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Virginia Attorneys > Blog > Medical Malpractice > Medical Malpractice Versus Medical Mistakes: When Can You Sue?

Medical Malpractice Versus Medical Mistakes: When Can You Sue?


Some folks think that you can file a lawsuit against any doctor who makes a mistake. But mistakes happen, even to the best doctors. The law recognizes this and sets the standard for medical malpractice higher than a simple mistake. In this article, we’ll discuss medical negligence and how it differs from mistakes.

Understanding medical negligence 

Medical negligence is not a mere medical mistake. It has a legal definition. In order to prove medical malpractice, you must establish that three factors are true:

  • There was a doctor-patient relationship between the doctor and the patient
  • During the course of treatment, the doctor committed some form of medical negligence
  • Injuries resulted from the medical negligence 

But what specifically is medical negligence? Medical negligence occurs when a doctor fails to render the prevailing standard of treatment to the patient. It is not a mere mistake, although some mistakes are medical negligence. Medical negligence requires more than simply a bad outcome for the patient.

Types of medical negligence 

Medical negligence can be found in just about any area of medical practice. Podiatrists and psychiatrists are among the least often sued, while primary care physicians and surgeons are sued the most. Misdiagnosis errors are the most prevalent form of medical malpractice.

Each subcategory of medicine has its own standard when it comes to medical malpractice. For example, to prove a misdiagnosis case, you would have to show that the doctor either failed to consider the correct diagnosis, neglected evidence that seemed to indicate the correct diagnosis or otherwise failed to diagnose the patient in time due to some other form of negligence.

For surgical malpractice, it may not be enough to show that a surgeon made a surgical mistake that injured a patient. Surgical mistakes happen frequently, but they don’t lead to death. That’s because once the surgical mistake occurs, the doctor can generally fix the issue. When a doctor fails to fix the issue or ensure that the patient is safe to close up, that’s when medical negligence occurs.

In situations where a doctor, hospital, or other health care worker fails to render the prevailing standard of care, they are liable for the injuries they cause.

Medical negligence versus simple negligence 

It sometimes happens that an individual is injured in a hospital. Is this automatically medical negligence? No. As an example, let’s say an elderly patient gets out of her bed to use the bathroom. She slips on the floor and causes herself more injuries. This is not medical negligence because it doesn’t involve the practice of medicine. In that case, you may not be able to sue the doctor, but you can sue the hospital for allowing a dangerous condition to cause you injury.

Learn more about medical malpractice in Roanoke, VA 

If you’ve been injured due to the negligence of a doctor or a hospital, call the Roanoke medical malpractice attorneys at MichieHamlett today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.

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