Medical malpractice is a serious allegation that could result in disciplinary action and legal consequences if one is found at fault. It happens when a patient is harmed by a medical professional who fails to competently perform his or her medical duties. This could result in a variety of outcomes, including continued illness, developing a secondary illness, or death.
Proving medical malpractice requires gathering evidence that proves the malpractice happened. Typically, there are four main elements that must be proved in order to have a reasonable malpractice suit:
- There must be proof that a doctor-patient relationship existed.
- There must be proof that the medical professional was negligent in their care.
- The medical professional’s actions deviated from the standard of care and are what caused the injury or illness.
- As a result of the medical professional’s action, actual harm was sustained.
Proving a Doctor-Patient Relationship
Proving that there was a doctor-patient relationship should be fairly easy. Medical records and bills of receipt should be enough to prove that this relationship existed.
Negligence involves putting a patient at an unreasonable risk of harm due to a behavior that was not in alignment with the standard of care. To prove this, medical records documenting the care will be necessary. Additionally, the expert testimony of another medical professional in the same field might be necessary to prove that negligence occurred. This testimony will help demonstrate that the action taken by the medical professional was not consistent with what another professional would consider reasonable medical care.
Common types of medical malpractice include:
- Failure to diagnose.
- Improper treatment.
- Failure to warn a patient of known risks.
Once the negligence is proved, the next step is to prove that the negligence caused harm that would not have occurred had the negligence not happened. This is the most difficult step and will likely be met with defenses from the opposing side of the case. Some of these defenses may include:
- The condition would have occurred or developed anyway.
- The patient is responsible for the injury or illness.
- The injury or illness could have been caused by an unrelated factor.
- The injury or illness was pre-existing.
Proving Actual Harm
Once negligence and causation are proven, it is time to prove that actual harm has been caused and damages are entitled. The actual and quantifiable extent of the harms suffered must be identified.
Damages that are eligible for compensation include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. All of these damages require evidence, so it is important to gather as much of it as possible. A variety of forms of evidence could be helpful, including:
- Medical bills.
- Receipts for other items related to the injury, including transportation to medical appointments, the cost of hiring extra help around the house, home renovations, prescriptions, etc.
- Personal testimonies.
- Record of lost wages and lost benefits.
- Expert witness reports from medical professionals, social workers, therapists, rehabilitation experts, and financial experts.
- A pain journal.