What is the Difference Between an Adverse Outcome and Medical Malpractice?
A patient undergoes a surgery. The doctor explains to the patient and their family that the procedure is risky and that there is a 25% chance that the patient will not survive the procedure. The patient ends up dying as a result of the procedure. Heartbroken, the family attempts to file a lawsuit against the doctor who performed the surgery. After presenting their version of events to attorneys, several attorneys decline to take the case. How does this happen?
While the family was correct to pursue the matter, attorneys are often in a difficult position when it comes to medical malpractice lawsuits. The law tends to favor doctors in these matters, and lawsuits filed against doctors are difficult to win. Further, these lawsuits tend to require certificates of merit prior to entering into litigation. So, attorneys may reject a case that they feel is too hard to win.
Medical malpractice lawyers work on contingency. This means that we only win if our client wins. The amount of time invested in a case represents a major commitment to the merits of the case. Cases that don’t meet the minimum requirements for medical malpractice may be rejected by an attorney who feels like the case is too difficult to win.
What is medical malpractice?
In some cases, a patient may die or become injured as the result of a procedure. However, that isn’t enough to prove medical malpractice. While family members may believe that the case has merit, the law may not agree. To establish that medical malpractice has occurred, a plaintiff must show that the doctor or hospital staff deviated from the prevailing standard of care in the case. This means that they operated differently and negligently from how other doctors would approach the case. The mere fact that a patient dies during a procedure would not be enough to establish medical malpractice.
In the example mentioned above, the doctor informed the patient and the family that there was a 25% chance that the patient would not survive the surgery. In that case, the patient did not survive the surgery. However, the doctor informed both the patient and their loved ones that the risk was present. The patient agreed to the procedure anyway. In that case, you have an adverse outcome, but it does not rise to the standard of medical malpractice unless the plaintiffs can establish that the doctors deviated from the prevailing standard of care for the profession. The medical malpractice attorney who heard the family’s side of events did not feel that the doctor had deviated from the prevailing standard of care. So, they refused to take the case.
That doesn’t mean that the family was wrong to consult with an attorney on the matter. But it is important to understand the difference between medical malpractice and an adverse outcome.
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The Moses Law Firm represents the interests of patients who have been injured by negligent medical doctors. Call our Atlanta medical malpractice lawyers today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.