When a healthcare provider makes a mistake, the effects on your life can be serious. If the provider commits medical malpractice, the patient may have grounds for a lawsuit to recover for the considerable damages that often ensue in such cases.

Medical malpractice lawsuits often deal with highly-complicated issues. The plaintiff must show that the provider acted negligently, that the negligent act caused injury and that the plaintiff suffered damages as a result. In a Virginia case, the plaintiff, with few exceptions, has two years from the date of the injury to file a complaint.

Defining negligence

When most people hear negligence, they think it means carelessness or even just making a mistake. However, not every misstep happens due to negligence. In the context of medical malpractice, this concept generally means the provider failed to adhere to the standards of care for his or her particular field.

A pharmacist and a surgeon, for example, have widely differing areas of expertise and must live up to different standards. Excepting some clearcut situations, plaintiffs usually need expert testimony to present evidence on a particular professional’s standard of care and whether he or she breached it. Simply the existence of a bad outcome does not point to medical malpractice. Further, even if a plaintiff establishes a specific action such as wrong diagnosis, to prevail, he or she will need to go further and show the wrong diagnosis happened because the doctor did not go through the diagnostic steps the normal standard would require.

Figuring out damages

For many people who suffer due to medical malpractice, the first type of damages that comes to mind is medical expenses. Other kinds of financial damages also include lost earnings and decreased ability to work. You may also have to spend money on hiring help for domestic chores that your injury prevents you from performing. Expert testimony can help establish a solid basis for calculating likely future damages.

Plaintiffs can also recover for pain and suffering. These damages aim to compensate for physical as well as emotional harm that stems from the injury, including the discomfort of further treatments and surgeries.