If you feel that you’ve been wronged or treated unjustly in your medical care, you may be considering bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit. Before you begin, consider the fact that you will have to prove your case, and it’s not just as simple as saying “That doctor was negligent!”. There are 5 main elements that need to be proven in a medical malpractice case, not all of which are simple to establish.
The first thing that needs to be established is that there was a doctor-patient relationship to begin with. This aspect of a medical malpractice case is usually non-contentious. Once the doctor-patient relationship is established, this creates the duty upon the doctor to provide the patient with a competent level of care.
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Proof of Negligent Care
The main issue in most cases will be proving that the doctor actually provided substandard or negligent care to the patient. What constitutes an acceptable “standard of care” is up for debate, however. From a legal perspective, the standard of care is “the caution that a reasonable person in similar circumstances would exercise in providing care to a patient”.
This level of caution and standard of care is usually established in court using expert evidence. Experts will testify to state what the currently accepted practice is, and will explain what a typical level of treatment would be. Given that experts may have varying opinions on these matters, several witnesses may testify and each give their own expert opinion. In addition, usually the plaintiff and the defendant will both put forward their own expert witnesses, who may disagree on what the standard of care is. A solicitor from Patient Claim Line, a firm of medical negligence lawyers, notes that the duty of care should be that of a “minimally competent physician in the same circumstances”.
Alongside these expert witnesses, clinical guidelines from medical professional bodies are often also put forward as evidence of what kind of treatment standard should be expected. The guidelines of these professional bodies, as well as the statements from the expert witnesses will be compared to what actually happened in your case. This creates a picture of what was done versus what should have been done, and whether medical negligence is established.
Link Between Negligence and Injury
The next thing that needs to be proven is that the doctor’s negligent actions or treatment actually caused the injury or condition that you are claiming. So if your doctor was negligent in performing surgery on your arm, but your feet are sore now, that’s probably not going to be a sufficient link. Furthermore, it needs to be shown that the injury isn’t caused by some other, underlying condition that you have.
Actual Proof of Harm
The last thing that actually needs to be proven is that there has been actual harm in the form of monetary damages caused. This may be lost wages due to your new injury, the cost of treatment, or emotional harm.
Proof “By a Preponderance of the Evidence”
All of the above elements need to be proven “by a preponderance of the evidence”. This means that on balance, the claim of medical negligence is more likely true than not true. This standard is lower than criminal cases, where the standard is “beyond reasonable doubt”.
All of these elements may seem overwhelming if you’re wanting to make a claim for medical negligence, and it’s important to go to a legal professional if you need help. In the meantime, gather any documents relevant to your case, and make a record of the pain and suffering that you are experiencing as a result of your injury. Speak to your doctor and make sure that you obtain their notes on your condition.