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What is Medical Malpractice? A Guide to Medical Malpractice in Birmingham

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

Medical malpractice can be a very confusing topic, and this article will try to clarify some things, especially for those living in the Birmingham, Alabama, area.


Malpractice – Malpractice is when some healthcare professional (doctor, hospital, drug company, etc.) causes an injury to a patient through negligence or omission during the treatment. This faulty medical care includes diagnosis, treatment options, or post-care. Just because the outcome was bad does not mean there was malpractice.

Negligence – Medical negligence is different. Negligence is a mistake that caused some type of harm. Malpractice is when the provider knew what the proper standard of care or treatment method was but knowingly didn't follow the rules and harm resulted. It boils down to the intentions of the provider.

So, there are two things: The medical provider didn't follow the standard of care, and someone was injured as a result.

Standard of Care – This is the general guideline for treating similar persons for the same condition, living in the same geographic area. So standards of care for Alabama may differ from New York. Also, treatment protocols will be different for the same disease or condition if the patient is a child, young adult, or senior citizen. Plus, they all need to have the same general health conditions.

Statute of Limitations

This is a fancy term for the limits placed on how long you have to file a lawsuit.

In Alabama, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is two years. So, from the time the mistake was made, there is a two-year window to file a lawsuit. Filing means drafting documents and recording them with the court to notify the other parties that you are suing. The actual trial and negotiations start then and can take years to complete.

However, if you could not reasonably know that the mistake happened, you have six months from when the error was discovered to file suit.

In Alabama, if you don’t adhere to these time restrictions, your lawsuit will be disqualified. If you have concerns, check with an Alabama attorney that works with malpractice cases.


If you are successful, you will be awarded money called "damages." This will compensate you for the injuries. Sometimes you will also get “punitive damages,” designed as a punishment for making an error on something they should have known about.

Finding Representation

If you suspect you or a loved one is a victim of negligent care, you should consult with a malpractice lawyer.

In Birmingham, Alabama, when you want to find someone who practices medical malpractice law, you are looking for any attorney that practices personal injury. This is different from corporate, real estate, family practice, or criminal. It is specialized to represent medical malpractice victims.

This attorney will review the facts and all records and help decide whether you have a valid claim. He or she will probably also interview family, friends, work associates, and others. If the lawyer feels the claim is valid, the real work starts.

The law firm will get paid, of course. Most Alabama malpractice attorneys work on a contingency basis. That means if you are successful, the lawyer will receive a percentage of the money awarded, plus reimbursement for the expenses the lawyer logged in preparing, negotiating, and trying your case.

Preventing Malpractice

The best way to avoid being a victim of malpractice is your own education. It is essential that you understand your health condition and, generally, how it should be treated. While it may seem redundant to manage your own health care, it can save you some pain and suffering in the long run.

Some ideas are to start with a written list of your questions or concerns and have a family member or trusted friend accompany you to appointments as a backup to understand the treatment and clarify issues. Be sure your questions are answered thoroughly. If you do not understand, make sure that your question will be answered differently.

If you sense anything is wrong, question the treatment or seek a second opinion. Do not let yourself be intimidated by medical personnel.


Spellen Law is a Birmingham, Alabama firm with extensive experience with medical malpractice actions and is a trusted source for consultation and action. We are happy to arrange an appointment at your convenience. You can also rely on us for help in other areas, such as consumer protection!

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