When you visit the doctor, you expect to get quality care and advice. Try as doctors might, they're never going to do their job perfectly. However, there is a line between an unanticipated mishap and medical practice. How can you tell, though, if an incident falls on one side of the line or the other?
First, you have to have a doctor-patient relationship. Legally, a doctor establishes a binding relationship with a patient when they agree to provide care or act to provide it. When you or your insurer pays the doctor, that establishes a doctor-patient relationship. Conversely, if you ask the doctor who lives next door to answer a question, that does not.
Notably, cash isn't the key. A medical malpractice lawyer would still take an interest in a case involving an uninsured person who went to the ER and suffered an injury due to a doctor's care. The doctor-patient relationship begins when the ER doctor starts handling the case.
Standard of Care
Every medical professional has a duty of care. This means they should make every effort to use appropriate equipment, techniques, and know-how to administer treatment.
A doctor's duty of care then opens questions about the standard of care. Suppose an EMT is treating an accident victim on the way to the hospital. The law recognizes this is a tough situation. However, the EMT still has to do things that other EMTs wouldn't immediately balk at. If an EMT failed to apply pressure or a tourniquet to a wound that was ejecting blood, that would be an extreme breach of the standard of care.
Where this gets trickier is specialized care in less common circumstances. If someone has a complex spinal disorder, there may be only a handful of people in the country who can treat it. A medical malpractice attorney may need to talk with most of the people in the field to determine what the standard of care is.
A doctor, nurse, or other professional must also take action or fail to act in ways that proximately cause the injuries. If a pharmacist gives you the wrong medication and it damages your intestinal lining, that failure is likely to be the proximate cause.
Sorting out the proximate cause can be tough in some cases. Suppose a victim comes to the ER from a car accident. The doctor messes up while trying to act quickly. How much of the injury was from the car accident versus the doctor's care? Once more, a medical malpractice lawyer may need to interview experts and examine reports to decide.
Contact a medical malpractice attorney to learn more.