Medical malpractice occurs when a licensed medical professional does not practice medicine in accordance with the accepted standards established by their profession and it results in harm to a patient. Medical mistakes can have a very significant impact on the lives of patients, so medical professionals are held to a higher standard of conduct both in their professional and personal lives. Patients are entitled to rely on receiving a certain level of care, and medical professionals are obliged to meet the minimum standard.
But just because a patient has a negative outcome does not automatically mean that medical malpractice has been committed. The test will be whether what is being complained of was acceptable professional conduct under the given circumstances.
No medical professional wants to be accused of making a mistake that hurts a patient. It can be damaging to both personal reputation and career opportunities. At Bertolino LLP, our medical malpractice defense attorneys defend medical professionals facing allegations of professional negligence.
What Needs to Be Proven in a Medical Malpractice Claim
A patient seeking to establish a case for medical malpractice has to prove three elements in Texas:
- The existence of a doctor-patient relationship
- The level of care given to the patient was below the acceptable standard for the particular medical practice
- The patient was damaged by the inadequate care
How a Doctor-Patient Relationship Is Established
A doctor-patient relationship is based on an agreement between a health care professional to provide medical services at the appropriate level of skill and a patient who is to receive those services. The agreement does not need to be a written contract and can be inferred based on the actions of the parties.
Doctor-patient relationships can also be established without a patient’s direct knowledge in instances where medical professionals serve in supervisory capacities or have agreed to provide services via a third-party contract.
Determining Whether the Appropriate Standard of Care Was Met
For every type of medical practice, there are established standards that are used to measure the performance of healthcare providers. For instance, a physician’s conduct will be measured against the prevailing standards for physicians in a similar practice and assessed for reasonableness given the situation. When conduct is determined to be unreasonable, it does not meet the appropriate standard of care.
Connecting a Patient’s Injury to the Medical Treatment Received
Medical malpractice involves more than a mistake made by a healthcare professional. The mistake must be linked to the patient’s injury. In Texas, that link is established by medical experts who need to provide evidence making it more likely than not that the doctor’s mistake led to the patient’s damage.
Frequent Allegations in Medical Malpractice Claims
The following alleged mistakes by medical professionals are frequently the subject of malpractice claims:
- Failure to diagnose a serious condition
- Diagnosing a condition the patient doesn’t actually have
- Surgical errors
- Birth injuries
- Failure to properly treat a patient’s condition
- Prescribing the wrong medication
- Failure to warn a patient of the risks of treatment
- Exposing a patient to unsanitary conditions resulting in infection
Defenses to Medical Malpractice Claims in Texas
A medical professional defending a medical malpractice claim will provide evidence from medical experts to prove that what was done, or not done, was within acceptable practice standards and that the patient’s injury is not caused by the provider’s mistake. Defenses against medical malpractice claims include:
- That the choices made and actions taken were reasonable and within accepted practice standards
- The treatment protocol was accepted by a credible minority of practitioners
- The patient was aware of and accepted the potential risks of treatment
- The patient’s injury was not foreseeable
- The patient was responsible for or contributed to their injury
- That some other person or entity is responsible for a patient’s injury
How Medical Malpractice Affects a Medical License in Texas
The Texas Occupations Code requires insurers providing medical malpractice insurance to report to the Texas Medical Board (TMB) any time doctors make coverage claims under their malpractice policies. The board does not typically investigate medical malpractice claims based on the reports but they do keep track of the number of claims.
If three or more separate liability lawsuits and settlements against a physician are reported within a five-year period, the board must review the competency of the physician and determine whether some type of disciplinary action is appropriate. The TMB has the authority to limit, suspend, or revoke a medical license.
If, however, in addition to a malpractice lawsuit, a complaint about a doctor’s competency is made directly to the TMB, they will investigate to determine if a violation of the Occupations Code has occurred. If a violation is found, the board may deny, revoke or impose restrictive conditions on a doctor’s medical license.
Defending Your Professional License from a Medical Malpractice Claim
Being accused of medical malpractice may mean that a lawsuit is filed against you seeking compensation for damages suffered by a patient claiming to have been hurt by you. The only penalties imposed against you are financial and are often covered by insurance.
But when a complaint is also filed with the Texas Medical Board, it is a separate matter that can affect your ability to continue to practice in your chosen profession. You cannot afford to risk your professional license by not having skilled legal representation defending your professional competence and right to practice.
The Austin professional license defense lawyers at Bertolino LLP know that medical professionals are likely to face accusations of malpractice from patients and those allegations can be very damaging to a medical career if not aggressively defended. Our attorneys build strong cases to help our clients defend their reputations and maintain their professional licenses.
Contact Our Attorneys for Help with Your Case Today
If you have been notified that your conduct is being investigated by your professional licensing agency, don’t wait to see what happens. You can contact Bertolino LLP to schedule a free consultation with a professional license defense attorney so you are prepared to successfully defend your professional integrity.