Relying on a doctor to properly take care of and treat any ailments a patient may be suffering is understandable. After all, doctors are bound by their promise and are expected by society to provide the best care they can to their patients without causing harm. Unfortunately, not all doctors are created equal, and other human factors contribute to any errors or negligence in a doctor’s practice of medicine. Thus, it is conceivable that medical malpractice may occur. Medical malpractice claims are classified as professional negligence under tort law. In these type of claims, the correspondent must establish the same elements required for negligence in tort law, which includes:
- Breach of Duty
- Causation: Proximate and In Fact
- Harm or Damages
Applying these elements in medical malpractice, the claimant must show the following elements in order to establish a valid medical malpractice claim successfully:
Medical Malpractice Claim: Duty by the Doctor to the Patient
This element can be shown by establishing a doctor-patient relationship between the complainant and the defendant. This relationship does not have to be current in order to satisfy this element. The complainant must only show that their doctor-patient relationship existed when the cause of action for the medical malpractice occurred.
This element refers to the breach of the doctor’s duties they owed to their patient. There are many ways that a doctor can breach their professional responsibilities to their patients. However, this element is difficult to prove without the help of a medical expert. A medical expert is needed to help assess this element in order to show that the doctor did not provide an adequate standard of care based on the professional’s training and experience.
This element generally shows the cause of action for the medical malpractice claim and can include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Failure or delay in diagnosing a patient’s condition
- Misdiagnosis of the patient’s condition
- Prescribing the wrong medication or treatment
- Failure to disclose or discuss potential risks and harm of a drug or treatment to the patient
- Birth injuries
- Surgical errors
- Medical product liability
For this element, the complainant must establish a direct link between the doctor’s negligent action or inaction and the patient’s injuries or harm. Here, the complainant must show that their injuries were foreseeable to the doctor and that their injuries were caused “but for” the doctor’s negligence.
The complainant must show a direct association between the injuries they incurred and the doctor’s negligence. The complainant should be able to show that the damages caused by the doctor are foreseeable to a medical doctor. It is also important to note that injuries caused by the doctor’s action do not have to be new harm at all. Instead, a doctor’s negligence exacerbating an existing injury is sufficient to show this element.
Some of the proof that can help the complainant prove this element includes, but are not limited to, the patient’s medical records, medical expert’s testimony, evidence of emotional harm, the victim’s statements, and other witnesses’ statements.
The Patient Has Incurred Damages That Were Directly From the Injury Caused by the Doctor’s Negligence
For this element, the patient must show that they have incurred actual or monetary damages that were directly associated with the injury or harm they have incurred due to the doctor’s negligence. This element is generally related to monetary damages and is used to calculate compensatory claims.
Some of the proof that can help the patient show this element includes but is not limited to:
- Medical bills
- Receipts for incurred expenses connected to the injuries suffered by the complainant
- Documentation of losses experienced by the complainant due to the injury they incurred from the doctor’s negligence, and
- Evidence of lost wages and benefits due to the doctor’s actions or inactions due to the injury they suffered.
Medical malpractice is professional negligence that can have catastrophic results in a patient and their family’s lives that, may have long-lasting injuries or even death. Patients and their families have rights under the law and should be pursued within the parameters of the law.
Final Remarks: Medical Malpractice Claims
Medical malpractice can cause significant damage and stress. If you’re looking to file a medical malpractice claim, it may be wise to consider finding a medical malpractice lawyer. It’s important you understand the elements of medical malpractice, especially if you or a loved one suffered from a medical malpractice injury, or if the medical malpractice caused the death of a loved one.