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Monday, July 2, 2012

Word of the Month for July 2012

Unless you've been living in a cave, you have probably heard about the latest round of U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding (among other things) medicine and all things medical.  As such, I thought it would be fitting to make this months definition something that concerns many persons around the world (if not everyone).  The word for the month of July 2012 is MALPRACTICE.  According to Black's Law Dictionary (West), Malpractice is defined  as: an instance of negligence or incompetence on the part of a professional.  Wowsers!  That one heck of a definition....but...uh, what does it all mean and how is it applied.  To see the application, let's look at two professions that are often the target of malpractice actions.

The first example deals with the medical profession. Medical Malpractice (as per Black's Law Dictionary) is defined as: A doctor's failure to exercise the degree of care and skill that a physician or surgeon of the same medical specialty would use under similar circumstances.  It is important to note the phrase "same medical specialty" because there are many, many different specialties in the medical profession.

For our purposes, let's look at one example that happened recently. A few weeks back this guy gets a diagnosis of cancer. He and his wife empty their bank accounts, sell their house, and they go on a spending spree to do everything on their bucket list. Then, after all the money is gone and he's waiting to die (a slow, painful death), the doctor comes back and says - "Oops, we misdiagnosed you. You don't have cancer and you're not going to die, after all!" Oops? OOPS!?! Is that all you have to say?!???!?!? If you think you're a victim of medical malpractice, might I suggest you take a look at American Jurisprudence Pleading and Practice Forms (Annotated); Volume 19A-19B (Physicians, Surgeons and Other Healers) (West), Medical Malpractice: Discovery and Trial (PLI), and California Medical Malpractice: Law and Practice (West).

The second example deals with the legal profession. Legal Malpractice (as per Black's Law Dictionary) is defined as: A lawyer's failure to render professional services with the skill, prudence, and diligence that an ordinary and reasonable lawyer would use under similar circumstances (also termed attorney malpractice).

In this example, imagine having forked over $20,000 to an attorney to represent you in a family law matter. Six months later, you find out the attorney never filed anything, never responded, never did anything (just took your money). Or say you're in a case and your attorney accepts a settlement without consulting you (the client). Oops! Big no, no. Or, let's say you hire an attorney. He files the complaint. He files/argues motions on your behalf. He does everything he's supposed to do BUT on the day of trial your lawyer doesn't show up and you're left swinging in the wind. Can you say awkward!?
 
If you feel you've been the subject of Legal Malpractice, might I suggest you take a look at Legal Malpractice: Liability, Prevention, Litigation, Insurance (West), Legal Ethics: the lawyers deskbook on professional responsibility (West), and Mad at your Lawyer: What to do when you're overchaged, ignored, betrayed, or a victim of malpractice (Nolo Press).


I guess the bottom line to all of this is that if you think you are (or soon may be) a victim of malpractice, don't just sit there and take it.  Nope, you need to stand up for your rights, go to your local county law library, talk to your friendly neighborhood law librarian because if you don't do it, no one else will do it for you (for free).

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