Written by Avvo Staff

Understanding Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

If you have been badly injured in the course of getting medical treatment, you may be able to win compensation through a medical lawsuit. Successful lawsuits usually involve situations in which a doctor or hospital was negligent or did not meet commonly accepted medical standards. Also known as "medical malpractice," this is a highly specialized area of law—hiring an experienced malpractice attorney is strongly recommended.

Types of malpractice

Medical malpractice cases can arise from a variety of situations. They may include any of the following:

  • Mistakes made during surgery
  • Errors in prescribing medication
  • Failure to diagnose your condition or improper diagnosis
  • Failure to get your consent before performing medical procedures
  • Failure to inform you about your condition

If you've been injured

If you believe you have a medical malpractice case, consult a medical malpractice attorney. Medical malpractice cases fall under a complex area of personal injury law. Malpractice cases are costly as they rely on expert witness testimony, usually from doctors and other medical professionals, in order to be successful. An experienced malpractice lawyer can help assess whether the costs of pursuing a lawsuit are worthwhile based on the strength of your case. Ordinarily, only a serious injury will justify the effort and expense of a lawsuit.

Each state has a time limit for how long you have to file a medical lawsuit after your injury. Depending on where you live, you may have as little as 6 months. If the injury is not known right away, you may be able to file soon after it is discovered. The exception is an injured child, who may have longer to decide to sue.

A review of your medical records will be required to move forward with a medical lawsuit. A medical expert will review your case and decide if malpractice led to your injury. If so, a lawsuit can proceed.

Possible outcomes of a medical lawsuit

The outcome of a malpractice suit may vary from state to state, as some states have limits on how much an individual can win in a medical malpractice lawsuit. You can win two types of compensation—actual damages and punitive damages. Your actual damages are all the costs you incurred due to the injury, plus the projected loss of future earnings. Punitive damages are additional amounts awarded when the court finds the doctor's behavior was irresponsible or deliberately reckless.

Additional resources:

Ezine Articles: The Basics of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit (

Marian Gould Gallagher Law Library: Medical Malpractice Issues-research sources (

Related Legal Guides:

Getting Medical Coverage after an Auto Accident (

Medical Power of Attorney (

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