When it comes to the law, we know that it doesn’t always line up with what we expect. Why is that? Well most of U.S. law is based on the centuries old ‘common law’ principles. These principles may seem antiquated today but really they have been updated for our society and values. How has this shaped the face of medical malpractice law today?
Doctors and other medical professionals and health care facilities are expected to uphold a standard of care. This is because they owe a responsibility to their patients to operate at a certain level. Humans aren’t perfect and neither are organizations, so sometimes things happen that can injure patients utilizing healthcare. Thus medical malpractice law exists to fill in the grey area between criminal acts and negligent acts that result in injury.
To be clear, most medically related injuries are not criminal in nature. They are generally, accidents, so to speak. So when a person is wrongfully injured, say due to surgical accident, many people’s first thought is to seek retribution. When injured in a medical malpractice situation, the best place to seek retribution for injury is to go through the trial court system and allege the instance(s) of negligence that resulted in injury.
State law will determine how these cases are handled from here-on-out. Lawsuits alleging medical malpractice are generally filed in a state trial court to begin with. Such trial courts are said to have jurisdiction over medical malpractice cases, which is the legal authority to hear and decide the case. Specific state legal rules guide venue and jurisdiction in each state, for each medical malpractice case.
Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, “An Introduction to Medical malpractice in the United States,” Accessed Dec. 11, 2017