Not all medical injuries are the result of negligence. In fact, a large majority are due to inherent risks that cannot be prevented. Preventable errors that cause injury, on the other hand, are considered negligent. However, how “preventable” is determined is not always clear. Unfortunately, because of this complex classification, a person injured by a healthcare professional may wonder if they have a medical malpractice case or not. To better identify malpractice, you must first understand the differences between errors, events, and actual negligence.
There is a distinct difference between an adverse event and actual negligence. Adverse events are injuries or errors that occur during the course of medical treatment. For example, a patient has an infection and is prescribed an antibiotic. The patient develops an allergic reaction to that antibiotic, but this reaction was unforeseeable, since there was nothing in their medical history to indicate they would have such reaction. Nevertheless, the patient suffers from temporary kidney failure and is hospitalized. While an error occurred and the patient was injured, this was not a negligent act. The physician did not fail to provide a standard level of care, and the injury was not preventable because the patient’s history did not indicate the chance of a reaction. Now, had the patient’s medical history stated the patient was allergic to that antibiotic and the physician prescribed it anyway, then there would be a claim for malpractice. According to a Harvard Public Health Study, it was estimated that only 27% of adverse events were caused by negligence.
If a patient has an unsatisfying result from a medical treatment or procedure, that does not constitute malpractice. For example, a patient is informed that a procedure has the potential to restore 80% of their motor function. But, after the procedure is complete, the patient only has 60% restored. Because they were aware that they may not reach the full threshold, and the physician provided the standard level of care required – meaning no error was made during the procedure to account for the lower percentage – there is no malpractice. If, however, the physician made a critical error that made the patient unable to reach the 80% mark, then they could be considered negligent.
Establishing negligence requires several key elements that a medical malpractice attorney can quickly identify. If you suspect you are the victim of a physician or healthcare provider’s negligence, contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC for a consultation. We can review the facts of your case and help determine if your situation involves a legitimate error or negligence. Call 866-479-7909 or contact us online to request a consultation appointment.