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How a doctor or medical institution can defend a malpractice claim

Medical malpractice seems so cut-and-dried to the person who has been victimized by the medical error, or surgical error, or medication error. Even to an objective observer, medical malpractice usually feels like something that is clearly the fault of the medical professional or medical institution in question. However, there are many wrinkles in the system, and there are many ways that a doctor or hospital could defend the medical malpractice claim against them.

So today, let's take a look at the ways that a doctor or medical institution could establish their defense against your medical malpractice claim:

  • Your basic, run-of-the-mill defense for negligence. Medical malpractice falls under the legal umbrella of negligence, so that means any standard defense for a negligence claim is viable against a medical malpractice claim. A doctor could say that his or her methods were in line with standard protocol, and thus don't constitute medical malpractice.
  • The patient played a part in the injury. This is considered contributory negligence. An example of this is if the patient didn't follow the instructions on their medication, or if they performed an action that their doctor told them would prove consequential. 
  • Good Samaritan laws. These laws protect medical professionals in emergency situations when they are trying to help someone in a dire situation.
  • Statute of limitations. It may seem obvious, but if your claim falls outside of the window allowed by the statue of limitations, then your claim won't be considered.
  • Respectable minority principle. This one is a bit more complex. Basically, what this principle says is that if you are trying out an experimental or more extreme course of medicine, the doctor performing that course of medicine could claim that his or her care was in line with what other experts in the field of that experimental/extreme medicine consider acceptable.

Source: FindLaw, "Defenses to Medical Malpractice," Accessed Aug. 6, 2015

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