Medical malpractice in Washington D.C. occurs when a doctor or other medical professional harms a patient by failing to competently perform his or her medical duties. Rules on whether the injured patient must notify his or her doctor about bringing a malpractice claim vary by state. However, there are some general principals and broad category rules that apply in the majority of medical malpractice claims.
In order for an injured patient to bring a medical malpractice claim, he or she needs to demonstrate a physician-patient relationship with that doctor. This relationship exists if the patient hired the doctor and the doctor agreed to be hired to treat that patient. This means someone can’t file a medical malpractice claim against a doctor who offered advice during a social event, such as a cocktail party. The issue of doctor-patient relationship frequently arises when someone consults with a physician who doesn’t treat him or her directly.
Being unhappy with medical treatment isn’t enough for a medical malpractice claim. The patient must prove that the doctor was negligent in treatment or in offering a diagnosis. To show negligence, the injured patient must prove that the doctor caused harm in a way that a competent doctor, under the same circumstances, would not have. The standard for measuring care is simply reasonably skillful and careful, not the best treatment available. In nearly every state, the patient must present a medical expert to discuss appropriate standard of medical care in proving physician negligence.
Many medical malpractice cases involve patients who were already sick or injured when they sought treatment, so there is usually an issue of causation. Sometimes, it can be hard to prove that the physician’s negligence actually caused the injury over the disease or sickness itself. The standard for proving causation is probable cause, or more likely than not. Meaning, in pursuing a medical malpractice claim, the injured patient will need to prove that it’s more likely than not that the doctor’s negligence caused the injury. Additionally, even if the doctor deviated from the standard of care, the patient needs to prove harm.