Most of us realize that members of our medical profession sometimes operate under difficult conditions. However, where medical negligence is clear and damages are suffered as a result of that negligence, a patient may sue the negligent doctor and/or the hospital.
A medical negligence action is usually based on a contract between the hospital or doctor and the patient. This contract implies that reasonable skill and care will be exercised in the medical treatment. A patient, in order to win with the claim, would have to prove, among other things, that the doctor or health worker was negligent and damages were suffered as a direct result of that negligence.
The courts ultimately decide whether the doctor has been negligent or not. They often rely on the expert evidence of qualified medical professionals. What may seem to you to be gross negligence may well be viewed differently by the courts and by medical professionals.
What damages can be claimed?
First, a patient can claim hospital and medical expenses (both past and future) which resulted directly from the doctor's negligence. Second, if income is lost as a direct result of negligence, the loss of earnings can be claimed. Finally, the patient can claim pain and suffering, emotional shock, disability, disfigurement, and the loss of the amenities of life. These damages are known as "general damages."
Should the negligence result in the patient's death, the executor of the deceased's estate can claim reimbursement of funeral expenses. Where the deceased had been financially supporting dependents prior to his or her death, those dependents may have a claim for loss of support.
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