It is imperative that members of the medical community be versed in medical malpractice law as a means of better defending themselves against potential lawsuits. Malpractice suits are common and can be brought up against doctors, nurses, and technicians at any time. Conversely, a patient that is considering suing a doctor or other medical professional for malpractice should be cognizant of the types of defenses a doctor or hospital will use against them.
Understanding these defenses can help both the doctor and their lawyer build a case that will protect them against malpractice suits, as well as assist plaintiffs pursuing a malpractice case understand the evidence they must show in order to prove medical negligence.
In a medical malpractice suit the plaintiff maintains the burden of proof, meaning they must prove that the doctor did in fact commit medical malpractice. There are several different avenues the plaintiff must demonstrate in order to have a successful case. These aspects include:
Doctor negligence — The plaintiff must show that another doctor with the same qualifications would not have pursued the same course of action as the defendant. Negligence can be based on omission or an act. The plaintiff must prove that the doctor’s action was wrong given the circumstance of their specific case.
This negligent act must have lead to further injury — These injuries must have been caused directly by the act, could have been the approximate cause of the injuries. For example, a patient that receiving chemotherapy suffering unnecessary radiation burns due to the doctor’s negligence.
Medical malpractice cases are tort cases — As a result, the burden of proof isn’t as extreme as it is in criminal cases. Negligence does not have to be proven beyond all reasonable doubt. The prosecutor must simply show that malpractice was likely to have occurred given the circumstances.
In opposition, a doctor has several defenses they may utilize against a malpractice suit. These defenses include:
Witnesses that can state the doctor acted reasonably — These witnesses must be expert witnesses. These expert witnesses are called upon to state that the doctor’s actions were reasonable, that he showed care and was not negligent in his actions. Malpractice suits often turn into conflicts involving many different expert testimonies, where those who are able to sway the jury being key.
The defense can also prove that the patient would have had the same result regardless of any negligence—the negligence must have actually caused the injury for a successful malpractice suit. If the injury would have happened anyways and the negligence did not contribute to it in any way, the plaintiff is likely to lose their case.