Medical Malpractice 101

Leighton Sr. explains the basic requirements of a viable medical malpractice claim.

Leighton Rockafellow Sr. was recently recognized by “Lawyers of Distinction” for Excellence in Medical Malpractice Law.  Leighton Sr. did his first Medical Malpractice case in 1979, and has continued to do that work ever since.

Leighton Sr. screens the calls that come into the firm for medical negligence claims.  Most of them are declined.  The public seems to have a misconception of what medical negligence or “Malpractice” is.

Malpractice means that a medical provider did not meet that degree of care or skill that a reasonable medical provider would have met under the same or similar circumstances.  It is subjective.  The question that always has to be answered is “Did the provider meet the Standard of Care?”

Like anyone else, medical providers are not perfect.  A bad result does not mean there has been malpractice.  No one can guarantee the outcome of any medical procedure.  Even with the best of care, bad outcomes happen.

So what is “Standard of Care?”  It is what the doctors say it is.  Obviously the standard of care is not met if a surgeon operates on the wrong body part, or deviates from accepted procedures without express consent from the patient.   Every medical case has to be supported by expert testimony.  Without an expert to testify that the Standard of Care was not met, there is no case.  Doctors will not give expert opinions unless it is clear that the care was substandard.

Once the first hurdle of determining if the Standard of Care has been met the next part is determining what harm was done to the patient.  The human body is a marvelous machine and for the most part can heal itself even if a mistake is made.  The “Gold Standard” for determining if a deviation from the Standard of Care is actionable is this: “Did the medical mistake cause permanent long lasting harm to the patient that will compromise the patient’s quality of life?”  Without permanent long lasting harm to the patient, the cost and time commitment to bring a case against an offending provider will outweigh any benefit that can be gained from the case.

Most of the calls that come in do involve a deviation from accepted Standards of Care.  However, most of them do not involve harm great enough to justify bringing a case.  Filing and pursuing a medical negligence case is a grave responsibility that has to be taken with extreme caution and understanding that every case is important not only to the injured person, but to the defendant health care provider as well.  In close to 40 years of doing this kind of work, Leighton Sr. has never seen a doctor intentionally cause harm to a patient.

If you think you have a medical claim, please call 520-750-1800, and Leighton Sr. will discuss it with you.  However, unless you have experienced long lasting harm that will affect your quality of life, be prepared to hear that the claim will not be pursued.

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