A case is medical malpractice, if it can establish four things: the defendant’s duty of care, the defendant’s standard of care violation, causation, and damages.
Duty of Care
The first element of a successful medical malpractice case is proving that the defendant owed you a duty of care. In other words, you must show that the defendant had a professional duty to provide you with a certain level of care.
If you were the defendant’s patient, then proving a duty of care is usually straightforward. All healthcare professionals (doctors, surgeons, radiologists, nurses, physician assistants, lab technicians, etc.) owe their patients a duty of care.
Standard of Care Violation (Medical Negligence)
The second element is showing that the defendant violated the standard of care. The standard of care refers to the way that a reasonable professional would perform his or her duties under the circumstances. A medical malpractice case must prove that the defendant did not perform his or her duties in a way consistent with the standard of care.
A medical malpractice case must present evidence to establish that the defendant’s actions fell short of the standard of care. There is a lot of subjectivity in this standard, and different people may have different ideas of how a reasonable professional would act.
Your attorney may work with medical expert witnesses to testify from the perspective of the reasonable professional. These experts can review all the evidence in your case and give their opinion on the standard of care given the circumstances, and whether the defendant was medically negligent.
A medical malpractice case must link the defendant’s negligence to your injuries or health condition. You must establish that your injuries more likely than not arose because of the defendant’s failure to follow a reasonable standard of care.
Your case must offer compelling evidence to make this connection clear. Depending on the details of your case, many types of evidence may be relevant, including:
- Medical records
- Statements from other doctors
- Statements made by eyewitnesses
- Lab test results
The fourth and final element of a successful malpractice case is linking your injuries to the damages you have incurred. These damages can be economic and non-economic.
Economic damages refer to those involving financial losses and expenses. These losses are quantifiable in dollar terms. Examples include medical bills, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, and prescription drug costs.
Non-economic damages refer to those not involving monetary loss, such as pain and suffering, emotional anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and scarring and disfigurement.
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