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Medical Malpractice in the US:...


Medical Malpractice in the US: History and Law

Medical Malpractice in the US: History and Law
The Silicon Review
09 July, 2024

Medical malpractice laws have a long and storied history, dating back to ancient times. The Code of Hammurabi in 2030 BC established some of the earliest guidelines, holding doctors accountable for their patients' outcomes. These principles evolved through Roman law and were later incorporated into English common law after the Norman conquest in 1066. By the 1800s, medical malpractice suits began appearing in the United States, though they remained relatively rare until the 1960s. This blog will delve into the history, development, and current state of medical malpractice law in the U.S., providing insights into its complexities and implications for both patients and practitioners.

How Medical Malpractice Law Came to Be in the US

Medical malpractice law started with Roman law and then expanded to continental Europe. In 1066, after the Norman conquest, English common law was developed, providing an unbroken line of medical malpractice decisions. The first medical malpractice suits in the United States started in the 1800s, although legal claims were rare before the 1960s. After the 1960s, there was a rise in medical malpractice claims; today, medical malpractice lawsuits have become pretty standard. One study found that over 70 percent of specialty arthroplasty surgeons had at least one malpractice suit.

There is a big likelihood that surgeons will encounter medical malpractice litigation at some point in their careers. This is mainly because medical malpractice litigation is a pervasive phenomenon. Once entangled in this legal web, the physician (the defendant) will enter a world vastly different from the medical one. Seeking the expertise of a seasoned attorney, such as medical malpractice lawyer Russell Berkowitz, can be crucial in navigating the complexities of these cases and ensuring a fair outcome.

Medical Malpractice Definition

Medical malpractice is a subset of tort (Norman's word for "wrong") law dealing with professional negligence. Medical malpractice refers to the omission or act of a medical practitioner in treating a patient. Usually, this deviates from the accepted practice norms in the medical profession and results in the patient getting injured.

Tort law creates and provides remedies for civil wrongs distinct from criminal wrongs or contractual duties. Meanwhile, negligence refers to conduct that falls short of a standard; in tort law, the "standard" is that of a "reasonable person."

The "reasonable person" here is a legal fiction created by the law, providing a reference standard for the reasoned conduct of a person in a similar situation. It denotes what the person will do or not do to protect another person from the foreseeable risk of harm.

How Do the US Medical Malpractice Laws Operate?

In the United States, medical malpractice laws have been under the authority of individual states rather than the federal government. A patient filing a medical malpractice claim must be able to prove that substandard medical care caused an injury. That is the only way they can win monetary compensation for injuries caused by medical negligence.

If the injured individual can establish that medical negligence caused the injury, the court will calculate the monetary damages to be paid. The compensation will include economic losses like the cost of future medical care and lost income, as well as non-economic losses like pain and suffering.


Medical malpractice law has evolved over centuries, becoming a crucial part of the US legal system designed to protect patients' rights. By holding medical professionals accountable for their actions, these laws aim to ensure a high standard of care. However, filing a medical malpractice claim is complex and requires proving that a breach of the standard of care caused harm. It’s essential to understand the specific legal requirements and statutes of limitations that vary by state. Seeking the expertise of a seasoned attorney can greatly improve the chances of securing fair compensation for injuries caused by medical negligence. As history shows, these laws continue to adapt, reflecting the ever-changing landscape of medical practice and patient care.