Over 250,000 deaths result from medical errors in the U.S. every year, putting medical malpractice among the top three causes of death in the nation.
Medical malpractice is an act, omission, or other form of negligence committed by a health care provider that causes injury to a patient. It is harm that results because a medical provider deviates from what another competent medical professional would have reasonably done in the same situation. This is referred to as breaching the standard of care, a standard that medical professionals are obligated by law to meet.
Going to a doctor and receiving unsatisfactory care does not automatically make you a victim of medical malpractice. To reach the legal standards of medical malpractice, an act or omission must meet certain criteria.
So what constitutes medical malpractice?
Keep reading to learn how medical malpractice is defined. If you believe that you or a loved one was the victim of medical negligence, we encourage you to get in touch with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Mississippi places a strict statute of limitations on the amount of time you have to file a claim after an injury.
The Medical Standard of Care in Malpractice Cases
In order to constitute malpractice, an act of medical negligence must have deviated from the “medical standard of care.” This standard defines the way any reasonable trained medical professional should act under the given circumstances.
You can also think of it this way: If a different doctor treated you, would you have suffered the same result?
Here’s an example to illustrate the type of breach of duty that can constitute malpractice. A patient enters the ER complaining of chest pain. An ER physician fails to administer any tests and instead advises the patient to return home and take antacids. The patient returns home, only to suffer cardiac arrest within a matter of hours.
In this example, we can see that a competent physician in the same situation could reasonably be expected to run a series of tests and examinations to rule out the possibility of heart failure before sending the patient on their way.
As you might surmise, defining this standard of care can be highly subjective. This is one of the aspects of medical malpractice law that make these types of cases so complex. It’s necessary to have extensive knowledge of statistical medical data—and to work with physicians experienced in similar types of medical cases—in order to successfully prove that what happened to you constitutes medical malpractice.
How Can You Prove Medical Malpractice?
There are four legal elements that must be met in order to prove medical malpractice.
In a medical malpractice case, you must prove:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed, meaning you were owed a duty of care.
- The doctor breached the duty of care.
- The breach of duty caused your injuries.
- You suffered damages as a result of your injuries.
Proving these four elements is not as easy as it may seem. Attorneys need an arsenal of evidence in order to show that a patient’s injuries were the result of malpractice and not just an unfavorable (but unavoidable) outcome of a medical procedure.
Not every act of medical intervention is successful. But when an adverse outcome could have been averted through reasonable care, then the case may constitute malpractice.
Although we have used the word “doctor” above, a doctor is not the only type of medical provider who can be held liable in a medical malpractice case.
Who Can Be Held Liable in a Medical Malpractice Case?
While doctors are most commonly named as defendants in medical malpractice suits, any figure that provides professional health care can be guilty of malpractice.
Mississippi Code § 15-1-36 refers to medical malpractice claims brought against a “licensed physician, osteopath, dentist, hospital, institution for the aged or infirm, nurse, pharmacist, podiatrist, optometrist or chiropractor.”
This means that both individuals (such as doctors or nurses) or institutions (such as hospitals or nursing homes) can be found to have played a role in medical malpractice.
Common Examples of Acts and Omissions That May Constitute Medical Malpractice
While malpractice can take on many forms, there are some types of cases that occur more frequently than others.
These common types of medical errors are entirely preventable and often result from systemic issues like:
- Poor communication and data documentation,
- Understaffing and overworking,
- Lack of training for staff,
- Improper case mismanagement,
- Language barriers,
- Substandard environmental sterilization efforts, or
- Failure to obtain necessary medical information.
Common examples that may constitute medical malpractice include:
- Delayed diagnosis
- Birth injuries to mother or baby
- Failure to properly treat a condition
- Prescription medication errors
- Surgical errors (such as wrong-site surgery or surgical instruments left inside a patient)
- Anesthesia errors
- Missed cancer diagnoses
- Post-surgery negligence
- Hospital-acquired infections
- Use of defective medical equipment or drugs
- Mistakes made during medical procedures
- Misinterpreted medical imaging or test results
How Long Do You Have To File a Medical Malpractice Claim in Mississippi?
The statute of limitation for medical malpractice claims is explained in Mississippi Code § 15-1-36. A statute of limitations is a state-mandated time limit for taking legal action after an injury caused by another party’s negligence.
In Mississippi, patients only have two years to file a medical malpractice claim. The clock begins from the date of injury or the date the injury should have been known or discovered with reasonable diligence.
There may be situations in which the patient does not become aware of the malpractice until long after the act, such as when a foreign body is left inside the patient during surgery. In cases such as these and other delayed-discovery scenarios, legal action must be taken no more than seven years after the date the alleged act, omission, or neglect occurred.
Learn Your Legal Options for Recovery at No Cost to You
After learning more about what constitutes medical malpractice, please reach out to Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC to discuss your case with our team.
We offer free case evaluations to victims and families in Jackson and surrounding areas of Mississippi. A free consultation does not obligate you to partner with us on your case.
During our meeting, we will help review the details of your case and advise you of your legal options. Medical malpractice is a serious issue that should never be ignored or explained away. If you were harmed by medical negligence, you have the right to take control of your future, health, emotional wellbeing, and financial security.
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