A Basic Primer on Proving Medical Malpractice

Posted by Timothy Harvard on June, 2019

If you believe that you or someone close to you may have been a victim of medical malpractice, you may be looking for a consultation with a medical malpractice lawyer. Medical malpractice lawyers are skilled and experienced in helping people file medical malpractice claims and doing their best to ensure that their clients receive the compensation and the justice they deserve. However, proving that medical malpractice actually occurred is not as easy as it might seem. Here’s a breakdown of what it takes to prove medical malpractice in many common cases.

Basic claim requirements

First of all, to prove medical malpractice, the plaintiff and their legal counsel must be able to show all of the following things to be true:

  • A doctor-patient relationship existed: The plaintiff is required to show that they had a relationship with the doctor or other medical professional whom they are suing. Questions about this assertion usually arise in the form of challenging whether the medical professional being sued treated the patient directly or tangentially.
  • The doctor displayed negligence: Being unhappy with the treatment you received is not on its own grounds for a medical malpractice suit. To sue for medical malpractice, your legal counsel must help you show that you were treated by this medical professional in a way that a competent doctor or medical professional would not have treated you. This may require the use of a medical expert witness, which will be discussed in greater detail later.
  • The negligence of the doctor caused injury or complications to the patient: This can be more difficult to prove if the patient was already sick or injured before receiving treatment from the defendant. The plaintiff is required to show that the injuries sustained after the alleged negligence were “more likely than not” caused by the incompetence of the medical professional who treated them. This can also be corroborated with testimony from a medical expert.
  • This injury led to specific damages: If the patient suffered no harm despite an incompetent doctor, they cannot sue for medical malpractice. Harm suffered that could be grounds for a suit include symptoms such as physical pain, mental anguish, lost work and earning capacity, and additional medical bills.

Types of medical malpractice

There are three main types of medical malpractice that are most commonly present when such claims are filed.

One common form of medical malpractice is failure to diagnose. This occurs when an incompetent doctor fails to diagnose a patient with a specific condition, or misdiagnoses them, whereas a competent doctor would have arrived at the correct conclusion during the diagnosis process.

Another form of medical malpractice over which plaintiffs will commonly file suit is malpractice through improper treatment. If the doctor in question treats the patient in a way that no competent doctor would, there could be grounds for a medical malpractice claim. This is also applicable to situations where correct treatment is used, but the doctor administers it in an incompetent fashion.

The last common form of medical malpractice is failure to warn a patient of any known risks associated with the treatment they were receiving. The duty of a medical professional to warn patients of any potential risks or side effects of their treatments is known as the duty of informed consent. If a patient would have elected not to continue with treatment had they known the risks involved (or had a competent doctor explained the risks clearly to them), they may have a valid malpractice claim.

Medical experts, etc.

Medical experts are employed by medical malpractice lawyers to serve as an example of a competent doctor in a specific field. They are usually specialists, and they are responsible for looking at the records of the defendant to determine their level of competence as a medical professional.

State regulations about what qualifies someone as a medical expert varies, but a good medical malpractice lawyer can help you navigate these regulations, as well as helping you obtain any past medical records or paperwork you may need for your case. They can also help you in court to make sure your case is as cohesive and strong as possible.