If the injured patient is able to prove – through qualified expert testimony – that the doctor committed an act of medical negligence, then the patient has satisfied the first step of proving a malpractice claim against the doctor. However, the injured patient must also be able to show that the doctor’s negligence resulted in certain injuries or damages.
A recent example of a plaintiff receiving compensation for emotional damage happened in Virginia. A patient going in for a colonoscopy chose to use his cellphone to record his examination so that he could capture the instructions his doctor would give him after the procedure. When he went home and listened to the recording, he found that as soon as he was under anesthesia, his entire surgical team began cruelly mocked and insulted him. The man sued for medical malpractice and defamation and after a 3 day trial was awarded $500,000 in damages.
Most states have case law requiring courts to simultaneously treat those who represent themselves, known as pro se (pronounced “pro say”) litigants by the same standards as a minimally competent attorney. However, they are also usually required to give pro se litigants the benefit of the doubt. This strange double standard can lead to unusual and unpredictable results.
It may not be so easy to file a personal injury lawsuit against a hospital or other health care facility, if what went wrong was limited to the quality of medical treatment you received from a doctor. That’s because in many cases, a physician is not an employee of the hospital, but an independent contractor. So, the hospital may not bear the kind of vicarious liability that typically exists in an employer-employee relationship.