The First Question in a Medical Injury Claim: Do the Allegations Fall Under Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice claims often require additional evidence, including expert testimony, affidavits, and special administrative procedures. For this reason, the first issue in any case alleging the negligence of a medical provider may be whether or not the allegations fall under medical malpractice in the first place.

In a recent case, a plaintiff filed a claim based on a hospital’s alleged failure to properly maintain equipment used to sterilize surgical instruments. The plaintiff alleged that he had developed an infection after having spine surgery at the hospital, and that the infection was the result of improperly sterilized instruments. However, that state’s supreme court had to decide whether the claims actually fell under the state’s medical malpractice act, considering the definition of malpractice. The hospital argued that the plaintiff’s claim fell under the definition of malpractice in the act.

The court decided that the hospital’s failure to properly maintain its equipment fell under the definition of medical malpractice. In addition, since the act used the term “health care provider” rather than “physician,” it included treatment related to the hospital’s capacity as a health care provider, rather than just treatment provided by a doctor there.

Finding that the claims were medical malpractice claims, the court stated that the allegations required expert medical evidence. This was required in order for the plaintiff to prove that the standard of care was breached. Although surgical instruments should be sterilized, whether the instruments were properly sterilized required medical expertise—for example, to explain which protocols must be followed in order to ensure that the instruments are sterilized. Moreover, since the court found that it was a medical malpractice case, the defendant’s claim was dismissed because the plaintiff had not followed the administrative procedures required in medical malpractice claims.

Medical Malpractice Actions

As this case demonstrated, the question of whether or not a claim falls under medical malpractice can be difficult to determine. This question is important, since if a claim is a medical malpractice claim, additional requirements may apply.

Additional Requirements in Medical Malpractice Claims

Medical malpractice claims require that a plaintiff prove the same elements as in any other negligence action. They require demonstrating that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care, and that the plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the breach of the standard of care. However, medical malpractice claims generally require additional evidence that is not required in general negligence claims.

One of these requirements is expert testimony. Expert testimony is generally needed to establish the standard of care and the defendant’s failure to meet the standard of care. This testimony is required because generally jurors are not experienced in the practice of medicine, and it would be difficult for them to determine the standard of care without testimony from an expert. However, there may be exceptions to this requirement, such as when the negligence was so extreme that the negligence is obvious.

Another requirement is an affidavit. In a medical malpractice action in Illinois, normally a plaintiff must file an affidavit that states that the plaintiff consulted with a medical expert who has practiced or taught in the last six years in the same area of medicine at issue in the case. The affidavit must also state that the expert is qualified in the area, based on demonstrated competence or experience, and that the expert found the basis for the lawsuit reasonable. Depending on the nature of the case and where it is filed, different requirements may apply.

Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you have been injured due to the negligent conduct of a health care provider, you may have a medical malpractice claim. Medical malpractice actions often require additional evidence, including expert testimony and affidavits. The Chicago lawyers at Moll Law Group are available to advise people who have suffered from a misdiagnosis, a surgical error, a birth injury, or another form of medical malpractice. Billions of dollars have been recovered in cases in which we were involved. Call us at 312-462-1700 or contact us through our online form to arrange a free initial consultation.

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