What Constitutes Medical Malpractice in Washington?

Categories: Medical Malpractice

What Constitutes Medical Malpractice in Washington

Medical malpractice is a broad legal term encompassing many types of conduct that constitute a cause of action in a lawsuit. It occurs when a doctor, hospital, nurse, or other healthcare provider, through a negligent act or omission, causes injury to their patient. 

In other words, a medical malpractice case holds healthcare professionals liable for the injuries caused by their negligent actions. Typically, to be considered malpractice, the doctor or other provider must have deviated from the relevant accepted standard of medical care.

What Constitutes a Medical Malpractice Case in Washington?

A victim injured by medical malpractice has the burden of proving their case. There are several elements a plaintiff must establish to be successful. 

Medical malpractice claims are some of the most complex legal matters, often requiring unique knowledge of the law and expert witnesses. It is not as simple as saying the doctor made a mistake and you were injured.

To constitute medical malpractice, you must show the following:

  • Duty—You must show that the physician or other medical provider owed you a duty of care. The applicable duty or standard of care is the level of accepted care a reasonable physician with similar experience and skill level would have provided to a patient under similar circumstances.
  • Breach—The physician breached their duty if they deviated from the accepted standard of care.
  • Causation—You suffered an injury due to the physician’s breach of duty. In other words, you must prove their mistake caused your injury.
  • Damages—Lastly, you must prove that you suffered damages due to your injury. If you are injured but suffer no tangible loss, your claim may not be successful.

Proving the causal relationship between medical negligence and your injury can be challenging. Our experienced medical malpractice team can assist you.

What Qualifies As Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice can take a variety of forms. Some examples of medical negligence include:

  • Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis;
  • Surgical errors, including wrong site surgery;
  • Unnecessary surgery;
  • Misreading or ignoring laboratory results;
  • Administration of improper medication or dosage;
  • Poor follow-up or aftercare;
  • Premature discharge;
  • Failure to recognize symptoms or side effects;
  • Failure to order proper testing; and
  • Failure to adequately document or chart.

This list is not exhaustive, and your healthcare provider may have committed another form of negligence that would entitle you to recovery.

Who Can Be Held Liable for Medical Malpractice in Washington?

Most people think of doctors when they hear the term medical malpractice, but medical malpractice can occur at the hands of many other medical professionals. What’s more, you could have multiple defendants for your claim. For instance, a hospital and the doctor who cared for you could both be liable.

Any healthcare provider or medical professional who owed you a duty of care and failed to uphold that duty may be responsible for your injuries. Potentially liable defendants in your case might include: 

  • Doctors,
  • Hospitals,
  • Nurses,
  • Technicians,
  • Chiropractors,
  • Aides,
  • Optometrists,
  • Laboratories,
  • Pharmacists,
  • Outpatient medical facilities,
  • Clinical psychologists, 
  • Clinical social workers,
  • Professional counselors,
  • Licensed marriage and family therapists, and
  • Licensed dental hygienists.

A seasoned attorney will help you investigate all potentially liable parties. 

Statute of Limitations to File a Medical Malpractice Case in Washington

Each state has its statute of limitations, or deadline, for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. Generally, in Washington, a plaintiff must initiate their medical malpractice claim within three years of the date the malpractice occurred. 

However, like most statutes of limitations, the general rule has exceptions and caveats. 

Discovery Rule

Washington, like other states, has adopted a discovery rule. The rule allows malpractice victims to file their claim beyond the three years if they did not and reasonably could not have discovered their injury within the statute of limitations. If you think about it, this makes sense because some injuries are not immediately apparent, and symptoms can manifest over time. This means you could discover the injury and malpractice at a much later date. 

Statute of Repose

However, this is not a guaranteed get-around. The statute of repose states that you can file a claim up to eight years from the date the malpractice occurred but generally not beyond. Practically, this means if you discover your injury eight years and one day after the malpractice occurred, you may lose your right to file a claim.


It is also essential to be mindful that Washington, like other states, allows the statute of limitations to be tolled or paused under certain circumstances. This can include if the patient was a minor when the malpractice occurred. Additionally, if the malpractice was concealed by fraud or a foreign object was left behind in the patient, the patient has one year from realizing their injury.

Meeting with an attorney soon after you suspect malpractice is essential to ensure you do not miss the applicable statute of limitations in your case.

Washington Medical Malpractice Lawyers

At Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner, we have recovered over $100 million for our clients. If you or a loved one suffered an injury at the hands of a doctor you trusted, contact us today to schedule your free consultation.


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Matt Conner

Matt Conner has a proven track record of success. Following his graduation from Willamette University with a double major in mathematics and economics, Matt worked as an economist for the Office of Economic Analysis for the State of Oregon before moving onto working in mortgage banking and real estate.