Understanding The Role Of A Malpractice Attorney In South Africa: Protecting Your Rights As A Patient


Medical malpractice can be a serious issue in South Africa, where patients may experience harm or injury due to medical negligence. This harm could be physical, emotional, or financial. In such cases, a malpractice attorney can play a crucial role in protecting patients’ rights and helping them seek compensation for their losses.

Malpractice attorneys assist their clients by assessing whether or not they have a legal medical malpractice case. If legal action is required, the malpractice attorney will investigate the issue, represent the client in court, and negotiate with the healthcare provider and their insurance company.

There is a general misconception in South Africa that medical malpractice and negligence claims are limited to public clinics and hospitals. Unfortunately, they are rampant in the private sector as well. As a patient, you reserve the right to receive treatment that meets specific standards, and if these standards are not met, you have the right to seek compensation with the help of a malpractice attorney.


When Should You Employ The Services Of A Malpractice Attorney

First and foremost, it’s essential to understand what medical malpractice is. Simply put, it refers to any instance where a healthcare professional, for example, a nurse or doctor, fails to provide the expected standard of care, resulting in financial, physical, or emotional harm befalling the patient.

Suppose you believe you have suffered from medical negligence or malpractice and would like to seek legal retribution. In that case, your first step should be to consult a malpractice attorney, as these cases can be complex and require an attorney’s expertise with a thorough understanding of medical and legal issues.

Before contacting a malpractice attorney, you should ask yourself a few vital questions, including the following:

  • Did you have a patient and doctor/caregiver relationship?
  • Were your confidentiality rights respected?
  • Did the practitioner in question have a responsibility to treat you?
  • Were all the risks of the treatment explained to you in a way you could understand?
  • Did you give your consent for the treatment you were given?
  • Have you suffered an injury due to the failure to act or the action of the caregiver/practitioner?
  • Have any financial damages or repercussions due to the negligence, such as ongoing care costs, loss of income, or other additional medical costs, occurred?
  • How long ago did the incident in question occur?


A malpractice attorney will review the answers to these questions and any supporting documentation you might have to ascertain whether or not they believe you have a legal case and whether you should take the matter forward.

If you do have a legal claim, they will strive to ensure you receive fair compensation for your losses, which could include the following: medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other damages.

In the best-case scenario, your chosen malpractice lawyer will be able to settle the issue out of court, but in most cases, you can expect that your path forward will include litigation. In South Africa, medical malpractice cases are typically handled in civil courts.


Common Claims With Which A Malpractice Attorney Can Assist

There are many ways that a case of medical negligence might come about, including failure to obtain a patient’s informed consent, errors during diagnosis, and management of health conditions or treatments.

Common examples of actions that give rise to medical malpractice claims in South Africa include but are not limited to the following:

  • Prescription errors;
  • Treatment delays;
  • Faulty blood transfusions;
  • Removal of the incorrect organ;
  • Amputation of the wrong limb;
  • Emergency or hospital room negligence;
  • Inappropriate intervention when addressing complications of birth and labour;
  • Breast cancer diagnosis and treatment negligence;
  • Misread mammograms or x-rays;
  • Plastic surgery malpractice;
  • Anaesthesia malpractice;
  • Paediatric malpractice;
  • Dental malpractice;
  • Breaching doctor-patient confidentiality.


Key Roles Of A Malpractice Attorney

One of the primary roles of a malpractice attorney is investigating the case thoroughly, which involves gathering evidence, reviewing medical records, and consulting with medical experts to determine whether negligence was involved. Based on their findings, the attorney will advise the patient (their client) on whether to proceed with legal action and who you will need to take action against, for example, the medical practitioner or the medical facility.

If you do land up in court, your malpractice attorney will be there to represent you and will work towards an amicable negotiation with the healthcare provider in question and their insurance company. One of the primary outcomes of these negotiations will be that you get fair compensation for your losses.

Significantly, a malpractice attorney can also help patients navigate the complex legal system and ensure their rights are protected. This help can be essential for patients dealing with physical or emotional trauma resulting from their medical experience.

Overall, the role of a malpractice attorney in South Africa is to help patients who have been harmed by medical negligence seek justice and compensation for their losses. If you believe that you could be a victim of medical malpractice, it’s vital to seek legal advice as soon as possible to protect your rights and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

Our Burnett Attorneys & Notaries team would gladly assist you in this endevour. We have extensive experience dealing with medical negligence claims and, therefore, know how to navigate this landscape in a way that strives to ensure the best possible outcome for all involved. We understand that cases such as these are delicate matters, and we, therefore, strive to treat all our clients with the sensitivity they deserve while at the same time tackling their case with the determination it deserves.

At Burnett Attorneys & Notaries, we follow a no-win no-fee policy for medical negligence cases to take some of the stress off an already stressful situation. In other words, we will not charge you a fee if we do not win the case. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for further information on how we can help you.