Medical malpractice, or med mal, is often also referred to as medical negligence. Medical malpractice it is the direct act or lack of action by a health professional, in which the care provided is a deviation from the accepted standards in the medical community (often by a doctor in the same specialty). In addition, the deviation from the usual and customary standards caused injury or death to the patient. Accepted medical standards vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Typically, four elements must be present in order to prove medical malpractice:
- that a duty was owed the patient,
- that the duty was not carried out,
- that the breach resulted in an injury or death;
- and that there were damages as a result of the breach
Generally speaking, if there are no damages, either emotional or pecuniary, there is no case, regardless of any perceived negligence on the part of the health professional.
When a patient goes to the hospital, a legal duty is present as soon as the facility accepts the patient for care. If the hospital and/or health professional did not provide appropriate standard care, there is a breach. If there is a breach of standard of care and not carrying out the duty was the cause of an injury, a medical negligence lawsuit may be filed.