Medical malpractice lawsuits are complex due to the amount of time, research, and resources required. If you pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit because you or a loved one suffered medical negligence, you need a law firm that has experience. The GoldenbergLaw team has over 30 years of experience providing the Gold standard of advocacy, and a member of our team will evaluate your case through a free consultation.
What is Medical Malpractice?
According to the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys, medical malpractice occurs when a hospital, doctor or other health care professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes injury to a patient.
There are four legal elements that must be proven by the preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) standard in a medical malpractice lawsuit:
- There was a doctor-patient relationship
- The health care professional violated the standard of care
- An injury was caused by the negligence
- The injury resulted in significant damages
Medical Professional – Patient Relationship
To file a medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff must prove that the patient had a medical professional / doctor – patient relationship with the health care provider. Basically, the medical professional must have treated the patient. This can be established through medical records and billing records for services.
What is the Standard of Care?
The standard of care is the cornerstone of every medical malpractice case. The standard of care is the method of diagnosis or treatment that a reasonable medical provider would be expected to follow in a specific situation.
There are two key questions when evaluating the standard of care in a potential medical malpractice case:
- Would a similarly skilled health care professional have provided the patient with the same treatment under the same or similar circumstances?
- Did the violation of the standard of care actually cause the damages?
What is a Violation of the Standard of Care?
Medical malpractice law acknowledges that medical providers are not perfect. However, the law emphasizes that there are certain medical standards recognized by the profession as being acceptable medical treatments implemented by reasonably prudent health care professionals under similar circumstances. The patient has a right to expect that health care professionals will provide them with the appropriate standard of care. If it is determined that the standard of care has not been met, then negligence may be established.
However, it’s also important to understand what is not a violation of the standard of care. A negative treatment outcome does not necessarily mean that the health care provider committed medical malpractice. If something goes wrong or the patient’s condition goes from bad to worse, that still does not necessarily mean that medical negligence occurred. Not all illnesses and health problems are treatable. Sometimes a doctor cannot treat or cure an illness– even when that condition is considered treatable. This is because not every patient will respond to the standard treatment. As long as the doctor acted with reasonable care in compliance with the standard in choosing and carrying out the treatment, typically no medical negligence occurred.
But what medical malpractice law intends to do is provide legal protection for patients when the treatment they were given by a health care professional falls short of acceptable health care standards.
Key questions to consider when evaluating the validity of a medical malpractice claim are:
- What was the appropriate medical standard of care in the particular situation?
- Did the defendant adhere to or deviate from that standard?
What all viable medical malpractice claims have in common is that the health care provider’s actions (or inactions) fell short of the standard of care given the circumstances. This means that the provider was negligent by providing substandard care to their patient and a competent health care provider, under the same circumstances, would not have acted that way. Therefore, whether or not the health care provider was reasonably skilled and acted carefully is often the crux of medical malpractice cases.
The burden is placed on the plaintiff to prove that the medical care or treatment falls below the acceptable standard of care and caused the patient’s injury. The plaintiff must show that the medical provider deviated from the acceptable standard of care. This is accomplished through medical experts’ testimony, evidence about the applicable medical standard of care given the circumstances, and then assessing whether or not the health care provider’s actions fell below that standard. Then, the plaintiff must show to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the substandard care was the cause of the patient’s harm.
There are two types of causation in medical malpractice cases: the actual cause and the proximate cause. The actual cause means that the injuries suffered by the patient would not have occurred if the medical professional had not been negligent and that the injury was a foreseeable risk for that negligence. Proximate cause means that other factors led to the injury, but the factors were still related to the medical professional’s negligent actions.
For a medical malpractice lawsuit to be successful, it is not enough to show that a health care professional simply violated the standard of care. The patient must also prove that they suffered an injury that would not have occurred if the negligence did not happen. Therefore, the patient must prove the health care provider’s negligence actually caused the injury.
The plaintiff must also show that the injury led to significant damages. These damages can include physical pain, mental anguish, significant past, and future medical bills lost work, and lost earning capacity.
Medical malpractice lawsuits are expensive to litigate, require testimony from numerous medical experts, and hours of depositions. For the case to be viable, the plaintiff must show that they suffered significant damages as a result of the injury caused by medical negligence. If the damages are too small, the cost of pursuing the case may be greater than a potential recovery.
Types of Medical Malpractice
- Surgical instruments left in patients
- Surgical errors
- Birth injuries
- Failure to diagnose
- Inaccurate diagnosis
- Nursing home neglect or negligence
- Prescription errors
To learn more about the types of medical malpractice, read our blog “Types of Medical Malpractice.”
How GoldenbergLaw Can Help You
If you or a loved one was harmed by medical malpractice, you need a team with the knowledge, experience, and compassion to provide you with the Gold standard of advocacy. For more than 30 years, GoldenbergLaw has been fighting for justice for our clients. Contact the Minnesota Medical Malpractice Attorneys at GoldenbergLaw today for a free consultation and leave the sleepless nights to us!