All medical professionals must treat every patient with skill and care. In Australia, we’re lucky to have doctors, dentists, nurses and other health professionals who bring a wealth of skill and care to their job. But sometimes medical treatment doesn’t meet the minimum standard of care for various reasons – and this can cause serious physical or psychological harm to the patient. This is called medical negligence or medical malpractice.
If this has happened to you or a loved one, you may be able to claim compensation for your pain and suffering, and other related expenses. But it’s important to understand what medical negligence is and what the top causes of medical negligence are.
What is medical negligence?
Medical professionals have a ‘duty of care’ for patients, which means they have to meet a standard of knowledge and performance. If they breach their duty of care and cause direct harm to you, either physically or mentally, that’s medical negligence.
Understanding medical negligence is key to making a successful claim compensation claim. Sometimes a patient’s treatment won’t have the outcome they were hoping for – it might even make their condition worse. But this isn’t usually medical negligence.
Similarly, a patient might agree to certain risks that then arise during the treatment and cause a bad result. But if the risk is handled properly by the medical professional and the patient accepted the risk, a court might not see this as medical malpractice either.
Basically, being unhappy with the outcome of your treatment doesn’t mean the medical professional was negligent. But there could be more to the story – which is why you should always talk to an expert medical negligence lawyer to find out if you have a case.
Examples of medical negligence
These are some of the top causes of medical negligence:
- Procedures on incorrect body parts or wrong person
- Medicine prescription errors
- Lack of warnings about medicine side effects or procedure risks
- Incorrect or lack of diagnosis of a condition
- Dental malpractice, such as nerve damage, anaesthesia errors, improper tooth extraction
- Delays in providing test results
- Mistakes during births or pre-natal care
- Plastic or cosmetic surgery malpractice
Top causes of medical negligence
With all the processes and laws in place to protect patients, why does medical malpractice still occur in Australia? There are several common causes:
- Lack of training and supervision for inexperienced medical professionals. Every patient is different and some have complex issues. So medical professionals need to have experience dealing with multiple issues and medications.
- Lack of processes and information to help medical professionals make the right decisions in the right way.
- Health professionals working too many hours, or working under huge time pressure, and becoming exhausted. They’re more likely to lose concentration and make mistakes.
- New medical professionals in unfamiliar workplaces with patients they haven’t worked with before.
- Lack of communication among a team of medical professionals who are working on a patient with multiple issues and needs.
- Lack of communication with a patient to get vital information – especially patients who are older, have a speech impediment, don’t speak English or have a disability.
Despite our top-class medical system in Australia, people do make mistakes and any of these can cause medical malpractice to occur.
Top injuries caused by medical negligence
These medical mistakes can result in a range of physical injury to patients, including:
- the worsening of a pre-existing condition
- a new problem, such as nerve damage, scarring or paralysis
- a permanent injury, such as amputation
- a coma
- or even death as a result of medical negligence.
Top issues that arise from medical negligence
As well as these physical injuries, other issues can arise from medical negligence. A bad experience can leave patients with problems for years afterwards, even for life.
They may have issues with:
- fear and distrust of medical professionals
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- anxiety or depression.
This applies to the patients themselves, but can also apply to someone who has lost a loved one due to medical negligence.
Damages you can claim for medical negligence
If you have experienced medical malpractice as a patient (or you’re the dependent of a patient who has died due to medical malpractice), you may be eligible to make a claim to receive compensation (i.e. damages).
This compensation is for the harm or loss you have suffered due to your medical professional’s mistakes. It can cover:
- your pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life
- past and future lost income
- treatment and rehabilitation
- any home or car modifications you need.
How to prove medical negligence
Unfortunately, proving medical negligence is rarely easy. For a court to grant your compensation, you need to show that the medical professional:
- didn’t behave the way a competent medical professional would’ve behaved in the same situation
- directly caused the injury to you due to their action/inaction.
The key is to show that the health professional breached their duty of care towards you through negligence and that it directly caused your injury. Basically, you wouldn’t have suffered harm otherwise.
This isn’t easy to prove. Most medical malpractice cases are complex, as they involve complex procedures and technical skills. You need the right kind of evidence about these issues for a court to find in your favour.
Additionally, medical experts tend to disagree with each other, so the court must sort through the complexity to find the truth. Once they decide all this, the court can assess the damages you’re owed.
Read more about the effects of medication errors and how to make a claim.
Get assistance from Main Lawyers
As you can see, it can be difficult to prove that a medical professional has been negligent and caused injury to you. You need the right medical negligence lawyers with experience dealing with the top causes of medical negligence to ensure you’re rights are protected when making a medical claim.
At Main Lawyers, we have many successful medical malpractice cases under our belt. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation so you can tell us what’s happened and we can determine if you have a case.
With our no-win, no-fee arrangement, you’ve got nothing to lose. Contact us today to find out all your options.