When you seek advice or treatment from a medical professional, you are placing your health, your safety, and sometimes your very life in their hands. When that medical provider's negligence, carelessness, or even ill intent causes injury, harm, or death to you or a loved one, it can feel like the worst kind of betrayal.
Although the laws governing medical malpractice can differ significantly from state to state, if a medical professional has caused you or someone you love to experience an injury, illness, or death, you may be eligible to receive fair compensation to recover from your losses. In this article, we will discuss the inherent difficulties in proving in a court of law that medical malpractice occurred. We will also detail the four elements required to prove that medical malpractice occurred.
Is Proving Medical Malpractice Really Difficult?
Medical negligence can manifest in any number of ways. Some of the most common causes include:
- Improper treatment
- Unnecessary surgery
- Surgical errors
- Misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or failure to diagnose a condition
- Incorrect medication or dosage
Medical malpractice claims are some of the most difficult personal injury cases to prove. So why is medical malpractice difficult to prove? The main reason is that the burden of proof in this type of case is heavier and more complicated than it might be in a typical personal injury case. Medical professionals receive years of education and training. They use methodologies and technologies to diagnose and treat patients that the average person cannot possibly understand. Questioning the judgment and medical choices of such providers likely requires a detailed investigation by independent medical experts.
In addition to the heavier burden of proof, ever-evolving laws surrounding medical malpractice cases make them notably difficult to win. The fact that these laws vary depending on where you live can add another layer of complexity. Timing can mean the difference between a successful case and one that gets thrown out of court. If you don't file within the pertinent state's statute of limitations, there is nothing the court can do to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
Proving a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Court
In this section, we will detail how to prove medical malpractice by demonstrating that the four necessary conditions exist in your case.
1. A Doctor-Patient Relationship Existed
You must be able to prove to the court that you had a doctor-patient relationship with the provider in question. Whether you had a single appointment or saw the provider multiple times, you need to prove that you sought medical care and, in doing so, hired the provider, who agreed to provide you with advice or treatment.
This element is generally the easiest to prove and simply requires that you provide relevant medical records or medical bills that demonstrate you had a doctor-patient relationship with the defendant.
2. The Healthcare Provider Neglected to Uphold the Standard of Care
By entering into a doctor-patient relationship with you, the medical professional took on a duty of care. It is then the legal obligation of the medical professional to provide you with care that meets the accepted standard of care within the medical community.
This is where the process can become both complicated and expensive.
Proving that negligence took place in a medical malpractice case requires that you demonstrate to the court that the medical provider did not give you the same reasonable advice or treatment that another medical professional would likely have provided under the same circumstances.
It can be a challenge to prove that the medical provider failed to uphold the duty or standard of care. You will need to gather all of your pertinent medical records as well as depositions, sworn statements, or testimony from anyone who was involved in your care or who witnessed the provider's negligent or careless actions or treatment.
Most states require that you provide the testimony of a medical expert to describe the appropriate standard of care and to discuss how the provider's conduct toward you failed to meet that standard. The services and testimony of medical expert witnesses can be significantly more expensive than those provided by other kinds of expert witnesses.
3. That Neglect Caused You to Suffer an Injury or Harm
In many cases, the victim in a medical malpractice suit was already injured or sick when they sought treatment from the defendant. This can add even more complexity to the process of proving that the defendant's medical negligence or actions — and not the victim's pre-existing medical condition — were "more likely than not" the cause of additional harm to the plaintiff. The testimony of a medical expert will likely be the key to proving this element of your lawsuit.
4. That Harm Resulted in Damages
Finally, you must be able to provide evidence that the defendant's actions directly caused you to suffer actual and measurable losses. Some examples of these losses can include:
- New injuries, disabilities, or illnesses
- Physical pain and suffering
- Psychological anguish
- Scarring or disfigurement
- Loss of ability
- Loss of consortium
- Medical bills
- Pharmacy bills
- Invoices for necessary home or vehicle modifications due to disability
- Loss of income
- Lost earning capacity
- Reduced quality of life
If the provider's actions caused the death of a patient, the victim's surviving family members can provide proof of losses such as:
- Medical bills
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of future income and benefits
- Loss of consortium
Our Medical Malpractice Attorneys Are Here to Assist
Medical malpractice lawsuits are notoriously difficult to win. That's why you should seek assistance from a personal injury attorney with a significant amount of relevant experience in medical malpractice cases. If you or a family member was the victim of a medical provider's negligence, carelessness, or bad actions, contact McEldrew Purtell today to speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney who will fight for the fair compensation you deserve.