When Does Something Become Medical Malpractice?

The feeling that you were a victim of medical malpractice can be terrible to deal with. You may be wondering whether it's time to take your case to a medical malpractice law firm. At the same time, you might also wonder whether what happened was bad enough to qualify as malpractice and what point it may become a form of wrongdoing. First, you should examine these issues from a legal perspective.

Was There Negligence, Recklessness, or Malice?

One of the first things a medical malpractice lawyer will want to examine is whether the practitioner's conduct meets the legal standard of being negligent, reckless, or malicious. Negligence can occur in medical settings whenever an expected level of care in the profession isn't met. For example, nurses failing to redo dressing regularly would be negligent.

Reckless in the medical world usually arises from either doing things too quickly or using techniques that are considered badly outdated. The standard here is whether another professional in the field would consider an action shocking. Suppose a doctor used a procedure that had been banned by the FDA more than a decade ago. That would likely be deemed reckless because they must keep up with government warnings about procedures.

Malice through deliberate actions may seem like an unlikely thing to occur in the medical world, but it has been known to happen. There was even an extreme case involving a doctor who branded his initials into the organs of patients.

Was There a Legally Binding Relationship?

A patient has to enter into a professional's care for the practitioner's actions to constitute malpractice. If someone casually asks their neighbor who happens to be a nurse about recommendations for cold pills, they can't pursue a claim against the nurse if the pills cause an adverse reaction.

To establish a legally binding relationship, one of two things has to happen. First, there's the everyday scenario where someone goes to a doctor and actively seeks care. The doctor openly accepts the case and then proceeds to assist the patient. Second, there are emergency scenarios where a doctor takes on a patient who has come into a hospital where they were currently on call.

In both instances, the doctor has to take on the patient. The doctor also has to be compensated for their work, usually through their practice or through a health organization like a hospital, even if the patient wasn't paying for it.