How do I Know if I have a Medical Malpractice Case?

Several surgeons operating on a patient in the operating room.

Following a medical procedure or treatment, patients usually expect their ailment, illness, or injury to improve or resolve. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In some cases, a person is left worse off than before. How can you tell if the ineffectiveness or negative outcomes of a treatment or surgery are due to medical malpractice?

If a procedure or treatment does not have the intended result, it does not necessarily mean medical malpractice occurred. Simply being unsatisfied with the outcome of a medical treatment does not mean the treating healthcare provider will be on the hook for medical malpractice.

Patients bringing forth a medical malpractice claim in the United States generally have to prove four elements:

  1. A legal duty on the part of the healthcare provider to provide treatment or care (a doctor-patient relationship);
  2. A breach of the legal duty by the healthcare provider to adhere to the standards of the profession (medical negligence);
  3. Causality between the alleged breach of duty and injury sustained by the patient; and
  4. Damages stemming from the injury sustained by the patient caused by the healthcare provider’s breach of duty.

Oftentimes, patients have pre-existing injuries or conditions that could contribute to the undesired result from the treatment. In medical malpractice cases, medical experts from a wide range of specialties will likely be called upon to testify on your behalf that the results of the treatment were in fact caused by the negligence of the healthcare provider and not a prior injury.

In general, most injury claims require the presence of damages, which may include physical pain, permanent disfigurement or disability, emotional or mental anguish, lost future earnings, or additional medical costs. In a medical malpractice case, these damages must be a result of the injuries sustained by the patient due to the healthcare provider’s negligence.

What is a Breach of the Medical Standard of Care?

Although each of the four elements can be difficult to prove, proving that the healthcare provider breached the standard of care for the given procedure or treatment is perhaps the most contentious. Not only does the plaintiff’s legal team have to determine what exactly the standard of care is for the unique case but also show how the healthcare provider failed to meet the standard. Both of these tasks can be incredibly difficult and will require extensive testimony from one or more experts in the appropriate medical field.

It is possible that a doctor can adhere closely to the medical standard of care and still perform an error. If the given error is within the scope of the risks associated with the treatment or if the error did not causally contribute to the patient’s injury, the case for medical malpractice is weakened.

What are Common Types of Medical Malpractice?

When people think of medical malpractice, usually the first thing they envision is a form of error that occurred before, during, or after a medical procedure. However, there are several different situations that could lead to a valid medical malpractice claim:

  • Delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis
  • Prescription errors
  • Anesthesia complications
  • Injuries during childbirth (to the mother or child)
  • Surgical errors
  • Lack of informed consent

In each of these cases, the plaintiff must prove that the healthcare provider failed to adhere to the standard of care that any other reasonably careful healthcare provider in the same position would have.

In cases of a lack of informed consent, a doctor may perform a procedure skillfully but a complication associated with the procedure occurs. If the doctor failed to warn the patient about the potential for this complication to arise, the doctor failed to meet the standards of care of that any reasonably prudent doctor in the same situation would. A patient with proper warning of the complication may have chosen to forego the procedure.

Have you been the Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you believe that you or a loved one have been the victim of medical malpractice, contact Thomas J. Henry immediately. Dealing with a significant injury or a loss of a loved one after a medical procedure can be difficult and emotionally draining. Our attorneys have experience handling a variety of complex malpractice cases and can help you determine if you have a legitimate claim to make against a healthcare provider or facility. Contact us today for a free legal consultation.

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