Are Doctors Allowed to Make Mistakes?

Updated on April 9, 2021

It is only human to make mistakes. But mistakes by a physician may result in life-altering consequences for the patients under their care. As a result, patients can hold their treating doctors legally responsible for injuries caused by medical mistakes. However, the entire process is much more complicated than just pointing out the mistake.  

Medical Malpractice Defined 

A blatant mistake by a doctor constitutes medical malpractice. But the law seeks to protect doctors from the many frivolous lawsuits they would face if no controls were in place. Medical malpractice claimants must meet a high-standard when filing a claim. They must also demonstrate good faith.  

Florida recognizes medical malpractice as a breach in the level of care that represents the expected standard for medical professionals. A civil court will establish normal care standards by considering the level of care and treatment the patient would receive from similar health care professionals in the same set of circumstances. 

The most common examples of medical malpractice include:

  • Late or incorrect diagnosis
  • Surgical errors
  • Any problem with lab results
  • Wrong prescriptions or dosage suggestions
  • Surgical instruments left inside the body. 

When trying to understand medical malpractice, it may help to be able to identify the actions and circumstances that do not constitute malpractice, such as: 

What to Do When a Doctor Makes a Mistake 

Patients need to first understand that they also have rights protected under the law. Patients can wait as long as two years after being injured by a doctor to file a lawsuit. This waiting period may seem like a long time, but it is less time than the patient would enjoy with other types of personal injury claims. 

This deadline gives injured patients enough time to speak with their personal injury attorneys to help them build a strong case. Many hospitals and doctors are protected by armies of doctors to help them evade liability. Oftentimes, it is cheaper to pay those lawyers than pay patients millions of dollars in compensation. 

Proving Medical Malpractice 

Patients bear the burden of proof when they file a medical malpractice lawsuit. A list of factors needs to be proven for a successful claim. 

Doctor-Patient Relationship 

A clear demonstration of a doctor-client relationship must happen before a doctor must answer to malpractice allegations. Both parties must agree to this relationship that is activated whenever a patient shows up for an appointment or chooses a doctor to perform a procedure on them. A relationship between a doctor and a patient does not happen after several online discussions or friendly chat sessions.  

Failed Standard of Care 

Plaintiffs must show that another doctor working in the same situations would have delivered a higher standard of care than the doctor accused of malpractice. Most experts view this element as the most difficult for plaintiffs to prove.  


A direct link between the actions of a doctor and a patient injury is necessary to establish negligence. A doctor must also have access to information being accused of negligence. For example, a patient claiming their doctor failed to diagnose their brain cancer might lose their case if they had suffered from headaches they did not discuss with their doctor. 

Quantifiable Damages 

Mistakes made by a doctor must cause harm to a patient for a medical malpractice lawsuit to become successful. A doctor’s failure to wash their hands is legally inconsequential if no harm is done to the patient. But if a patient suffers an infection because the doctor did not wash their hands, medical malpractice happens.  

The Bottom Line

Doctors are prone to mistakes like anyone else, but by the nature of their jobs, errors can become serious for a patient. All doctors who deliver a substandard level of care while in a doctor-patient relationship may become liable for medical malpractice.

As a journalist, Leland D. Bengtson dedicated most of his career to law reporting. He aims to draw in the public and make people more interested in the field. He is active on multiple platforms to increase his outreach to the public. Leland tirelessly covers all types of legal issues, but he has a personal preference for medical malpractice. This is mainly because he witnessed the implications of medical malpractice on a family member.

Throughout the year, our writers feature fresh, in-depth, and relevant information for our audience of 40,000+ healthcare leaders and professionals. As a healthcare business publication, we cover and cherish our relationship with the entire health care industry including administrators, nurses, physicians, physical therapists, pharmacists, and more. We cover a broad spectrum from hospitals to medical offices to outpatient services to eye surgery centers to university settings. We focus on rehabilitation, nursing homes, home care, hospice as well as men’s health, women’s heath, and pediatrics.