Unlike other personal injury claims, medical malpractice lawsuits often involve complex legal issues. It’s easy for most people to decide who was at fault in a car accident because most of us drive motor vehicles, know the rules of the road, and understand our legal obligations when we get behind the wheel. We can easily identify a driver’s intoxication, excessive speed, poorly maintained vehicle, and hazardous conditions as the causes of an accident and assign corresponding liability.

For most people, it’s not so easy to identify the causes of a botched surgery, misdiagnosis, or birth injury. However, patients should understand how medical malpractice cases work and how courts evaluate these claims.

Not All Unfavorable Medical Outcomes Are Considered Medical Malpractice

The first thing to know is that not every medical procedure or course of treatment that results in an unfavorable outcome is considered “medical malpractice.” Medical professionals are human, and the law does not expect them to be perfect. However, the law imposes a duty on all medical professionals to provide treatment that meets the relevant standards of care for healthcare professionals in their practice area.

For example, a brain surgeon with ten years of surgical experience practicing in a top-notch medical facility in Detroit, Michigan, will be held to the standards expected of experienced brain surgeons in excellent urban American facilities.

Of course, this definition isn’t especially helpful to patients wondering if they were the victims of medical malpractice. How do you determine what standards are expected of your medical professionals, much less whether they met them? An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you determine if you may have a case against a medical provider and what steps you can take to pursue a claim.

While not every unfavorable medical outcome is necessarily the basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit, certain events raise suspicion about the level of care rendered by a provider. For example, the following are all examples of potential medical malpractice claims:

Misdiagnoses and Delayed Diagnoses

By going to the doctor and staying on top of their health, many people assume healthcare professionals will catch any potential issue in its early stages. However, physicians routinely fail to order the necessary testing, misread test results, or otherwise fail to identify a serious condition. Early diagnosis gives patients the best chance of making a successful recovery; delays can significantly increase the risks and decrease the effectiveness of treatment.

Birth Injuries

The labor and delivery process is incredibly traumatic for both mother and child. Even when doctors and other providers do everything right, there is still the risk of a birth injury. However, many birth injuries are preventable. Most preventable birth injuries involve physical trauma or oxygen deprivation.

Some of the most common types of birth injuries include:

  • Brachial plexus injuries
  • Brain damage
  • Broken bones and fractures
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Erb’s Palsy
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infections
  • Paralysis

While newborn babies suffer the highest rate of birth injuries, mothers are also at risk. Doctors and patient care teams must ensure new mothers are appropriately cared for during and after delivery.

Preventable Infections

All healthcare professionals, doctor’s offices, hospitals, and urgent care facilities should do everything possible to create an environment of healing. Part of this duty requires facilities to take the necessary steps to reduce the spread of infection. Most infections are preventable. However, if medical staff fail to clean and disinfect surfaces, wounds, or equipment properly, infections can spread quickly.

Medication Errors

Prescription medications are powerful drugs that carry the potential to cure or harm. While prescription drugs help patients overcome serious illnesses and medical conditions, they can also cause severe injury or even death if improperly administered. Prescription drugs often have potentially harmful effects when taken with other medications or even some over-the-counter medicines.

Doctors have a duty to ensure a prescribed drug is safe for a patient. If a patient is in the hospital, the nurse administering the medication has a duty to ensure that they give the patient the correct medication in the right dose. Pharmacists have an obligation to ensure patients understand how to use the medication and common potential interactions or side effects.

Surgical Errors

Surgeons are some of the most highly compensated medical professionals. They must attend additional years of schooling and training and are held to a high standard of care. However, surgeons can make mistakes that change a patient’s life forever. If a surgeon operates on the wrong part of a patient’s body or leaves a foreign object inside, the patient’s life is in danger. Less obvious errors, such as improperly placing a medical device or implant or causing accidental damage to an internal organ, can result in additional surgeries, rehabilitation, pain, and suffering that should have been avoided.

Consult an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney

While these are some of the more egregious examples of medical malpractice, many others exist. If you or a loved one recently received treatment from a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional and ended up with new or worsening injuries, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. These cases are incredibly complex and often require the testimony of expert witnesses to explain how the provider did not meet the legally required standard of care. If you want to learn more about bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit against a negligent healthcare provider, consulting with an experienced medical malpractice attorney is wise.