What makes a Medical Malpractice Case in Virginia?
Many people believe that being unhappy with a medical outcome could be a basis for a medical malpractice case. The reality is that in order to have a medical malpractice case in Virginia, you have to show that a reasonable medical standard of care was not met and that there were resulting injuries.
Question: What is Virginia’s medical standard of care, by which the acts or omissions of doctors, nurses, hospitals, and other healthcare providers are to be judged?
Answer: It is “that degree of skill and diligence practiced by a reasonably prudent practitioner in the field of practice or specialty in this Commonwealth,” according to Code of Virginia Section 8.01-581.20.
In other words, the standard of care is the level of performance and conduct that would be expected of a reasonably prudent medical practitioner with similar training under the same or similar circumstances.
What is medical malpractice in Virginia?
Under Virginia law, medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional or institution commits medical negligence that causes injury to a patient. Medical negligence happens when a medical provider breaches the standard of care – that is, the provider falls below the generally accepted procedures and practices used by medical professionals in a particular area to treat patients with a particular illness or condition.
In a medical malpractice lawsuit, expert testimony is typically used to establish:
- What the standard of care was under the circumstances
- How the medical provider breached that standard of care
- That the breach directly caused the patient’s injuries
What is a preponderance of evidence?
Preponderance of evidence is the lowest standard of proof needed. Under this standard, the burden of proof is met when a party shows a greater than 50% chance that a claim is true. If a claim is shown to be more likely true than not, the burden of proof is met.
An injured party bringing a lawsuit for medical malpractice has the burden of proof. In Virginia, that party must prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence.
What if there are multiple responsible parties?
In a medical malpractice case, there could be negligence on the part of more than one healthcare provider. For example, doctors, nurses, and a hospital all may have committed medical negligence that caused a patient’s injuries. In such cases, multiple defendants may be named in a medical malpractice lawsuit. One defendant may then blame another, casting doubt on who is liable for the patient’s injuries. In some cases, the jury may find all the named defendants liable, in which case the damages awarded may be increased.
What damages can you claim in a medical malpractice case?
The plaintiff (injured party bringing the lawsuit) has to show that he or she suffered damages as a result of the medical provider’s breach of the standard of care and the injury it caused.
In Virginia, a cap is set on medical malpractice damages. This cap applies to both compensatory and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages are paid to compensate an injured party for losses suffered, such as past and future medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning potential, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and emotional distress.
Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant and help deter similar actions in the future. If there is more than one defendant in a case, the damages cap applies to the total sum paid to the plaintiff from all defendants combined. Medical malpractice caps in Virginia are currently increasing each year by $50,000 until the year 2031, at which time the cap will be $3 million.
Do you need an attorney for a med mal case?
Medical malpractice claims are complex cases involving expert witness testimony and numerous legal and medical issues.
If you have been seriously injured through medical negligence, your best chance of recovering compensation is to have an experienced Virginia medical malpractice lawyer by your side. Call GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys at (804) 413-6777 to schedule a free initial consultation. We can tell you if you have a case and what damages you may be able to claim.
We bring you big city experience, and small town care. We’ve worked for big insurance companies, in big cities, and as trial lawyers. Now we are proud to serve our neighbors here in Virginia with our experience and expertise.
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