What is Medical Negligence?

What is Medical Negligence?

What is Medical Negligence?

In the U.S., medical negligence is the third leading cause of death, according to The Journal of the American Medical Association. When a patient is injured because of neglect or substandard care by a medical professional, they might have legitimate grounds to sue for medical negligence.


What is considered medical negligence?

Medical negligence (or malpractice) happens when a hospital, or healthcare professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes an injury to a patient. Medical malpractice liability occurs due to a flawed diagnosis, improper treatment, or even treating a patient without proper permission. Malpractice can have long-term effects that impact the lives of victims and their families forever.

In many malpractice cases, people may not realize that they’ve been subject to medical negligence until they:

  • Are given a different diagnosis by another doctor.
  • Develop symptoms that don’t fit the diagnosis given to them.
  • Realize their condition is worse instead of improving, even though they’re undergoing the prescribed treatments.


Types of Medical Malpractice

  • Hospital negligence and nursing error
  • Failure to diagnose and adequately treat life-threatening conditions
  • Failure to obtain a patient’s informed consent for a procedure or treatment
  • Incorrect prescription of a medication or medical device
  • Brain injury due to incorrect anesthesia dosage
  • Spinal cord injury due to surgical error or misdiagnosis.
  • Birth injury caused by delivery-room error
  • Injury to mother sustained during labor and delivery

Medical mistakes may result in temporary or permanent physical impairment such as paralysis, loss of limb, loss of sight, infection,

forced amputation, or even death.


What type of damages are awarded for medical negligence?

When a healthcare provider doesn’t meet the proper standard of care and their actions result in harm to the patient, that patient can seek damages for medical malpractice.


Special (or Compensatory) Damages

Special damages, also known as compensatory damages, are the plaintiff and the family member’s expenses or losses for which they should be compensated. Some states place a cap on the dollar amount a plaintiff can recover in damages in a medical malpractice suit.


Punitive Damages

Most medical malpractice lawsuits don’t involve an award of punitive damages. Punitive damages are usually awarded to “punish” the guilty party and send a message to others to deter them from similar willful, wanton, or malicious conduct.  Punitive damages can be calculated as a multiple of the total special or compensatory damages amount, such as 2X total damages.


Establishing evidence of negligence

The outcome of a medical malpractice lawsuit usually depends on whether the plaintiff can establish that the person’s injury was due to another party’s negligence or gross negligence.



To prove negligence, the plaintiff must provide evidence that:

  • The defendant owed a duty of care. Doctors and healthcare providers have a more specific duty of care. They are expected to use reasonable care, skill, or knowledge ordinarily used under similar circumstances by similarly trained and experienced healthcare providers.
  • The defendant breached this duty of care. The defendant did not act as any reasonable person would in the situation.
  • The breach in the defendant’s duty of care led to the injury of the plaintiff.
  • The expenses and losses or suffering incurred by the plaintiff were due to the person’s injuries.


The plaintiff must present the testimony of a medical expert qualified in the same medicine area as the healthcare provider to establish the standard of care. The medical expert must indicate what standard of care is commonly met by recognized competent, medical professionals. The plaintiff must present expert testimony to show the defendant failed to meet this standard.


Statute of Limitations

The state’s Statute of Limitations in a medical malpractice case is the amount of time you have to dispense with your claim with the insurance company or file a lawsuit, usually two years after discovering the injury. If that time passes, and you haven’t settled your claim, you will lose your right to sue the at-fault party. Statute of Limitations may vary from state-to-state.


Contact GPW Today!

GPW’s medical malpractice lawyers have the experience and track record you need. We will thoroughly investigate and aggressively pursue your case, working to get you and your loved ones the compensation you deserve.

Naveed Saleh, MD “Top causes of medical malpractice” MDLinx, (July 16, 2019). [link]
“Fact Sheet: Caps on Compensatory Damages: A State Law Summary” Center for Justice & Democracy at New York Law School, (August 22, 2020). [link]
George Gore & Janet Smith, “Anesthesia practice: avoiding legal liability” The Free Library, (April 1, 1997). [link]

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