Medical malpractice is negligence committed by a medical professional. When a physician makes a preventable error that results in injury, the patient may file a medical malpractice suit for damages.
The Duty of Care
A physician has to owe a duty of care to a patient before their competency in performing the duty can be judged. Generally, once a doctor voluntarily decides to assist others or come to their aid, the doctor becomes liable for any injury that results from any negligence during that assistance. Once the requisite doctor-patient relationship is established, the doctor owes to the patient a duty of care and treatment with the degree of skill, care, and diligence as possessed by, or expected of, a reasonably competent physician under the same or similar circumstances. This can be different than the standard of care for treatment and surgery.
Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim
For negligence to be actionable, the following elements must exist:
In addition, "proximate cause" is a legal term that, in the medical malpractice sense, essentially asks whether, "but for" the alleged negligence of the medical professional, the harm or injury to the patient would have occurred. If the injury still would have occurred regardless of the alleged act of malpractice, then there is no valid claim.