One of the most controversial areas of personal injury law arises from the negligence of medical care providers, commonly referred to as medical malpractice. Medical malpractice may occur when a physician or hospital makes an error in the diagnosis, treatment or management of a patient's illness.
Medical malpractice cases may arise:
- Against hospitals for improper or overdoses of medication, nursing care, sanitation, infection, or equipment failure;
- Against physicians who, in the general practice of medicine, deviate from the generally accepted standards of practice in the community;
- Against specialized physicians who deviate from a nationally accepted standard of practice for specialists in the field; and
- Against local, state or federal agencies that operate hospitals or provide specific medical care (such as an Army hospital or a city emergency room).
Public relations campaigns by insurance companies incorrectly imply that doctors are frequently sued unjustly and that the high cost of medicine is due to improper lawsuits. In truth, malpractice cases are infrequently brought and not easily won.
Physicians and hospitals receive substantial protection from legislation which, in many states, caps damage awards and sharply limits cases against physicians. In order to file a medical malpractice claim, the case must be reviewed by an expert witness, usually a physician is required, who certifies that there is a basis for alleging malpractice. To prove malpractice, it is necessary to present the testimony of a physician that the treating doctor made an error. Finding another doctor to testify against a fellow physician is typically costly and difficult. In most states, Except when extraordinary circumstances are involved, most medical malpractice suits must be filed within two years of the negligent treatment.
Medical malpractice cases require intense efforts by the claimant's lawyers and generally involve substantial costs. Experienced representation in the handling of medical malpractice cases best assures the most beneficial outcome for a victim of medical negligence.