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Do I have a product liability case or a medical malpractice case?

October 4, 2016

Unfortunately, it’s hard to determine the exact cause of any particular product liability or medical malpractice case without careful dissection of the individual case. Healthcare providers at all levels use many different instruments, devices, and drugs in the course of treating patients, all of which carry some risk of injury–whether because of a defect in the device or an error on the part of the human that used it. Most of the time, cases like these are a combination of the two. While it’s possible to include every type of legal claim in your complaint, it’s more common to choose one to focus on.

Differences in Product Liability

If a product was poorly designed but its use was appropriate, the designer of the product may be at fault. Manufacturers can also be held liable if the manufacturing process made the product defective. Additionally, manufacturers–as well as external sellers–can be found responsible for failure to provide proper instructions or warning labels in order to the reduce the risk of injury.

Say a patient underwent hip replacement surgery. All was well until six months later, the patient needed surgery to remove the joint due to pain and complications. In this example, let’s say the physician performed the surgery appropriately, but the product itself became a danger to the patient. A product liability attorney would look at this case and immediately understand that medical device manufacturers market products to hospitals and not individual patients. This makes the manufacturers of the product responsible for adequately informing hospitals of any risks associated with their products, as well as for ensuring that the product is safe for overall use.

Differences in Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice cases depend on the treatment and quality of care a patient receives by healthcare professionals. This applies to all levels of treatment and personnel in the medical field: doctors, hospitals, drug companies, nurses, etc.

In the hip replacement example, a medical malpractice attorney would focus on the surgeon’s performance; not the synthetic hip. The surgeon could have neglected to inform the patient of any risks or warnings associated with the device before undergoing surgery, or fail to inform the patient of the risks associated with the procedure itself. The surgeon could have performed the procedure itself improperly; or, after the fact, failed to notice complications that would later harm the patient. All of these are responsibilities that the surgeon has.

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