Frequently Asked Questions About Medial Malpractice

1. What is medical malpractice?

Broadly speaking, medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional (such as a physician) does not follow what is known as "established standards of care." Standards of care describe how the professional peers (other physicians) would act in similar situations. As an example, if an emergency room doctor sends a patient with a suspected fractured leg to the x-ray department without applying a splint, that doctor has committed an act of medical malpractice because the standards of care would dictate that a splint should be applied before moving the patient.

2. Are there certain conditions or standards that must be met for a claim of medical malpractice?

In general, a claim of malpractice must prove that:

● A physician - patient relationship had been established

Simply put, when a physician assumes an active role in the medical management of a patient a physician - patient relationship has been formed and the law assumes that, from that point onward, the physician will act in the patient's best interests.

● An act of negligence occurred

This means that the physician failed to follow the above-mentioned standards of care by either an act of omission (failed to do something) or an act of commission (did something, but it was either wrong or inappropriate).

● This act of negligence caused a specific injury

For malpractice to have occurred the alleged act, or acts, of negligence must have led to an injury that the patient would not be otherwise expected. An example of this situation would be if a surgeon left an instrument in a patient's abdomen, resulting in the need for a second operation. In this case, the second operation would not have been expected and an incidence of malpractice has occurred.

● The act of negligence must have led to specific damages

Not all acts of negligence cause damages. It is the responsibility of the party that brings a malpractice lawsuit to prove that the alleged act injured the party in some way, such as unnecessary pain, lost wages, physical disability, or even death. A less than anticipated result of a course of medical treatment or a complication that caused only a slight inconvenience, such as a delay in recovery of a few days, is generally not sufficient to justify a claim of malpractice.

3. Is there a time limit regarding medical malpractice cases?

There are indeed time limits governing when a malpractice lawsuit can be filed, but this varies from state to state. As an example, in Kentucky a malpractice suit must be initiated within one calendar year of the alleged incident although there are certain exceptions to this rule. One such exception involves injuries to a newborn that occurred during the immediate prenatal and postnatal periods. Under Kentucky law, there are essentially no time limits regarding these cases. Any questions regarding such time limits should always be directed to an attorney with experience in medical malpractice law.

4. What should I do if I suspect that I, or a member of my family, have been subjected to an act of medical malpractice?

Although you may feel that medical malpractice has obviously occurred, such cases are rarely as simple as they may seem. In order to protect your legal rights in these cases, it is important that you consult an attorney with experience in the handling of these potentially complicated cases. Those in the Louisville and northern Kentucky area would be well-served by contacting the law firm of T. J. Smith in order to obtain a comprehensive, but always free, legal consultation regarding your case and a proposed course of action. 

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