The Louisiana Record reported this week on a new medical malpractice lawsuit stemming from negligent care provided to a vulnerable patient at a medical facility. The incident occurred a few years ago. The plaintiff in the case was first admitted to the facility because she was suffering from a high fever and was experiencing severe gastrointestinal problems. Her condition made her very dependent on care workers, because her mobility, strength, and overall cognition were affected by her fragile condition.
The documents filed to initiate the medical malpractice lawsuit state that at one point during her stay the woman was helped to the toilet by a caregiver. However, the caregiver left the woman unattended. For quite some time the woman tried to signal for help leaving the toilet. Eventually, with no other options, the woman attempted to get off of the toilet herself. She fell while doing so and suffered significant injuries. Her neck, back, head, and right leg were all damaged in various ways in the fall.
She ultimately sought legal help and filed suit. The lawsuit claim accuses the involved medical facility of negligence for not taking proper fall precautions. The fact that certain medical patients might need help in this way and are at risk of falls is not anything new. It is common practice for these facilities to be prepared for these sorts of situations and to act accordingly to protect the safety of the patients. The medical facility should have had a coordinated, consistent, multi-disciplinary fall prevention plan. In addition staff members should have properly monitored this individual patient’s situation much more closely.
Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers know that this case highlights a legal principle that separates different types of legal actions. Medical malpractice is alleged when negligent care is provided to medical patients. However, there is a distinction depending on the specific care that is provided. Not helping a resident with mobility problems is a different kind of negligence than that implicated when a caregiver makes a mistake that is directly related to providing the expert medical care. Medical negligence exists in the latter while the former usually only implicates ordinary negligence.
The distinction between each type of negligence is crucial in a legal case, because there are different requirements about what must be proven in each case. Most notably, when actual medical negligence is at issue there is a requirement that expert testimony be presented. The logic is that community members on the jury do not have the experience to make judgments about whether or not a doctor prudently followed existing medical standards in any given situation. Experts might help explain to the jury what those standards are and whether they believe they were followed in each individual case. Jury members are capable of gauging the reliability of experts but not the underlying expert knowledge itself.
Conversely, in ordinary negligence cases, expert testimony is usually not needed. For example, car accident cases are classic ordinary negligence cases. Jury members are capable of listening to testimony about what happened and determining who failed to act appropriately. The basic rules of the road are common knowledge unlike appropriate medical actions.
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