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What is Medical Malpractice?


Malpractice claims arise from situations where a professional–usually someone practicing a licensed profession–performs his or her professional services in a negligent manner. Medical malpractice generally applies to licensed medical professionals, including (but not limited to) physicians, licensed therapists, and others who render medical services under a professional license.

More specifically, the California Civil Code describes medical malpractice as including “negligent acts or omissions by health care providers rendering professional services within the scope of their licenses.”


Like other types of negligence claims, medical malpractice claims require a plaintiff to prove the four basic elements of negligence:

1. The existence of a legally recognized duty.

2. A breach of that duty by the medical professional (the defendant).

3. Causation – specifically, that the professional’s breach of his or her duty was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries or damages.

4. The plaintiff suffered legally recognized damages.

Generally speaking, the plaintiff must show that the defendant medical professional failed to exercise at least the customary degree of skill and care that a reasonably careful medical professional would have used in similar circumstances.

Not every medical mistake, oversight, or misdiagnosis constitutes medical malpractice. Physicians are human beings, and the law does not expect–or require–perfection. However, the law does require all medical professionals to act in accordance with reasonable standards and to act within a standard of skill and care.

A doctor or other licensed medical professional who fails to act with the reasonable care expected of someone in his or her physician may be legally liable to a patient who suffers damages as a result of the professional’s negligence. And since that negligence can take the form of an action or a failure to act, it’s important to consult with an experienced attorney promptly in the event you believe that a medical professional’s actions caused you (or a family member) harm. While not all doctors’ actions, or failures of diagnosis, constitute negligence, it often is not possible for injured people to evaluate their legal rights and claims without the assistance of an experienced lawyer.


Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR OR ROSS LAW AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Most legal claims (and defenses) are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against someone who injured you, a lawyer who represented you in a previous lawsuit, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your personal rights and claims.

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