When is a Medical Injury Considered Malpractice?

Photo of injured manA 16-year-old New Jersey teen was recently awarded $17 million after suffering damage to her thalamus during a medical procedure. The incident occurred when the teen was seven years old. She was hospitalized with pneumonia so severe that one part of her lung was beyond the point of treating with antibiotics. Instead, her medical care providers decided to remove the diseased portion of the lung. After the removal, a pediatric pulmonologist allegedly failed to properly wean the teen off of her sedation, which she had been on for 10 days. After her ventilator was removed, the teen stopped breathing, unnoticed by the doctors. By the time doctors acted, the teen’s heart had stopped.

During a 35-minute period of unconsciousness, the teen suffered damage to her thalamus. That damage continues to affect her every day. She struggles to do most normal routine tasks; for example, when sworn in to testify against the doctors, she was unable to raise the correct hand. She suffers cognitive symptoms of the damage including an inability to perform multi-step sequencing in mental processes.

When Does an Injury Qualify as Medical Malpractice?

Not every procedure that ends with a bad outcome is malpractice. There are three characteristics that a claim must have for it to be considered medical malpractice under the law.

  1. A medical worker with a professional relationship to the patient commits a violation of the standard of care. The standard of care is acceptable medical treatment by reasonably prudent health care professionals under like or similar circumstances. If a violation occurs, negligence can be established.
  2. That negligence leads to an injury. The victim must be able to show that the injury would not have occurred in the absence of negligence.
  3. The injury resulted in significant damages for the victim. These cases are often very expensive to pursue. As such, without significant damages, the cost of pursuing a case can easily surpass the potential recovery. Significant damages can include a combination of lost income, medical bills past and future, disability and more.

Our law firm is experienced in handling medical negligence cases throughout New Jersey.


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