What Are Some Common Medical Malpractice Defenses?

Updated on August 16, 2019

At some point in their careers, many doctors will be accused of medical malpractice. Although medical malpractice is common, accusation of it are sometimes false. Being sued for medical malpractice can be shocking for doctors. A legal trial can be stressful and time consuming, as well as harmful for the doctor’s well being. Being accused of medical malpractice can be detrimental for a doctor’s career and can extend into their personal life. Occasionally, mistakes can occur under a doctor’s care, but not every mistake is medical malpractice. 

Confusion about what counts as medical malpractice can lead to more and more doctors being accused. It can also occur from a patient being unhappy with the treatments they’ve received, even if nothing was done wrong to them. When a doctor, or any other medical professional, is accused of medical malpractice, there are some common defenses. Medical malpractice lawyers defending the accused will be able to determine if it really is medical malpractice.

Treatment met the standard of care

While each person might receive a unique treatment for their specific issues, there is a standard level of care that needs to be given to them. This level is an average of how others with the same training and experience would act in a similar situation. Patients deserve to be treated at this level. To have a medical malpractice case, you need to be able to show that the medical professional provided treatment and care below the standard level of care. Someone accusing a medical professional of medical malpractice is likely not aware of the standard of care for their treatment. A doctor defending themselves against medical malpractice might bring in doctors who specialize in this treatment or procedure, or who have the same experience. Only other professionals who are qualified are able to say what should have been done or what they would do when in a similar situation. 

Neglect from the patient 

Medical malpractice holds the medical professional at fault for any damages. While they’re expected to not do any additional harm to their patients, they aren’t the only ones who can cause harm. Although it’s not always intentional, a patient may act in a way that causes damage or harm to themselves. A patient who did something to cause injury to themselves can’t always hold a doctor at fault for this because they did it to themselves. Patients may neglect to follow a doctor’s orders or did something unrelated that resulted in further injury and harm. If a doctor did commit medical malpractice, they still might even show that a patient did something to worsen the situation. Although the person is a victim of medical malpractice in this case, they’re supposed to act in a way that won’t make their situation worse. 

Good Samaritan laws

For medical malpractice to have occurred, there needs to be an established relationship between the patient and the doctor. Good Samaritan laws exist so that in case of an emergency, no one voluntarily helping can be held accountable for any issues that might occur. If a doctor helps in the case of a medical emergency, they might take on the responsibility of helping, but they can’t always be held accountable for mistakes. A doctor, in this case, is still expected to provide the standard level of care, but they could be protected from any legal issues. 

Statute of limitations

Like any legal case, medical malpractice has a statute of limitations. This time varies from state to state, but actions typically have to be taken within a certain amount of time. The statute of limitations for medical malpractice doesn’t always begin the moment it occurs. Injuries and complications can sometimes take a while to occur after, which is when it would begin. If a person makes their accusation past the statute of limitations, nothing can come from it. A doctor who did commit medical malpractice, but years ago, could defend themselves with this. 

Substantial minority 

Some of the more common health concerns have very routine treatments that most doctors would agree on. Occasionally, a patient requires something different. While these treatments can stray from what the normal route of regular treatment would be, they’re still allowed. Other doctors may be brought in to confirm or deny that this treatment was done appropriately. The patient, in this case, should also be aware of the treatment they’re being given and what the risks are. 

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