Medical Malpractice Facts

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice exists in cases where a patient sustains some level of damages from a medical professional during his or her official medical duties. Damages are a legal term, but ultimately, include a number of harms that the patient sustains as the result of medical treatment, which can include exacerbated medical issues, unnecessary medical costs, untreated but otherwise treatable conditions, as well as a whole host of other issues relating to income earning capacity, costs of medical care, as well as psychological and emotional duress. Damages are grounds for a lawsuit in many cases, but other elements must exist in medical malpractice legal cases.

Medical Malpractice Guidelines

Physicians, nurses, surgeons, and any other medical professionals are required by ethical and legal standards to provide a reasonable level of care to the patient. This standard of care is ultimately predicated on ensuring patients receive the best care possible in light of current medical practices, while also not knowingly harming the patient in the process. Moreover, throughout this process, medical professionals are obligated to provide information to patients that facilitate the patient making and then giving informed consent to treatment. Ultimately, any medical professional providing treatment to patients must adhere to a litany of professional standards, which if not followed, violate the medical professional’s obligation to treat patients in an ethically responsible and professionally competent manner.

In practice, medical malpractice is defined in large part by legal standards, which ensure that medical professionals remain accountable should they violate standard routines and standards of care when treating patients. These medical malpractice legal elements, which ensure patients are receiving the same, high-quality care as all other patients, are highly case and patient-specific but minimally include:

  • Establish a viable patient-practitioner relationship: This typically occurs once a professional agrees to see and treat any patient for any number of medical issues
  • With this relationship established, the practitioner now is legally obligated to provide the patient with a reasonable standard of care
  • Reasonable standard of care, or what constitutes proper medical treatment, is defined as the normal process for addressing the symptoms or medical issues affecting a patient in the eyes of the peers of a given medical professional based on his or her field or subspecialty
  • Failure to provide a reasonable standard of care is technically medical malpractice
  • Legal claims against practitioners for medical malpractice require, however, proving damages as the result of professional medical mistakes, errors in judgment, or failure to treat a patient’s condition

Basic Rules Governing Medical Malpractice

imgWhen a patient seeks out medical care, and a medical professional agrees to deal with a patient, a patient-provider relationship is established. At this point, doctors are ethically and legally bound to provide a standard of care commensurate with industry standards. These standards, while defined by the medical community, will vary depending on the patient, the context of the treatment provided, and the nature of the medical issues facing the patient. Ultimately, the rubric for what constitutes instances of medical malpractice is expert opinions from other medical professionals in the same field, which would apply the standard of “what would a competent and ethical practitioner do when faced with the same patient?” If differences exist between the reasonable standard of care and the medical care ultimately received by a patient, negligence on some level is likely to have occurred. Failure to provide an adequate standard of care results is known as medical negligence, or medical malpractice, which if resulting in damages, is the groundwork for a viable medical malpractice claim.

Health Highlights


Surgical Malpractice - Learn what surgeries are the most problematic for patients


Dental Malpractice - What procedures lead to the most malpractice claims in the US

Malpractice Damage Caps

State by State Guide to Caps Across the US

Plastic Surgery

Plastic Surgery Malpractice - What happens after a botched surgery by a plastic surgeon

Florida Malpractice Laws

Malpractice Laws - Statute of Limitations laws in Florida

Malpractice Statute of Limitations

Each state has different Malpractice laws regarding SOL

Drug Errors

Defective Drugs and Medical Devices Common harmful drugs and devices

Questions About Medical Malpractice?