JIWLP Legal Information

JIWLP is an online resource dedicated to providing prospective lawyers and those seeking to enter the legal profession with general information, guidance and direction on starting a legal career, details about a variety of legal specialties as well as assistance with finding professional associations.

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Medical Malpractice Lawyers

Professional Requirements for Medical Malpractice Lawyers

Medical malpractice refers to negligence on the part of a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider. Some attorneys represent the plaintiffs in these cases, who are usually patients or family members of patients who have been harmed by a healthcare professional's negligence. Other medical malpractice attorneys defend professionals who have been accused of negligence. A medical malpractice attorney must understand the different types of malpractice and prepare for each case accordingly.

Legal Training

Attorneys who wish to practice in the United States must complete a juris doctorate degree from an accredited law school. This type of program typically takes three years to complete, however some students attend part-time, extending the length of the program. First-year law courses give students a broad overview of the legal system and the role of the attorney in this system. Students typically learn about criminal law, civil procedure, torts, contracts, and property law. Law school students also learn how to conduct legal research and write legal documents.

During the second and third years of law school, students have the opportunity to take electives related to their personal interests. An attorney interested in medical malpractice should take electives related to healthcare law, medical negligence, and related topics. Some schools also offer dual degree programs, where students can pursue a legal degree and another type of degree at the same time. A student interested in medical malpractice could pursue a master's degree in healthcare administration, public health, or another field related to healthcare.

Medical Malpractice

Some of the most notable medical malpractice cases involve a surgeon removing the wrong limb or removing a healthy organ instead of a diseased one, but these cases are not the only types of medical malpractice an attorney may handle. Some attorneys handle claims related to missed diagnosis or delayed diagnosis. This refers to failing to accurately diagnose a patient's condition or not diagnosing the condition soon enough. One example of this type of medical malpractice is failing to diagnose cancer soon enough for the patient to get treatment. If a doctor does not diagnose cancer early enough, the cancer may progress to a point where it cannot be treated or the chances of a good outcome are much lower than they would have been if the cancer was diagnosed earlier. Surgical errors may damage a patient's nerves, blood vessels, or organs. Unfortunately, the patient may not know about a surgical error until months after the operation. The damage caused by such errors can cause lasting complications.

As plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures become more popular, plastic surgery errors are becoming more common. This type of malpractice may lead to permanent disfigurement, so the effects of plastic surgery errors can be devastating. Some medical professionals also make prescription medication errors, which include prescribing the wrong medication, prescribing the right medication at the wrong dosage, harming patients by writing illegible prescriptions, and failing to anticipate harmful drug interactions. Another type of medical malpractice involves birth injuries, which occur during the delivery of a baby. Examples of birth injuries include cerebral palsy, fractures, brain damage, and brachial plexus. These injuries can occur due to improper use of extraction vacuums or forceps during delivery. They can also occur due to an obstetrician's failure to monitor a mother during labor.

Continuing Education

Every state requires attorneys to participate in continuing education to ensure their knowledge and skills remain current. The continuing education requirements vary from state to state, but each state typically has a minimum CLE requirement during a certain reporting period. Attorneys must complete all requirements during this period. Medical malpractice attorneys can choose continuing education courses related to medical negligence and healthcare law, creating an opportunity for them to enhance their knowledge of this practice area.

Professional Development

Several organizations offer information to attorneys, medical professionals, and others with an interest in this practice area. The American Association for Justice publishes medical malpractice news on its website. The American Bar Association has a section on medical malpractice, which gives medical malpractice attorneys an opportunity to network with and learn from each other. State bar associations may also have resources for medical malpractice attorneys.