Do Personal Injury Lawyers Handle Medical Malpractice Claims?

Medical malpractice and personal injury claims are both subsets of tort law, but they differ in significant ways.

Medical malpractice refers to a situation where a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or nurse, provides substandard care that results in harm to the patient. This could be due to errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, or health management.

Personal injury claims broadly deal with injuries inflicted due to the negligence or recklessness of another party. This can encompass a wide array of situations like car accidents, slip-and-fall incidents, and product liability issues.

Personal Injury Law concept. Book and stethoscope. The Difference Between Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury claims

Medical Malpractice is a Type of Personal Injury

While medical malpractice claims are a subset of personal injury law, they are often more complex. This complexity arises from the need to prove not just negligence, which is the case in regular personal injury claims, but also the violation of the professional standard of care by a healthcare provider.

This generally requires expert testimonies to establish what the standard of care should have been under the circumstances, and how it was breached. Moreover, medical malpractice cases often involve a detailed understanding of medical procedures and terminologies, making them more challenging to handle without specialized legal knowledge.

Hence, while personal injury lawyers may handle medical malpractice cases, it is essential that they have the necessary expertise and experience in the specific field of medical malpractice.

Common Types of Personal Injury Claims

Personal injury law covers a wide range of situations, and these claims can vary significantly in terms of their nature and severity.

Here are some of the common types of personal injury claims:

  • Motor Vehicle Accidents:  These are the most common type of personal injury claims. They can involve cars, motorcycles, trucks, bicycles, pedestrians, and other road users who are injured due to the negligence of another driver.
  • Slip and Fall:  These claims arise when a person suffers an injury due to hazardous conditions on someone else’s property, such as wet floors, uneven surfaces, or insufficient lighting.
  • Product Liability:  These claims are brought forward when a defective or dangerous product causes injury to a consumer. Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers can all be held responsible in these cases.
  • Workplace Injuries:  Injuries sustained at work, whether due to heavy machinery, hazardous materials, or unsafe working conditions, can lead to personal injury claims.
  • Dog Bites:  Owners can be held responsible for injuries caused by their pets, especially if the animal has been known to be aggressive in the past.

Common Types of Medical Malpractice Claims

Medical malpractice claims encompass a specific set of incidents related to healthcare provision. These claims involve situations where a healthcare professional, through negligent actions, fails to meet the standard of care expected in their profession, resulting in harm to a patient.

Here are several common types of medical malpractice claims:

  • Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis:  When a healthcare professional fails to diagnose a patient’s condition or makes an incorrect diagnosis, it can lead to improper or delayed treatment, which can exacerbate the patient’s condition.
  • Surgical Errors:  These occur when a surgeon makes a mistake during surgery, such as performing the wrong procedure, operating on the wrong site, or leaving surgical instruments inside the patient’s body.
  • Medication Errors:  These can involve prescribing or administering the wrong drug, the incorrect dosage, or a medication that the patient is allergic to.
  • Birth Injuries:  These involve harm to a baby during the labor and delivery process due to medical negligence.
  • Failure to Treat:  This happens when a doctor fails to treat a patient’s condition appropriately, often due to attempting to treat too many patients at once or failing to refer the patient to a specialist.
  • Nursing Home Negligence:  This type of malpractice claim arises when the staff or management of a nursing home fails to provide the necessary standard of care to its residents, leading to physical, psychological, or emotional harm.
  • Plastic Surgery Errors:  Missteps during cosmetic procedures can lead to undesirable results, severe complications, or even disfigurement.
  • Wrongful Death:  This involves a claim brought forward by the family members of a patient who died as a result of medical negligence.

Medical malpractice law concept. Gavel, Themis, legal code and stethoscope on the glass table. Blue light.

What Do Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Claims Have in Common?

Both medical malpractice and personal injury claims share certain common aspects under the umbrella of civil tort law, offering avenues for injured parties to seek justice and recuperation.

Here are a few key similarities:

  • Injured Parties:  Both types of claims involve a party that has been injured due to the negligence or recklessness of another. The injury can be physical, emotional, or financial.
  • Civil Tort Law:  Medical malpractice and personal injury claims are both subsets of civil tort law. This means they are civil, not criminal, cases and involve a dispute between private parties.
  • Monetary Compensation:  In both cases, the injured party seeks monetary compensation for their injuries. This can cover economic damages such as medical bills and lost wages, as well as non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and mental anguish.
  • Negligence or Recklessness:  Both types of claims require proving that the defendant was negligent or reckless, leading to the injury of the claimant.

How Do Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Claims Differ?

While medical malpractice and personal injury claims share some common ground under tort law in Texas, there are important distinctions between the two.

  • Complexity:  Medical malpractice claims are usually more complex than other personal injury claims. They require an in-depth understanding of medical issues and procedures, and necessitate proving that a medical professional violated the standard of care, which may involve presenting complex medical evidence.
  • Issues in Dispute:  In most personal injury claims, the disputes often revolve around negligence and liability. However, in medical malpractice claims, the disputes can extend to whether the standard of care was breached and whether this breach directly caused the patient’s harm.
  • Expert Witnesses:  Medical malpractice cases in Texas often require expert witnesses to establish the standard of care and demonstrate how it was breached. This is less common in personal injury cases, where negligence and cause of injury can be easier to establish.
  • Statute of Limitations:  The Texas statute of limitations for personal injury claims is generally two years from the date of injury. For medical malpractice claims, it’s also two years, but the clock starts ticking from the date of the harmful act or omission, or from the date the harm was or could reasonably have been discovered.
  • Success Rate:  Due to their complexity, the success rate for medical malpractice claims in Texas is generally lower than for other types of personal injury cases. The burden of proof is also higher as it includes the demonstration of a violation of professional standards.
  • Cost of Pursuing:  Similarly, the cost of pursuing a medical malpractice claim may be higher due to the need for expert witnesses and an extensive investigation into medical procedures and records.
  • Caps on Damages:  In Texas, general damages (i.e., non-economic damages, like pain and suffering) in medical malpractice cases are capped at $250,000 per defendant, with a maximum of $500,000 for all defendants. There is no cap on special damages (i.e., economic damages). Personal injury claims, on the other hand, do not have a cap on damages in the state of Texas.

Due to these differences, it’s important for individuals pursuing a medical malpractice claim in Texas to seek legal representation with specific expertise in medical malpractice law.

Medical Malpractice Claims in Texas May Have Additional Filing Requirements

In addition to the standard process of filing a lawsuit, medical malpractice claims in Texas are subject to certain additional requirements in accordance with pertinent state laws. These requirements can add to the complexity of a medical malpractice case and further underscore the need for competent legal representation.

  • Pre-Suit Notice:  In accordance with Section 74.051 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, a claimant must provide each prospective defendant with written notice of their intent to file a claim at least 60 days before filing the lawsuit.
  • Expert Reports:  Under Section 74.351 of the same code, a claimant must serve each defendant with a report authored by a qualified expert that substantiates the alleged negligence. This report must be served no later than 120 days after the defendant files an answer in court.
  • Corroboration by Third-party Health Care Provider:  In some instances, the claimant may be required to have their medical records reviewed by another health care provider who did not participate in the alleged malpractice. The third-party provider would then have to verify that the claim is valid.
  • Filing a Claim with the Texas Medical Board:  If the claim involves a health care provider regulated by the Texas Medical Board, the claimant may need to file a formal complaint with the Board before initiating a lawsuit. The Board will then conduct an investigation and may take disciplinary action against the provider.

These additional requirements are not exhaustive, and the specific circumstances of your case may necessitate further actions. It is therefore imperative to consult with a Texas medical malpractice attorney to ensure all legal obligations are fulfilled and your rights are fully protected.

PROOF - 3D stock image of Red text on white background. Proof required in med mal claims.

What Do You Need to Prove in a Medical Malpractice Case?

In a medical malpractice case, the burden of proof lies on the plaintiff. This means that it’s the patient, or the patient’s representative, who must convince the court that the healthcare provider was negligent and that this negligence resulted in harm. Negligence laws vary by state in the United States, so ensure to check what the negligence laws are in the state where the medical malpractice injury occurred.

To fulfill this burden of proof, there are four fundamental elements that must be established for a successful claim:

  • Duty of Care:  The plaintiff must first demonstrate that the healthcare provider had a professional duty of care towards the patient. This means the provider had an obligation to deliver care that is consistent with the standards accepted by the medical community.
  • Breach of Duty:  The plaintiff must then prove that the healthcare provider breached this duty of care. This could involve showing that the provider failed to meet the standard of care, made a mistake, or neglected to do something necessary for the patient’s health.
  • Causation:  The plaintiff must establish a direct link between the healthcare provider’s breach of duty and the harm suffered by the patient. Essentially, they need to demonstrate that the provider’s negligence directly resulted in the patient’s injury or worsening condition.
  • Damages:  Finally, the plaintiff must exhibit the damages that resulted from this breach. This can include physical harm, psychological harm, additional medical costs, lost earnings, or pain and suffering.

Injuries That Would Not Constitute Medical Malpractice

While many injuries may occur in a healthcare setting, not all of these can be classified as instances of medical malpractice. Understanding the distinction can be crucial in determining whether to pursue a medical malpractice or personal injury claim.

Here are some examples of situations that would generally not constitute medical malpractice:

  • Unavoidable Complications:  Despite every precaution, some medical procedures come with inherent risks and may result in complications. If these complications were unavoidable and not due to the negligence or incompetence of the healthcare provider, it would not be considered medical malpractice.
  • Failure to Heal or Improve:  If a patient’s condition doesn’t improve or heal as expected, this doesn’t automatically imply medical malpractice. Medicine is not an exact science and outcomes can vary based on individual responses to treatment.
  • Adverse Reactions to Medication:  While healthcare providers are expected to be aware of common side effects, they cannot predict every patient’s unique reaction to a given medication. Unless the reaction was due to an error in prescribing, such as overlooking a known allergy, it might not constitute malpractice.
  • A Dissatisfactory Experience:  A poor bedside manner, long waiting times, or dissatisfaction with the service provided do not equate to medical malpractice. Such cases may be better suited for a complaint to the hospital or clinic administration.

In conclusion, it’s important to distinguish between a genuine case of medical malpractice and situations that, while unfortunate, are not due to a breach of the standard of care. This distinction can have a significant impact on the course of legal action to be pursued.

It’s always best to consult with an experienced attorney to correctly identify the nature of a potential claim. If you think you may have a medical malpractice claim and would like to understand more, call Thompson Law today or contact us online.

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