Malpractice isn’t the same as as a mere mistake (under Virginia law)

One of the aspects of my job I enjoy the most, is speaking to the folks who call our office. Sometimes, they call because a doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner has made a mistake in Virginia.

Often, when they call, they say “I’ve never called a lawyer before but someone told me I should call….”

Examples of medical mistakes may be as follows:

  • Failing to diagnose an illness
  • Failure to review medical records or radiology reports
  • Surgical mistakes
  • Failure to explain a possible risk before a procedure

Mistakes can have consequences – but mistakes are not the same as malpractice. Malpractice is a violation of the standard of care – which means, a majority of similar doctors wouldn’t have done X.

What this means is anyone can make a mistake, but malpractice occurs when something happens that is avoidable, preventable – and a majority of other doctors would have done it right.

AND under the law, you must prove that the negligent act cause a significant injury.

In failure to diagnose cases, you only have a lawsuit when the failure to diagnose either prevented you from gaining access to a necessary treatment, or caused additional injury.

  • Example – failure to diagnose colon cancer, tumor abscesses into wall of colon – spreads – cancer goes from stage II to IV
  • Example – failure to prescribe blood thinner, DVT occurs
  • Example – injury to neighboring organs during abdominal surgery and failing to recognize it
  • Example – surgical injury

So while mistakes do happen, malpractice can be prevented.

I hope you will call us so we can help you understand what happened in your care.

Lauren Ellerman

Lauren Ellerman

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.