Medical malpractice is professional negligence by a medical provider who owes a duty to a patient, deviates from the reasonable standard of care in the health care community, and causes death or serious injury to the patient.
A medical malpractice claim can occur in any area of medicine, including ob/gyn, emergency medicine, internal medicine, and infectious disease.
Similar to other personal injury cases, the plaintiff files a lawsuit in a court with appropriate personal and subject matter jurisdiction. Between the filing of suit and the trial, the parties share information through discovery. Discovery may involve an independent medical exam of the plaintiff’s injuries by a doctor the defendant chooses.
The case may be settled pre-trial on negotiated terms. Usually the courts build into the litigation process opportunities for alternative dispute resolution such as mediation.
At trial, the plaintiff has the burden of proof to prove each element by a preponderance of evidence. Usually experts are used in a malpractice case to prove breach of the standard of care, causation, and damages. A credible expert actively practices, has experience in the area of medicine, is unbiased, and is Board Certified.
An example of a medical malpractice recovery is a case in Groton, CT, where attorney Joseph P. Zeppieri, also a retired orthopedic surgeon, recovered a $6 million verdict for a Trumbull, CT family in a medical malpractice case in Bridgeport Superior Court in Connecticut.
The attorney represented the Dwayne Kantorowski estate. The man died of cardiac arrest in 2011 at 45, after being disabled by a brain tumor. The deceased went to the emergency room at St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport with symptoms of a stroke, according to the attorney.
Physicians performed an electrocardiogram test that indicated the patient had two heart attacks previously. Though the emergency room physician recognized the heart problems on the EKG, he contacted a neurologist, based on the patient’s symptoms.
The patient was admitted to the hospital, where his own doctor did a physical exam the next day, the attorney reported. Three days later, the patient’s own doctor signed the man’s discharge papers without addressing the heart problem. Three days after that, the man went into cardiac arrest, was resuscitated, remained comatosed, and died about three weeks later. Doctors discovered one of the man’s coronary arteries was completely occluded, a condition that could have been treated, the attorney said.
After a three-week trial, the jury deliberated about 4½ hours and decided the patient’s own doctor, who the attorney reported had not read the EKG results, and the emergency room physician were each 50 percent at fault. The jury awarded $6 million in damages, but the family who sued will get only $3 million since the emergency room doctor was released from the lawsuit.
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