There are four elements of medical malpractice, including a medical duty of care, breach of the duty, injury caused by the breach, and damages. When you pursue a claim based on medical error, you must establish each of these elements.
Doctors and surgeons are trained to do no harm when treating their patients. Unfortunately, countless errors occur at the hands of doctors each day. These errors can have severe consequences in many cases. According to Studies in Health Technology and Informatics, medical errors could be responsible for more than 250,000 deaths per year in the U.S.
When medical errors happen, patients have the right to seek compensation for their injuries. These patients must establish that their care providers committed medical malpractice in order to pursue this compensation.
Professional Duty Owed to a Patient
Every case of medical malpractice begins with identifying the professional duty of care owed to the patient. A malpractice claim will only be successful if the patient can establish their caretaker owed them that duty.
While this element can be challenging to prove in other types of cases, it is rarely difficult to establish in medical malpractice cases. The doctor/patient relationship is a prime example of a relationship where a professional owes care to a client.
Breach of that Duty
The second element of medical malpractice requires proving that the professional duty was breached. This is often the most contentious aspect of malpractice litigation, as a doctor may vehemently deny making a mistake.
It is important to understand that not every bad outcome during a medical procedure is the result of medical negligence. In some cases, the doctor’s best efforts could still lead to a patient’s injury or death. Some treatment is inherently risky, especially among high-risk patients.
To prove that there was a breach of a doctor’s professional duty of care, you must establish that the doctor failed to exercise the standard of care or skill that would commonly be exhibited by a similar doctor in that situation. This takes into account what specialized knowledge a doctor in this situation would have. Typically, this requires expert testimony from another medical professional to establish that the standard of care was not met in your case.
Some examples of a breached duty could include:
- Surgical mistakes. Many episodes of medical malpractice involve mistakes during surgery. This could include damage caused to healthy tissue during incisions or even an operation on the wrong part of the body.
- Misdiagnosis. One of the most dangerous types of malpractice is misdiagnosis. A doctor could breach their duty of care by incorrectly diagnosing a condition or asserting that an illness was not present at all.
- Delayed diagnosis. Sometimes, doctors will not diagnose an injury or illness in a reasonable amount of time. A delayed diagnosis could be as harmful as a missed diagnosis in some cases.
Causal Link Between Injury and Breach
When medical malpractice occurs, your doctor will only be liable for injuries that are directly tied to their breach of professional duty. In other words, injuries or illnesses stemming from their negligence could make a doctor liable for your compensation. However, you will not be able to seek compensation for a pre-existing health condition or unrelated conditions.
During the course of proving that your doctor was negligent, the same expert testimony could link your injuries to their substandard care.
You must also demonstrate that your medical injury or illness has resulted in compensable damages–in other words, your injury has led to losses and expenses. Ultimately, medical negligence could require you to seek additional medical treatment, not only to address your new issues but also to deal with your original condition as well. The cost of medical bills may be the largest part of a medical malpractice claim.
You could be entitled to seek other forms of compensation as well. Many medical errors could result in severe changes to your life, especially if you go on to experience chronic health issues. Your claim could also cover lost wages or loss of consortium, among other losses.
You Can Work with an Attorney to Prove Your Medical Malpractice Claim
The good news is that you do not have to establish the existence of these elements alone. A New Hyde Park attorney could advise you on the four elements of medical malpractice and whether or not they are present in your case. You also have a limited amount of time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, and a lawyer can tell you more about the deadlines that may apply to your case.
If you are ready to discuss your legal options, a representative from the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP is here to help. Call (516) 358-6900 for a free consultation as soon as possible.