Law Office of Frederick J. Sette
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Medical Malpractice Attorneys face High Standards of Proof in Court

Sacramento medical malpractice attorneys must have command of numerous and complex legal details regarding health care, hospitals and their employees, and the actions of specific physicians. At Sette Law in Sacramento, our malpractice lawyers must draw information from numerous disciplines and venues to establish an injury was caused due to a physician’s, a hospital’s or a hospital employee’s malpractice. Attorneys explain that each of these areas is governed by slightly different nuances and application of existing law regarding medical malpractice.

Injury lawyers, however, point out that in each case, a defendant will be required to prove four fundamental conditions in any malpractice action in Sacramento. Our personal injury attorneys will look first to establish the injured party has a mutually agreed upon, patient-doctor relationship. This is often simple to prove when individuals hire doctors and physicians agree to treat a patient in Sacramento. Malpractice lawyers may find that direct relationship is problematic if a defendant brings charges against, say, a consulting physician who did not have direct treatment responsibilities. Our Sacramento medical malpractice lawyers add that no person can claim such a relationship with a doctor whom they overheard dispensing medical information to another person. Although, personal injury lawyers usually have little trouble affirming the doctor-patient link, this relationship is fundamental (and not always clear) in any claim of malpractice.

Secondly, lawyers will seek to establish that a physician’s diagnosis or treatment regimen was, in fact, negligent. Again, our Sacramento personal injury lawyers say this factor can be more complicated than it appears. A defendant must show that another qualified doctor in the same circumstances would not have harmed the defendant in the same manner. However, our malpractice lawyers are quick to point out that this doesn’t mean the doctor has to be the best in his or her discipline. It’s not a test of physician quality but, rather, of a doctor demonstrating ‘reasonable skill and care.’ Our Sacramento malpractice attorneys say this can often be a ‘moving target’ of proof, with competing opinions about what constitutes a lack reasonable skill and care that leads to an injury.

Malpractice lawyers ordinarily will call in an expert witness to testify about this aspect of a Sacramento malpractice case. An attorney will ask the witness – who is ordinarily a physician in the same specialty as the plaintiff – about what the standard for care is and to comment on how the plaintiff’s care was below standard and how that care caused the alleged injury. Lawyers on both sides may debate these findings. Our Sacramento malpractice lawyers further report that this bar is particularly high for physicians in a medical specialty. Their extensive education and training raises the expectations for the standard of care in disciplines such as radiology, anesthesiology, internal medicine and other medical specialties.

Sacramento malpractice attorneys at Sette Law must also demonstrate a very clear link between the  defendant’s alleged negligence and the  plaintiff’s  injuries – a challenge for plaintiffs who were suffering from an illness or injury prior to the defendant’s care. For example, if a patient has terminal cancer and dies in the midst of an operation, was it the procedure poorly done or the cancer causing the death? Malpractice lawyers must clearly establish that it was the actions of the physician that led to the fatality and not the presence of the disease. One again, the onus is on the Sacramento malpractice lawyer to ferret through medical testimony, literature and case files to establish the necessary link.

Finally, our Sacramento malpractice attorneys must show that the physician’s actions led to tangible harm and caused personal injury. Lawyers look to show physical pain and mental harm, and also consider the harm done because of medical costs and lost earnings. So, even if the plaintiff can demonstrate a doctor showed an unacceptably low standard of care, without real harm done, there is no malpractice.

Injury attorneys deal with a wide variety of malpractice cases. From news reports, the public may be aware of instances in which a sponge was left inside a patient’s body during a surgery, leading to additional harm and personal injury. Our lawyers may represent a client whose physician neglected to inform him or her that a prescription medication could cause cardiac arrest. Our Sacramento malpractice lawyers say that most of their cases involve improper treatment, a failure of a physician to properly diagnose and failing to inform patients of risks involved in procedures or treatments (including medications).

Sacramento personal injury attorneys say that, unlike some court actions, malpractice cases have a rather short statute of limitations. Since rules vary from state to state, the limits can be from six months to two years. Our Sacramento malpractice lawyers report that California requires that injured parties file actions within one year from when the date the injury was (or should have been) discovered to three years from the date it occurred. According to our personal injury attorneys, if an injured party in California files outside these limits the court will dismiss the claim – no matter how strong the evidence of medical malpractice.
Injury lawyers are also bound by California’s limits on damages awarded in cases of medical malpractice. Attorneys say the state has capped non-economic awards at $250,000 and a personal injury attorney cannot request an award beyond that amount. The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, (MICRA), passed in 1975, compensates victims for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, psychological damage and other damages that are hard to quantify in dollars and cents. Sacramento malpractice attorneys say many efforts to raise this cap have hit the ballot box over the decades. They point out that MICRA never addressed inflation and for 40 years the diminishing value of $250,000 has unfairly impacted victims of medical malpractice. But attorneys point out there is no cap on compensation for past and future medical care, on loss of income or a plaintiff’s earning ability because these matters are quantifiable as economic damages in medical malpractice.

Sacramento personal injury lawyers say this arena of law requires particular expertise and urge injured parties to seek experienced, legal representation.