When patients visit a healthcare provider, they expect that person to be well-trained and experienced in their field. They may not always understand, however, the risks they can face if the provider makes a medical mistake.
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider fails to provide appropriate treatment or take appropriate action for a patient. It can also occur if there is substandard treatment of a patient. When medical malpractice occurs, patients may be able to recover compensation for the harm they suffered.
Elements and examples
To prove medical malpractice, the patient must demonstrate that the provider owed a professional duty to him or her, that the duty was breached, the patient suffered an injury caused by that breach and the patient had damages.
Common examples of medical malpractice include a failure to diagnose a disease or condition, failure to order necessary tests, prescribing the wrong medication, operating on the wrong part of a patient’s body and prematurely discharging a patient.
It may also occur if a patient does not provide informed consent for a procedure, which means that the patient was informed of the risks and agreed to the procedure.
If the patient successfully proves medical malpractice, he or she may receive compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages include economic harm like medical expenses and loss of earning capacity. They may also include non-economic damages for emotional distress or extreme pain.
Punitive damages may be awarded where there was malicious or willful conduct on the provider’s part. If a patient has been harmed by medical malpractice, an experienced attorney can pursue compensation on his or her behalf.