not have.
- The defendant’s breach of duty must have directly caused the injuries in question. A delayed diagnosis, for example, must have led to you failing to receive proper treatment in time to make a difference to your prognosis.
- Finally, you must have proof of your real, compensable damages as a result of the alleged medical negligence. These may include past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost income.
Understanding the nuances of medical negligence and the requirements for proving a medical malpractice claim can be difficult. Work with an attorney for a stronger case and peace of mind during the legal process.