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What is medical malpractice? Or, what does the average person think medical malpractice is? Politically, it has become popular to think of medical malpractice as a “shakedown” of doctors and hospitals, and that medical malpractice judgments are easy to get, providing “free money” to oversensitive patients.
None of these views is supported by the facts. In fact, the idea that plaintiffs can cash in whenever they can identify a medical mistake is far from the truth. Only very strong cases are worth pursuing, and only strong cases are likely to result in compensation for a plaintiff. So what goes into deciding what is a strong medical malpractice case?
An attorney in a medical malpractice case must establish that the physician violated or fell below the standard of care, which refers to the care anyone with a particular condition would receive based on commonly accepted practices. The breach of the duty must also cause damage to the plaintiff. In other words, if the doctor failed to meet their duty of care, but that failure didn’t cause any harm to the patient, there is no malpractice case.
Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys will tell you that the damage done to the patient is a factor that separates many strong malpractice cases from lesser ones. If a patient died, clearly the damage is enormous. Signs of a strong case from the damages perspective include ongoing expensive care, loss of limbs, and other consequences that have lasting effects. Patients who were harmed but then recovered may technically have a case, but not a very strong one.
In the next post we will discuss more factors that go into assessing a medical malpractice case.
Source: CNN “Harmed in the hospital? Should you sue?” 3/24/2011
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