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Understanding Common Medical Malpractice Legal Terms

 10337597_s-300x225 (1).jpg Medical malpractice is an oft-used legal term that refers to a legal cause of action following a medical error. Although the term is used frequently, a number of other common medical malpractice legal terms are often misunderstood. This article provides easy-to-understand definitions of commonly used medical malpractice terms.

  • Answer: The answer is a legal document the defendant files after the complaint is served. In the answer, the defendant can deny allegations made by the plaintiff, and assert various affirmative defenses, such as comparative negligence, assumption of risk, or passing of the statute of limitations.
  • Causation: Causation is a term used to indicate that the defendant's negligent actions caused the plaintiff's injuries. Causation is necessary in order to prove liability.
  • Compensatory Damages: Compensatory damages are those money damages a defendant is ordered to pay to make the plaintiff "whole." Compensatory damages include things like lost wages, medical expenses, and emotional distress.
  • Complaint: The complaint is a legal document in which the plaintiff makes allegations to support a specific cause of action, such as medical malpractice.
  • Damages: If a patient is injured as a result of a preventable medical error, he or she may be able to recover money damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Medical malpractice damages may include the following compensatory damages: past and future medical expenses; lost wages; loss of future income; household services; pain and suffering; loss of enjoyment of life; permanent disability; and disfigurement. In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded.
  • Deposition: A deposition is part of the discovery process in which a party or witness is asked questions by an attorney for the other side. A court reporter is present and the witness provides sworn answers to the attorney's questions.
  • Discovery: The discovery phase of a medical malpractice lawsuit is a fact-gathering process that includes written interrogatories, the production of requested documents, and depositions of the parties and their witnesses. Depending on the complexity of the case, the discovery process can take several months to complete.
  • Interrogatories: Part of the discovery phrase, interrogatories are written questions asked of parties and witnesses in the lawsuit.
  • If a party is deemed legally responsible for an accident or injury, he or she will be considered liable. Liability must be assessed against a party in order for the party to be required to pay money damages.
  • Medical Experts: Because medical malpractice lawsuits involve a great deal of highly technical medical information, as well as legal analysis and assessment, medical experts are often used to put this information in context for the judge or jury. A medical expert is often necessary to answer two key questions with respect to the plaintiff's claim, namely: (1) Did the health care provider meet the standard of care?; and (2) Did the health care provider's failure to meet the standard of care cause the plaintiff's injuries?
  • Medical Malpractice: Sometimes, referred to as medical negligence, medical malpractice is a legal standard that applies when a doctor or hospital fails to provide the appropriate standard of medical care and the patient is injured or dies as a result. Medical error alone is not necessarily enough to support a medical malpractice claim, however. In order to prove medical malpractice, the plaintiff must be able to show the following: (1) you were owed a legal duty of care; (2) the medical provider did not comply with accepted standards of medical care; and (3) the medical provider's deviation from accepted standards of medical care caused your injuries.
  • Negligence: Negligence is the failure to act with the level of care that someone in a given situation should have exercised under the same circumstances.
  • Punitive damages: Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are additional money damages assessed against the defendant intended to punish the defendant and deter future wrongdoing.
  • Statute of Limitations: The statute of limitations is the time period in which an injured party can file a lawsuit. After the statute of limitations has passed, the injured party forfeits his or her right to file a lawsuit against the defendant. In Illinois, a medical malpractice lawsuit without death must be filed within two years of the date the patient became aware of, or should have become aware of, the medical negligence. If the patient dies, however, the wrongful death medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the patient's death.
  • Tort: Tort is the legal term used to refer to a wide range of civil wrongs that allow an injured party to pursue legal action against the wrongdoer. Tort laws vary from state to state, but they generally fall into one of the following three categories: (1) negligence; (2) intentional torts; and (3) strict liability torts. Medical malpractice is falls under the negligence category.
  • Wrongful Death: A wrongful death lawsuit is a legal action in which the plaintiff died as a result of the defendant's negligence.

If you were the victim of medical error, it is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible in order to protect your legal rights and access any pertinent information. The Chicago medical malpractice law firm of Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish is dedicated to protecting the rights of medical malpractice victims and obtaining maximum financial recovery. If you pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit, we will guide you through the entire process so that you understand what to expect. If you have been the victim of medical negligence, contact the Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish to schedule a free consultation to learn more about what to do following a medical error.   Steinberg Goodman & Kalish (www.sgklawyers.com) is dedicated to protecting victims and their families. We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (888) 325-7299 or (312) 445-9084.