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Understanding gross negligence in medical malpractice

Last week's post about the Michigan doctor who intentionally misdiagnosed cancer in his patients in order to bill them for expensive treatments (which in fact left many of them in a worsened medical condition) was different from the kind of stories we see on a day-to-day basis. This wasn't a case where a doctor tried to do his or her best to help the patient. This wasn't a case where a lack of training or unclear policies at a hospital lead to injury or illness. This was something much worse.

In fact, the law itself draws an important distinction in more extreme types of medical malpractice cases. Let's take a look at what is known as "gross negligence" within the context of medical malpractice. This is intended as general information only, not as specific legal advice for anyone who has suffered injury due to a provider's gross negligence.

First, we should clarify what we mean by negligence. Generally speaking, negligence is an act or omission by one party that results in harm to another party. Medical malpractice claims often require expert testimony in order to prove negligence because a judge and jury do not have the professional training necessary to understand highly technical medical terminology.

Gross negligence means that the conduct is so obviously wrong or reckless that it's obvious to the lay person. A wrong-site surgery or a surgical tool or sponge left inside a patient's body are common examples. Gross negligence can impact a victim's legal strategy when seeking compensation, as it alters the rules regarding expert testimony and evidence in court.

A legal professional is therefore an important resource for victims of medical malpractice. He or she will be able to advise whether the victim may have suffered gross negligence at the hands of the provider or hospital, and how best to proceed.

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