Medical malpractice ranks third as one of the leading causes of death in the United States. It occurs when a health care professional neglects to follow a basic protocol, leading to injury. Patents in West Virginia have the right make a claim for damages, but the case must meet certain criteria.
Duty of care and doctor-patient relationship
An important element to prove in a medical malpractice case is the duty of care, or the obligation to provide basic care to patients. For example, a hospital has a duty to treat patients who visit emergency rooms, even if they can’t pay.
If a doctor happens to be on a flight with a sick person, then there is no duty of care to help the person. However, if they voluntarily agree to treat the patient, they are liable for any injuries they cause from negligence.
A patient-doctor relationship must also be present, which means the patient chose the doctor, and the doctor agreed to treat them. This is commonly easy to prove with medical records, but in cases of a consulting physician, it can be more difficult.
Breaching the duty of care and causing harm
The doctor must have breached the duty of care, which is often the result of negligence such as missing obvious symptoms. While the law doesn’t require doctors to be perfect, they must apply “reasonable and skillful care” when treating patients.
The doctor must apply the same standard of care that another doctor in the same field would use in a similar situation. The breach must cause the patient actual harm, which can get tricky in patients with chronic illnesses. Some professionals may try to argue that the patient would have gotten the same results no matter what they tried to do.
Medical malpractice often requires expert testimony from someone in the same field to prove negligence. If their claim is successful, patients may be able to recover damages for lost wages, pain and suffering, medical costs and emotional distress.