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Medical Malpractice FAQs

(Frequently Asked Questions)
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  1. What sort of mistakes do medical practitioners usually make?
  2. What is Informed Consent
  3. Who do I sue?
  4. What do I need to prove in order to be paid damages for my personal injury?
  5. What can I recover damages for?

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1. What sort of mistakes do medical practitioners usually make?


Most mistakes by medical practitioners usually fall into one of several categories:
  1. They didn't get clear permission before operating on you.
  2. They didn't do the right diagnosis on you.
  3. They didn't perform the operation properly.
  4. They didn't anticipate a problem which they should have.
In determining whether they made a mistake, the court will consider what reasonable, prudent medical practitioners would have done in the same situation. If the medical practitioners did not meet that standard, they could be found negligent.

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2. What is Informed Consent?

Before you consent to any treatment, you are entitled to have your proposed treatment explained to you so that you understand the risks and any options that might be open to you. A failure to give you this information could amount to medical malpractice.

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3. Who do I sue?

Malpractice suits are often brought against not only the doctor or doctors involved, but the nurses and hospital too. This can make for quite a few defendants.

A doctor is entitled to rely on the nurses and other employees of the hospital to properly perform their duties. If a doctor gives proper instructions to a nurse, and she fails to carry them out, the nurse, not the doctor, will normally be liable.

The hospital itself has a duty to properly administer the facility to avoid any harm to the patient. This means they must have enough competent staff, ensure that the staff act only within their competence, and ensure that adequate equipment is available and properly maintained at all times.

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4. What do I need to prove in order to be paid damages for my personal injury?

Liability
Damages
Causation

Liability: This means that the medical practitioners was negligent. In order to prove this, your lawyer will need to have other doctors testify as to what a "reasonable doctor" would have done in the same situation, or what procedures should have been carried out; these are often called "expert witnesses". One of the most difficult things in a medical malpractice case is to get a doctor to testify against another doctor.

Damages: You need to prove what kind of damage that you have suffered, and how much you have lost. You may need to get medical reports, expert reports, accounting projections for lost income, and other evidence to prove your damages.

Causation: You need to prove that the damage that you have suffered was caused by the negligence of the medical practitioner. For example, if a doctor is found to be negligent in performing an eye operation, and the patient lost his sight, the doctor may still not be liable for damages if it can be proved that the patient might have lost his sight because of some other condition.

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5. What can I recover damages for?

There are several categories of damages which you can claim for, including:
  • Out of pocket medical costs
  • Costs of future care
  • Loss of past wages
  • Loss of future wages
  • Damages for Pain and Suffering
  • Legal fees


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More questions?

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This page last updated: October 18, 1999
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