Medical malpractice can be rare, but it can be very costly to both the victims and those who have committed the offense. Nearly 34% of American physicians have been sued for medical malpractice, according to a 2016 study. Almost 50% of all claims are from ordering or prescribing medicine. The most common types of malpractice claims are misdiagnosis claims, accounting for 33% of all medical malpractice lawsuits. But when it comes to proving that medical malpractice was what resulted in an injury or death, it can be a challenge as there are several key elements that the plaintiff must prove. In this article, you will find information regarding how to prove medical malpractice in your lawsuit, what methods to use in court, and helpful resources for victims of medical malpractice.
How is Medical Malpractice Proven?
Medical malpractice is a serious issue that can lead to severe harm, long-term medical problems, and even death for patients. Proving medical malpractice in court is a very complex process that requires an understanding of medical procedures, standards of care, and legal proceedings. The plaintiff has to be able to establish several key elements to prove medical malpractice in court. This section will cover these elements and why they are vital for success in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Establishment of Patient-Doctor Relationship/Duty to Care
The first key element for a plaintiff to prove in a medical malpractice case is the establishment of the patient-doctor relationship or that the healthcare provider had a legal duty to provide the patient with a standard of care that is in line with the generally accepted medical practices. This is the easiest aspect of the case to be proven. It must be proven that the healthcare provider agreed to treat you, diagnose you, or administer treatment. The plaintiff can prove this in several ways.
Medical records can show that the plaintiff received treatment from the healthcare provider, along with consent forms that they likely had to sign acknowledging that the doctor would be providing care to the patient. Additionally, testimony from the healthcare provider would show that the patient-doctor relationship had been established. Once the duty to care has been established, they must show that the healthcare provider cared for them in a way consistent with the applicable standard of care. This means that the healthcare provider had to provide care consistent with the care that other reasonable and prudent healthcare providers would provide under the same circumstances. The plaintiff can use expert testimony from healthcare providers with similar backgrounds or training who can provide expert analysis on the subject.
Breach of Duty to Care
Building on the first element, another key element of proof in a medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that the healthcare provider breached their duty of care. Breach of duty occurs when the healthcare provider fails to provide care consistent with the applicable standard of care. To prove a breach of duty by the healthcare provider, the plaintiff may rely on the following methods:
Expert testimony: The plaintiff may use expert testimony from healthcare providers with similar backgrounds and training or academic professionals who can objectively analyze the situation. The expert witness will review the medical records, interview the plaintiff, and evaluate the healthcare provider's actions or inactions. Based on this evaluation, the expert witness will provide an opinion on whether the healthcare provider met the applicable standard of care.
Medical records: The plaintiff can use the medical records to establish the care provided by the healthcare provider and compare it to the applicable standard of care. This can include reviewing the treatment plan, medication administration, and patient monitoring.
Witness testimony: The plaintiff can also use witness testimony from individuals who observed the care provided by the healthcare provider. Witnesses can include other healthcare providers, family members, or friends present during the treatment.
Guidelines and protocols: The plaintiff can show that the healthcare provider failed to follow established guidelines and protocols for treating the patient's condition. This can include guidelines established by medical organizations or the healthcare facility where the treatment was provided.
Proving causation is one of the most challenging aspects of proof in a medical malpractice lawsuit, but it is the most vital element of proof in the case. The plaintiff must prove that the healthcare provider’s breach of duty and negligence is what led to the victim’s injuries or death. The issue is that the plaintiff must be able to prove that there was both actual cause and proximate cause.
The actual cause can be seen as the literal cause of the harm. Did the doctor’s negligent actions result in harm to the victim? Since courts do not assume actual cause, this must be proven by the plaintiff. Proximate cause is the foreseeable aspect of causation. The plaintiff has to prove that the harm was a foreseeable result of the medical act.
To prove causation the plaintiff can utilize several ways to prove causation. The plaintiff can use expert testimony to provide an objective analysis of the situation. The expert witness will review the medical records, interview the plaintiff, and evaluate the healthcare provider's actions or inactions. Based on this evaluation, the expert witness will provide an opinion on whether the healthcare provider's negligent act caused the plaintiff's injury. Other methods can include other witness testimony, a review of medical records, and causation analysis. They can use this analysis to demonstrate how the doctor's actions directly caused the plaintiff's injury. This may involve reviewing the medical literature and research to establish a link between the healthcare provider's actions or inactions and the plaintiff's injury.
Proof of damages is the final key element in proving medical malpractice. The plaintiff has to show that they have suffered damages as a result of the malpractice of the doctor. These damages can include physical injuries, emotional distress, lost wages, and medical expenses. Some of the ways in which the plaintiff can show proof of damages include:
Medical records: The plaintiff can use medical records to establish the extent of their injuries and the treatment received. This can include medical bills, prescription medicine records, and records of any additional medical procedures performed.
Expert testimony: The plaintiff can rely on expert testimony from other doctors or other professionals to establish the extent of the damages. For example, a healthcare provider can testify to the extent of the plaintiff's injuries, while a business expert or manager can calculate the value of lost wages and future medical expenses
Witness testimony: The plaintiff can also use witness testimony from family members, friends, or colleagues to establish the impact of the injury on their daily life. Witness testimony can also help establish the extent of the emotional distress suffered by the plaintiff and those close to them.
Documentation: The plaintiff can provide documentation to establish the extent of the damages, such as receipts for medical expenses, physical therapy bills, mental health counseling, employment records, or photographs of physical injuries.
Resources for Victims of Medical Malpractice
If you or someone you know has been the victim of medical malpractice, finding the resources to fight your case can prove to be a difficult task. In this section, you will find helpful resources to aid you in your lawsuit!
Medical Review Foundation
The Medical Review Foundation offers credible expert medical witnesses for medical malpractice lawsuits and can supply attorneys to victims if needed. They have nearly four decades of experience in assisting both victims and doctors in malpractice lawsuits with the goal of assisting in improving the healthcare system in America. They have helped in cases involving Medical & Hospital Malpractice, Wrongful Death, Nursing Home Negligence & Personal Injury. They feature a team of medical professionals who have consulted on over 165,000 Medical & Hospital Malpractice, Wrongful Death, Nursing Home Negligence & Personal Injury cases since 1976. To contact them, you can visit their website located here.
National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association
The National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association (NMMAA) was founded in 2013 by a collection of people who were victims of medical malpractice or knew someone who was. According to them, the NMMAA is the first non-partisan civil rights organization of its kind with patient advocates throughout the United States. Their organization dedicates itself as a national network to end medical malpractice through partnerships with local and national organizations across America. The NMMAA is the first and only organization that has received numerous proclamations from states across the United States for its advocacy related to medical malpractice. Find out about their mission on their website, located here.
Save Our Service Members
If you are a current military member or former military member who is a victim of medical malpractice, Save Our Service Members is a nonprofit organization designed to help you! Founded in 2020 by a group of Gold Star and military families with a loved one who either died or was seriously injured at the start of their military career, SOS aims to ensure transparency when it comes to the military and its long history of medical malpractice that has led to lifelong injuries and even death. To get involved or find out more about their mission and how they can help you in your medical malpractice case, contact them through their website here.
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