Medical malpractice refers to when a medical professional and/or healthcare organization fails to reach the standard duty of care that is required of them when managing, diagnosing, and/or treating a patient. This failure results in an injury to that patient, and is generally considered to be an act of negligence.

Medical malpractice law is what allows an injured patient to bring a claim against a negligent medical professional, as well as recover damages for the harms that were caused by their substandard conduct or negligence.

Whether a specific medical professional can be held liable for a patient’s injuries depends on the facts of each specific case, as well as the various and differing medical malpractice laws that are maintained in each state. Additionally, the standards and regulations for medical malpractice can vary between different jurisdictions that are located within the same state.

The theory of medical malpractice liability refers to which parties and/or organizations should be held legally responsible for a patient’s injuries. Generally speaking, this would be the party that breached their duty of care, and was the actual cause of the patient’s injuries. However, determining liability can be considerably difficult, largely due to the fact that medical malpractice liability frequently involves multiple parties.

An example of this would be how medical malpractice liability may be shared between both a doctor and their nurse, when their combined negligent conduct is what led to a patient’s injury. If incorrect instructions were communicated, or if one medical professional failed to correct the other, both parties may be held liable for their mistakes.

Additionally, the organization itself such as a hospital organization can sometimes be held liable for medical malpractice, especially in cases in which a medical organization’s overall policy or quality of care for patients fails to meet the necessary duty of care standard.

Some specific examples of parties who can be held liable for medical malpractice include:

  • General practitioners;
  • Nurses;
  • Hospitals;
  • Surgeons;
  • Dentists;
  • Psychiatrists;
  • Chiropractors;
  • OB/GYNs; and
  • Clerical staff.

What Is A Neonatal Injury?

Neonatal injuries are injuries sustained by an infant, either shortly after or during birth. The term “neonatal injury” is often used interchangeably with “birth injury.” However, the two terms are different, as “neonatal” refers to infants under the age of 28 days. Because of this distinction, neonatal injuries occur within the infant’s first month, while birth injuries generally refer to injuries directly associated with the childbirth process.

Both birth injuries and neonatal injuries can cause long-term and/or lifelong damage. Most specifically, cerebral palsy is often attributed to neonatal injuries. Some other examples of common neonatal injuries include:

  • Untreated or improperly treated meningitis;
  • Botched or wrongful circumcision;
  • Encephalitis;
  • Improper resuscitation after a birth incident; and
  • Cardiac arrest.

Who Can Be Held Liable For A Neonatal Injury?

Similar to who can be held liable for medical malpractice, there are many different parties who can be held liable for a neonatal injury, depending on the specific facts of each injury incident. Some specific examples of parties who could be held liable for a neonatal injury include, but may not be limited to:

  • A doctor or physician, if they were found to be negligent or engaged in any type of medical malpractice;
  • Surgeons;
  • Nurses and nursing staff, such as through negligent care or handling of the infant; and
  • Those in charge of medicines or pharmacy matters.

How Is Medical Misdiagnosis Associated With Neonatal Injury?

A common liability issue associated with neonatal injury would be a misdiagnosis, or a failure to diagnose a condition in the infant. If left unchecked and untreated, this can lead to further injury and complications over time, as well as potentially reduce the infant’s quality of life. Medical misdiagnosis generally refers to a physician’s failure or delay in properly diagnosing a patient, which could justify legal action if the misdiagnosis resulted in injury of the patient or a further, unnecessary progression of the disease or condition.

Misdiagnosis claims fall under negligence and medical malpractice laws, as previously mentioned. In order to prove the physician’s liability, the plaintiff must prove all of the following elements:

  1. The medical professional owed a duty of care to the patient;
  2. They breached their duty;
  3. The breach was the actual cause of the patient’s tangible injuries; and
  4. The breach resulted in quantifiable damages that could be remedied through a monetary damages award.

There are many other ways in which medical misdiagnosis can take form, and may lead to other errors by the physician and/or medical staff. Some examples of this include:

  • Failure To Diagnose: The physician completely fails to properly diagnose or detect an existing condition. An example of this would be how the person may be suffering from various symptoms, but the doctor fails to notice the connection between the symptoms and the underlying condition;
  • Misdiagnosis: The physician lists the cause of illness as one disease, when it is actually another;
  • Delayed Diagnosis: The physician is unable to make a proper diagnosis until much later, when further injury may have occurred, and is likely caused by the physician’s inattention;
  • Improper Treatment: If the physician has made an incorrect diagnosis, this may result in erroneous or unnecessary treatment which can result in further injury; and/or
  • Failure To Treat: A diagnosis may have been made, but the physician completely fails to treat it. An example of this would be if they were attempting to treat a different condition.

Are There Any Legal Remedies For Neonatal Injury?

Neonatal injuries can be considerably serious, as they can be associated with lifelong conditions and developmental issues. Because of this, legal remedies generally involve a monetary damages award in order to compensate the victim for losses associated with the neonatal injury. These generally include amounts associated with:

  • Loss of earning capacity;
  • Medical costs; and
  • Other expenses associated with the neonatal injury, such as the parents missing time at work in order to care for their now injured child. Because neonatal injuries occur very early in life, by definition, such awards should reflect the loss of future possibilities and income.

In especially serious cases, a neonatal injury can also be associated with a wrongful death claim, which can also affect the legal remedies issued to the victim’s estate. It is also important to note that some state laws may regulate the amount of damages that may be issued in a medical malpractice claim.

Damages in medical malpractice lawsuits generally address the following three areas:

  • Economic Damages: Monetary amounts that can be measured and specifically calculated based on a particular harm. Examples include those already mentioned, such as medical expenses;
  • Non-Economic Damages: Non-economic damages refer to intangible or immeasurable injuries. Examples include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of activities, and reputational damage; and
  • Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are rarely ever awarded, and are only recognized for such lawsuits in a minority of states. In states which award punitive damages, there are generally damage caps or limits placed on those amounts as well.

Other remedies that a plaintiff may request would include having a medical professional’s license suspended or revoked, and/or requiring a medical facility to update their policies as well as their health and safety procedures.

Do I Need An Attorney For Neonatal Injury?

If your child has experienced a neonatal injury, you will need to consult with an experienced and local personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney will be aware of your state’s specific laws, as well as your legal options and rights according to those laws. Additionally, they will also be able to represent you in court, as needed, while working towards a suitable damages award.