Medical Malpractice Jurisprudence and Implementation in the United States
The origin of the Medical Malpractice jurisprudence is derivative of the English common law. The various precedents and judgments of the state courts form an important part in the interpretation of the law. Today, the medical malpractice lawsuits are common occurrences in the American litigation circle.
The law was designed as a mechanism to encourage adversarial parties to indulge in dialogue and discourse and avoid the jury trial. The injured party must display that the medical professional had acted negligently in rendering the appropriate care. Furthermore, he must demonstrate how such negligence has resulted in the said injury.
Four primary legal ingredients must be proven to state the veracity of the claim made by the litigant. These ingredients are:
1) A professional duty as owed to the patient (litigant)
2) The alleged act was in breach of such duty
3) The said breach has resulted in the alleged injury
4) The injury has qualified the claim to seek appropriate damages
Pecuniary damages, when awarded, are known to take into account the economic loss as well as the non-economic loss such as mental trauma and pain.
The common law precept behind this rule of strict liability is based on the Principle of Reasonable Care. The principle applies to every person who belongs to a learned profession where skills and knowledge are practically applied. According to this doctrine, such an individual by virtue of his specificity of knowledge and application owes a reasonable degree of care and caution.
The principle was first cited in the US in the 1800s. However, since the 1960s, the frequency of such kinds of litigation involving medical malpractices has increased. The principle was recently applied to a lot of cases, including the Zantac litigation by Shouse Law Group.
Today medical malpractice lawsuits are filed by aggrieved litigants (erstwhile patients) and is a common occurrence in the United States. A survey of arthroplasty surgeons claimed that around 70% of them were sued at least once in their career.
In the United States, medical malpractice is governed as per the statutory enactments respective to each state. The appropriate legal remedy in such cases is mostly accorded in the form of monetary compensation when such negligent conduct is proven. Despite this, for a successful claim, a litigant must also establish a correlation between gross misconduct, negligence and the injury caused.
However, an exception to this is the calculation of the statutory limitation for filing the lawsuit. By the Doctrine of Discovery a statutory limitation “clock” ticks from the time that such discovery was made regarding the complication. The onus on the claimant is to prove that the lawsuit was filed when the problem identified due to the malpractice.
Another disqualification a litigant faces if the onus remains unproven. The general burden of proof is on the petitioner claimant. If such allegations are not established beyond a reasonable doubt, the claim is not upheld.
Thus, in these situations, the medical malpractice litigation scene is quite different in the US as compared to common law countries. Though the general rule of law and the principles have been borrowed from English Common law, their practice remains vastly different.
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