What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Medical malpractice ranks behind heart disease and cancer. Given this startling statistic, a person is likely to wonder what constitutes medical malpractice.

Basic Definition of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is defined as a healthcare provider being derelict in a professional duty, a failure to exercise appropriately an ordinary degree of professional skill, that results in a loss or injury to a patient.

Proving Medical Malpractice

In order for a person to prove medical malpractice, or that a healthcare provider has breached a duty of care owed to a patient, an injured person must demonstrate:

  • A duty of care was owed by a healthcare provider
  • A healthcare provider violated the duty of care
  • The patient suffered injury
  • The injury was caused by the healthcare provider’s breach of duty

Improper Treatment

A common type of medical malpractice is improper treatment. In this situation, a physician undertakes an improper course of treatment for a patient. An example would be a surgeon operating on the wrong leg.

Improper treatment can mean anything from the administration of the wrong medication to engaging in an overall ineffectual course of treatment when a reasonable doctor would have taken a different course.

Failure to Properly Advise of Risks

A patient has the right to make a fully informed decision about proposed medical care and treatment. In order to provide informed consent, a patient must be properly advised of the risks associated with a particular course of treatment. Another type of medical malpractice involves a doctor’s failure to properly explain the possible risks associated with a particular course of treatment.

Failure to Diagnose Properly

The failure to diagnose properly comes in two forms. First, a patient may have a malpractice claim when a doctor misdiagnoses an illness, disease, ailment, or condition altogether. Second, a patient may have a case when a doctor fails to make a diagnosis within a reasonable period of time.

Types of Compensation in a Medical Malpractice Case

When a patient is injured because of the malpractice of a healthcare provider, they may be entitled to compensation. This can include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish and permanent disability.

In reality, a victim of medical malpractice may suffer losses into the future. Therefore, he or she may be entitled to compensation not only for current losses but also for those that reasonably can be expected to be incurred in the future.

Legal Representation in a Medical Malpractice Case

Protecting a person’s rights and interests in a medical malpractice case often demands the assistance of a skilled, capable DC medical malpractice lawyer. If you’ve been injured by the negligence of a medical professional, it may be in your best interest to contact a skilled attorney, today.


Thanks to our friends and co-contributors at Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for their added insight into medical malpractice cases.