Understanding Medical Malpractice

By Patricia Woloch

New York NY Malpractice Medical Lawyer


Medical malpractice kills about 80,000 people every year and injures far more. It is estimated that only two percent of malpractice victims seek compensation. Many people do not understand what constitutes malpractice or realize that they may have a case.

An unsatisfactory medical outcome does not necessarily constitute malpractice. Medical procedures carry risks and some treatments are not successful, even when doctors do everything right. Medical malpractice is treatment by any type of health care professional which does not meet the standard level of care and results in harm to the patient. Failing to take a necessary action or taking an inappropriate action are both malpractice, when they cause harm

Basic elements of malpractice
In order to have a medical malpractice case three elements must exist:

  • There must have been a professional relationship between you and the health care provider – this establishes responsibility. Simply calling a doctor’s office out of the phone book to ask a question does not constitute a doctor/patient relationship.
  • The health care provider must have acted beneath the standard level of care that any other health care provider would have used in the same situation.
  • The substandard care must have caused you harm.

Not just doctors
Many people are under the impression that medical malpractice is limited to mistakes made by their physicians or surgeons and does not include areas of medicine such as dentistry and psychiatry, or believe that they cannot sue if they chose an elective procedure, such a cosmetic surgery. Medical malpractice applies to all fields of medicine and no health care provider is excused from meeting the standard level of care simply because your procedure was a choice rather than a necessity.

Individual health care professionals can be held responsible for their actions, and so can the institutions that they work for. Often an institution is held liable due to its policies, such as a hospital being held liable for patient dumping or unsanitary conditions. When a medication is the cause of harm the pharmaceutical company may also be held responsible, or may be solely responsible, making your case a product liability case.

Medical malpractice cases can have multiple responsible parties including, but not limited to:

  • Doctors
  • Dentists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Surgeons
  • Anesthesiologists
  • Nurses
  • Emergency room staff
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Government institutions
  • Pharmaceutical companies

What you need to do
Medical malpractice lawsuits are complex, but they are often your only hope for getting the quality medical care that you need to recover from the harm you were caused, or compensation for disabilities which prevent you from making a living or simply enjoying life as you would have without having been a victim of malpractice. If a loved one has been one of the 80,000 victims a year who did not survive medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation for wrongful death.

Pursuing a medical malpractice claim is more than seeking financial compensation for yourself and your family. It is incentive for negligent or incompetent health care professionals to clean up their act, and may save the next victim from harm.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice you should:

  • Contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
  • Write down everything that has happened so far and how it has affected your life, and start keeping a journal of how it affects you every day.
  • Get copies of all of your medical records.
  • Keep receipts for all of your expenses resulting from the malpractice
  • Keep a record of all lost income caused by the malpractice
  • Seek an independent medical assessment (your attorney may recommend a specialist)