In order to win a medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff’s case must meet several legal requirements. To fulfill each one can be challenging. An attorney who is experienced in medical malpractice cases can investigate your situation to help determine if a judge or jury might rule in your favor. Below are some of the relevant points that will be examined.
What is Negligence
A bad outcome does not prove negligence or malpractice because there are many natural causes that result in the deterioration of health. For example, the patient may have waited too long to seek medical care.
Even the death of a patient does not mean an error was made. In almost every case, the medical team does everything humanly possible to save the life of the patient.
However, if negligence can be proven, there may have been medical malpractice. Negligence is when there is a clear duty to act on the part of the caregiver but the caregiver didn’t act or didn’t act in a way they should have acted. There may not have been an intention to harm the patient but the improper or lack of action caused harm. Overall, negligence is hard to prove.
Negligence may also be a deviation from standard medical protocols. However, protocols and accepted standard of care can vary from one place to another. For example, a patient may expect to receive a higher standard of care at the Mayo Clinic than at a small, rural hospital. It can be challenging to prove that the expected standard of care was not met.
There Must be a Clear Caregiver Relationship
The person who made the error must be part of your caregiver team. They may be your doctor, nurse, surgeon, or someone else from whom you sought medical care.
Furthermore, there are usually several people involved in the chain of care. There may be a paramedic team, the hospital admissions team, the doctor on call, the nursing staff. In some cases, determining where the error occurred and by whom can be difficult when many people were involved in your care.
It Must be Shown that an Error Was Made
Becoming sicker or not getting completely well does not necessarily mean that an error was made in your care. Some act or omission must be pinpointed that resulted in harm to your health.
For example, if you were misdiagnosed for an extended period of time and this resulted in irreparable damage to your health, this could be a case of malpractice. Or if you were prescribed the wrong medicine for your illness and this caused long-term harm, a court might rule this to be malpractice.
It Must be Shown that the Patient Was Harmed by the Error
Using the case above, if the doctor prescribed the wrong medicine but no serious harm resulted from that error, this would not be malpractice. A loss must be shown, such as a permanent loss of movement or damage to an organ as a direct result of the prescription or diagnosis error.
Preexisting health conditions can be pointed out as the cause of the deterioration in a person’s health. For example, if an obese person dies during heart surgery, it may be challenging or impossible to prove that an error was made during the surgery since the preexisting obesity is well known to be a factor that causes heart damage.
The Loss Must be Measurable
Simply feeling worse is not measurable. In order for the court to recognize that you have been damaged in some way and to assess a monetary award, there must be a measurable amount of harm.
For example, if as a direct result of a medical error, you lost six months of work, the court can rule on the amount of wages that were lost. Or if due to provable negligence, you permanently lost the sight in one eye, the court could rule that you should be given a specific amount of monetary compensation.
Winning a medical malpractice case can be challenging. Many factors must be in place and proved. Nevertheless, malpractice does occur and many cases have been won. An attorney experienced in medical malpractice lawsuits such as the personal injury lawyer St. Paul MN locals trust will investigate each point to evaluate your chances of success.
Thanks to authors at Johnston Martineau PLLP for their insight into Personal Injury Law.