Medical Malpractice Information Center

Medical malpractice is not limited to medical doctors. It applies also to osteopaths, nurses, dentists, health care facilities and others providing health care services. If you have questions about a potential medical malpractice claim, contact our firm to schedule a consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Attorney W. Scott Sonntag, with law offices based in Columbia, Maryland, seeks financial redress for medical malpractice victims and their families in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore metro areas. Scott Sonntag has over 30 years of experience in the field, including 17 years of capable defense work that gives him valuable insight into opposition strategies and credibility with insurers and other lawyers. A veteran of over 200 trials and thousands of settlements, Mr. Sonntag is a first-call resource for many D.C. and Baltimore attorneys focusing on other types of law.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Malpractice

Q: What is medical malpractice?

A: Medical malpractice is when the treatment given to a patient by a professional health care provider (such as a doctor, nurse, dentist, technician, hospital worker or hospital) deviates from the standard of care met by those with similar training and experience, causing harm to that patient.

Q: Does someone who is not satisfied with the results of his or her surgery have a malpractice case?

A: Not necessarily. In general, there are no guarantees of medical results, and unexpected or unsuccessful results do not always mean that negligence occurred. To succeed in a medical malpractice case, a plaintiff has to show an injury or damages that resulted from the doctor's deviation from the appropriate standard of care.

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Medical Malpractice - An Overview

Medical malpractice occurs when a negligent act (or omission) by a doctor or other medical professional results harm to a patient. Negligence by a medical professional could include an error in diagnosis, treatment or illness management, and could happen during a medical procedure, test, evaluation or surgery. If such negligence results in injury to the patient, a case could arise against a doctor if his or her actions deviated from generally accepted standards of practice; against a hospital for providing improper care protocols, including problems with medications, sanitation or nursing staff levels; or against local, state or federal agencies and entities that operate hospital facilities.

Medical malpractice laws are designed to protect patients' rights to compensation if they are injured as the result of negligence. However, malpractice suits can be complex and costly to take to trial. While theoretically you could seek compensation for any injury caused by the negligence of a health care provider, regardless of its seriousness, the time and money involved make it unrealistic to sue for an injury that is minor or heals quickly. If you believe you have a legitimate medical malpractice claim, it is important to consult with an attorney at Law Offices of W. Scott Sonntag, P.A. in Columbia, Maryland, who can help you determine whether your claim is worth pursuing.

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Understanding Informed Consent

In many situations where medical care or treatment is provided to an individual, medical professionals are required to obtain the patient's "informed consent." Although the specific definition of informed consent varies from state to state, it essentially means that the patient has knowingly decided to move forward with medical care after receiving the level of information about the potential benefits, risks and alternatives involved that a reasonably prudent medical provider would have given in a similar circumstance. If the health care provider fails to obtain informed consent, the patient may have a legal claim for damages.

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Responsible Parties in Medical Malpractice Actions

Medical malpractice actions are not strictly limited to medical doctors. They can also be brought against nurses, dentists, osteopaths, health care facilities, chiropractors, naturopaths, complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) providers and others providing medical services, such as clinics, surgery centers and nursing homes.

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Proving Your Case - Causation

To establish a case for medical malpractice, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, the plaintiff suffered an injury, and that the injury was caused by the doctor or other medical professional's negligence. Proof of causation can be a particularly difficult issue in a medical malpractice case.

For one thing, the injuries generally involved in medical malpractice cases require specific medical training to understand, and the normal plaintiff may not know the cause of such injuries. In addition, injuries could be exacerbated by the underlying condition(s) for which plaintiff was seeking treatment, so it can be hard to tell the true extent that the negligence itself resulted in harm.

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Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

Damages are a critical element of a medical malpractice case, and the plaintiff cannot recover damages for injuries that did not result from the doctor's conduct. Therefore, the plaintiff must establish a causal connection the plaintiff's injury and the defendant's negligence. Generally, there are two types of damages available to a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case: compensatory damages and punitive damages.

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Medical Malpractice Resource Links

National Patient Safety Foundation
The NPSF website features information about patient safety.

U.S. Agency for Health Care Research & Quality
Provides information and links about patient safety, tips for patients and other general health information.

Patient Safety
Information about the delivery of safe, high-quality patient care, provided by The Joint Commission, the governing body that provides health care accreditation to institutions around the country.

Medical Liability/Medical Malpractice Laws
A chart summarizing state medical malpractice laws, provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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