At Latona Law, we have been practicing in the legal area of medical malpractice for many years. We have fought for thousands of clients in that time, winning substantial rewards in cases involving doctoral negligence that led to grievous bodily injuries or death.
Since we have been working with medical malpractice cases for so long, we understand the ins and outs required of us to get everything right when building your case. But that does not mean that new clients who come in to consult with us are not nervous about starting out in their own lawsuit. We realize that beginning legal proceedings against a doctor or hospital can seem overwhelming and scary, and so that is why we want to help put your mind at ease by providing you with this guide on the various elements of a medical malpractice case.
Such a case standing up in court requires that certain elements be present. Any holes in the presentation could cause the lawsuit to fail. In that case, we want to take you through the four most essential elements of a medical malpractice case so you know from the start what you are getting into.
Four Parts of a Malpractice Claim
A successful medical malpractice case generally consists of four main elements: a doctor’s duty, or the existence of a doctor-patient relationship; the doctor’s deviation from the generally accepted standard of medical care; direct causation of a patient injury due to the doctor’s deviation, or negligence; and damages caused by that injury, for which restitution can be sought.
Let us discuss each of these in detail.
1. Duty, or a Doctor-Patient Relationship
When a patient goes to see a doctor for care, that doctor enters into a kind of professional contract with the patient. The “contract” stipulates that the doctor owes the patient a reasonable standard of care. That means the doctor must provide competent, judicious medical care that any other conscientious doctor would do in the same situation. To prove that the doctor and patient in question entered into such a contract, all that is needed is a medical record showing that the doctor took on the plaintiff as a patient. Even if the doctor was filling in for the patient’s normal doctor, the contract still exists. This doctoral duty is a necessary part of a malpractice case because a doctor cannot be held responsible for a patient becoming injured if the doctor did not know he or she was advising a patient. So, for instance, a doctor overheard advising someone could not be held accountable for what he said if someone else tries the advice and gets hurt.
2. Breach of Duty of Reasonable Care
The second primary element of a medical malpractice claim is that the doctor must be shown to have breached his or her duty to provide the patient with a reasonable standard of care. In most cases, proving that the doctor violated the medical code of conduct requires a medical expert to testify on behalf of the plaintiff. This is because laypersons–such as those who would serve on the jury in a court case–would be unable to tell if the doctor’s actions deviated from the standard of care or not. In some extreme cases, a medical expert is not necessary because of the egregiousness of the action, such as amputating the wrong limb.
3. Proof that the Negligence Caused the Injury
It would be a different story if the doctor acted negligently by breaching the reasonable standard of care but did not injure the patient. Therefore, for the malpractice case to proceed, it must be shown that the doctor’s breach of duty directly hurt the patient. Perhaps a surgeon was careless while making an incision and cut a patient more than was required but still performed the surgery successfully. Proving malpractice would be difficult in this case. However, if the surgeon was careless when making an incision and struck a vital organ, causing the patient great harm, then malpractice can be shown to have occurred.
The final component of a medical malpractice case is damages. In a situation such as this, damages refer to the bodily, financial, or mental harm done to the patient by the doctor because of the injury. If the injury is significant enough to disrupt the general wellbeing of the patient, the jury will likely find the doctor guilty of medical malpractice and award financial restitution to the patient.
Experienced Medical Malpractice Law Firm
We hope seeing the various elements that constitute a medical malpractice claim has helped you to understand what lies ahead if you have been injured by a doctor and want to seek justice. The malpractice lawyers at Latona Law are experienced in building successful cases that win fair settlements for our clients.
Just call us to set up a free consultation, and let us start fighting for you.