Medical Malpractice Frequently Asked Questions

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What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is negligent treatment by a doctor, nurse, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, chiropractor, therapist, or other medical provider that does not meet the accepted standards of medical care. If the medical provider is determined to have acted negligently, the provider may be responsible for the patient’s medical bills, wage loss, pain and suffering, or death. 

How do I know if medical malpractice occurred?
It can be difficult to determine whether medical malpractice has occurred and often requires the review of an experienced medical malpractice attorney. If a patient learns or suspects that a medical provider has acted negligently, they should consult with an attorney experienced in handling medical malpractice claims. 

What are examples of medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice comes in many forms and requires for a medical provider to not meet the medical community’s accepted standards of medical care. This question is often complex and requires an in-depth legal and medical analysis. Examples of potential medical malpractice could include:

  • A surgeon performing the incorrect surgical operation;
  • A surgeon incorrectly performing a surgical operation that leads to injury or death;
  • A physician prescribing a drug a patient is known to be allergic to;
  • A physician failing to diagnose a medical condition which was readily apparent;
  • A physician failing to notify a patient of a significant finding, such as cancer, detected during a physical or medical imaging.  

To determine if specific conduct constitutes medical malpractice, you should consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. 

To whom should I report medical malpractice?
If you suspect a medical provider has breached the standard of care, it should be reported to the State Medical Practices Board. If you are interested in pursuing a civil claim, you should consult with an attorney experienced in handling medical malpractice claims.

How long do I have to file a medical malpractice claim? What is a statute of limitations?
A statute of limitations is the amount of time that a person has to file a lawsuit after malpractice occurs. In Minnesota, for example, the general statute of limitations for medical malpractice is four years. For wrongful death, it is generally three years. Some cases may have additional time limits that would extend or shorten the statute of limitations. To determine a specific case’s statute of limitations, you should consult with an attorney experienced in handling medical malpractice claims. 

What is a breach of the standard of care?
The medical community defines the standard of medical care as the reasonable actions for a medical provider to take in a given situation. If a judge or jury determines that a medical provider did not follow the standard of medical care, that provider may be liable to the patient for medical malpractice. 

If the standard of care was breached, will I win my claim for medical malpractice?
Not necessarily. A medical malpractice claim must also show how that breach of care resulted in damages such as medical bills, wage loss, or death. For that reason, it is important to consult with a medical malpractice attorney to understand the potential to bring a claim. 

What losses can I recover?
The law allows victims of medical malpractice to seek compensation for a wide variety of losses. These can include past and future medical bills, past and future wage loss, past and future pain and suffering, and disfigurement. In wrongful death claims, it is also possible to recover medical bills, loss of financial support for family members, and loss of companionship the deceased would have provided to family members.

What do I have to prove to win a medical malpractice case?
Anyone seeking to win a medical practice case must prove that their medical treatment did not meet the accepted standards of medical care and resulted in their damages. Proving this is in a court is fact intensive, legally complex, and often requires representation by an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

How do I start a medical malpractice claim?
You should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

Do all medical malpractice claims go to trial?
Not all claims go to trial. Sometimes, medical malpractice claims will settle before going to trial.

How long does a lawsuit take?
It depends. Some lawsuits can be as short as a year where others can go on for multiple years. The complexity of the case, cooperation of the medical provider’s insurance company, and the time required to determine damages can impact the length of time for the lawsuit.

If I signed a medical consent form before the procedure, can I still file a lawsuit?
Yes. While a consent form demonstrates that patients have been informed of the risks of medical procedures, it does not necessarily prevent a patient from pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit. To determine the legal effect of a medical consent form, you should consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.   

My medical care was performed out of state. Where can I sue?
The legal question of what court a patient can bring a medical malpractice lawsuit in can be very complex. To determine what state you can bring a lawsuit in, you should consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Our attorneys are licensed in many states and have handled medical malpractice claims across the country.   

We understand that a serious medical wrongdoing causes deep personal pain. Our on-staff, medical analysts have heard heartbreaking stories told by optimistic people who trusted a medical professional only to wake up one day and find their lives would never be the same again. If you find yourself facing similar circumstances, we are here to listen.

We recognize that injured people rarely have the money to pay for an expensive lawsuit, so we have made it a practice to underwrite all of the costs of medical malpractice cases, and to accept payment only if our clients are successful in obtaining a recovery against the defendant. To contact a medical malpractice lawyer for a free case evaluation, please complete our free case evaluation form above.

Our attorneys handle matters primarily in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.  

Peter A. Schmit


Chair, National Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice Group

Chris Messerly

Retired | Inactive

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