Why Is Medical Malpractice a Personal Injury Tort?

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The two leading causes of death in the U.S are heart disease and cancer, respectively. The third-leading cause of death in this country, though, may come as a surprise. According to a 2016 study conducted by Johns Hopkins University, medical malpractice may kill as many as 250,000 patients in the U.S. every year. Medical malpractice is a personal injury.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a person is injured because a health care provider deviated from widely accepted standards of care when he or she treated that patient. Isn’t there a substantive difference, though, between a careless motorist who causes a collision by running a stop sign and a physician who has taken the Hippocratic oath to do no harm but then makes a simple error? Perhaps not in the eyes of the law. Traditional personal injury actions and medical malpractice suits have many similarities, and this is why if you or a loved one has been injured by the negligence of a health care provider, personal injury lawyers may be able to provide you with assistance.

Similarities Between Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury

Medical malpractice and personal injury claims are both adjudicated under civil codes. The plaintiffs in both types of claims are individuals who have been injured through the actions or negligence of a third party. In both instances, the injured party has the right to seek compensation for the injuries that he or she has sustained.

Let’s look at these similarities a bit more closely.

  • Civil law: The U.S. has two systems of law. Whereas criminal laws exist to deter and punish offenses against society as a whole, civil laws exist to regulate the private rights of individuals. One of those rights is the right to seek compensatory damages if the actions or inactions of a careless third party either injured you or damaged your property.
  • Injured parties: In order to win a medical malpractice case, you must be able to prove that a health care provider’s carelessness caused an injury. It is not enough to demonstrate that the health care provider merely made a careless error or that he or she deviated significantly from an accepted standard of care. In the absence of patient injury, medical malpractice does not exist.
  • Compensation: The standard redress for recompensing injuries and damages caused by negligence is monetary compensation. Two types of damages may be awarded. Economic damages seek to compensate the injured party for things like medical costs related to the injury and the estimated loss of earnings. Non-economic damages compensate people for more intangible things like pain, suffering, and inconvenience.
medical malpractice

How Does Medical Malpractice Differ From Traditional Personal Injury Claims?

Despite these similarities, there are key differences in the ways that medical malpractice suits and personal injury claims are typically approached. These differences include scope, complexity, and disputes involving standards of care.

  • Scope: Personal injury claims can arise secondarily in a broad range of circumstances, including truck accidents, motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls, intentional assault, and even personal defamation. Medical malpractice actions, on the other hand, focus specifically on issues related to medical care, and they rely upon an understanding of medical issues that may seem arcane to laypersons.
  • Complexity: Since medical malpractice actions succeed or fail on the basis of an understanding of medical and scientific nuances, they typically involve the testimony of witnesses. Many states also require prospective plaintiffs to file an affidavit of merit from an attorney or witness before the court will even consider the claim. This affidavit affirms the plaintiff has sufficient grounds to file a suit.
  • Standards of care: Standards of medical care can be a controversial topic since they tend to vary widely from state to state and sometimes even from hospital to hospital. Violations of standards of medical care are difficult to prove.

Medical Malpractice Claim Outcomes

In 2012, nearly $3 billion was paid out to satisfy successful medical malpractice claims. However, according to the National Institutes of Health, between 80 and 90 percent of medical malpractice claims do not succeed.

This is why it’s so important to work with a firm that has a proven track record in this field if you think you have grounds to file this highly specific type of personal injury lawsuit. Rebenack Aronow & Mascolo L.L.P. is one such legal team. Contact our personal injury attorneys in New Brunswick today by calling (732) 247-3600 or emailing [email protected] to learn more about the ways we may be able to assist you and to schedule a no-cost initial case review. We also have an office in Somerville.

Contact Our Office

To schedule a confidential consultation, contact us online or call our offices, in New Brunswick at (732) 247-3600, in Somerville at (908) 448-2560, or in Freehold at (732) 828-2234.

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