The Four Elements of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice is a legal course of action that occurs when a health care provider causes an injury to a patient through omission or negligence. This can happen during diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, or health management. Patients place much of their trust in their medical providers, but these professionals are human too, and mistakes can happen. Even with the inherent flaws that people have and can make, it is no excuse for when a patient suffers. While state laws vary, there are four general elements in proving medical malpractice.
#1 Patient-Provider Relationship
The first thing you must establish is that you hired a provider to offer care and they accepted. This prevents people from suing medical providers for following advice they may have heard on the radio or television. If you had an appointment at a doctor’s office, it is easy to prove that the relationship between the patient and the provider existed. Once they begin treating you, the provider is legally obligated to meet a standard of care. If that is not met, negligence can be established.
#2 Breached Standard of Care
If a provider does not meet the standard of care established within their specialty, they may be found negligent. Ultimately, if another doctor with similar educational background and experience would have known to make the same mistake, then the treating doctor may have committed malpractice. But this can look different for each case depending on the patient, how the doctor made an error, and the severity of harm done to the patient because of it. Some examples may include:
- Not collecting the medical history of a patient
- Failing to order tests or misinterpreting results
- Misdiagnosing a condition
- Errors performing surgery
- Prescribing incorrect medication
As a personal injury lawyer explains, proving this can be a lengthy process, with many people wanting to offer opinions to the victim. However, the most reliable insight will be from a lawyer who handles personal injury cases. A patient has the right to expect a provider will provide care consistent with accepted standards.
#3 Injury Due to Negligence
Violating a standard of care is not enough to prove malpractice. An injury must also result from the negligence of the provider. The patient must prove that the injury would not have occurred otherwise. Receiving unwanted medical news or diagnosis is not automatically viewed as medical malpractice, since some conditions are terminal and treatment is meant to keep the patient comfortable. If the case moves towards trial, medical experts may be used to provide testimony during this part of the process.
Since these cases may require expert testimony, the patient will need to show significant damages resulting from the negligence. Minor damages may not be worth the cost of pursuing malpractice. If you believe you or a loved one was a victim of medical malpractice, it is important to contact a lawyer that handles cases like these. You cannot sue for medical malpractice if you can’t prove harm was done. This is known as damages and can include monetary and non-monetary factors such as:
- Physical or mental harm
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Wrongful death
These claims are detailed and can become lengthy. Having a law firm work on your case, similar to the team at Council & Associates, LLC, can help you recover damages you lost due to a provider’s negligence.