What do I do if I have a problem with a doctor's care?

In many states, the medical profession has been granted certain special protections. For instance, some states have imposed a cap or a limitation on the amount of money that can be recovered against any doctor or health care provider as a result of their negligence. The reason for that cap on damages is to help hold down the cost of medical malpractice insurance coverage for health care providers.

In addition, some states have imposed special requirements that must be met before a doctor or a health care provider can be sued. In some cases the plaintiff must have the claim reviewed by a medical malpractice review panel that makes a preliminary determination whether the claim has any merit. The decision rendered by the medical malpractice review panel may in some instances be admissible in evidence if the case is tried in front of a jury.

A professional liability claim is different from any other type of tort claim that may be asserted. With these types of claims, the plaintiff typically has to present testimony from a witness who has some expertise in that field as to the standard of care that should have been adhered to by that professional person. Evidence must then be presented as to the breach of that standard of care and how that breach caused damage to the plaintiff.

In a medical malpractice action, that testimony typically comes from another medical doctor in the same field of expertise as the defendant that is being sued. There could be some instances when expert testimony would not be necessary because the negligence is so obvious that there is no need to bring an expert witness into court to explain the technical aspects of the case.

For instance, if a patient goes into the hospital for an opera­tion on the right knee and the doctor ends up operating on the left knee, there is no need for expert testimony to establish that the standard of care is that the doctor should have operated on the right knee. Any reasonable person would know that the operation on the left knee was unnecessary and therefore was negligent on the doctor's part.

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