How to prove fault in a medical malpractice case

September 3, 2016

Despite their best efforts, sometimes doctors make mistakes.  And even though we expect a certain standard of care from health care professionals, there are times when they fall short.  While they can’t cure everything, a physician is expected to maintain a certain standard of care.  When that standard falls short and results in harm to a patient, that patient can seek damages for medical malpractice.

A medical malpractice lawyer has several possible avenues to recover damages for a plaintiff.  Most of these center around proving negligence on the part of the medical professional who was treating the patient.  To establish negligence, it must be proven that:

  • There was an existing doctor/patient relationship and therefore the doctor owed a duty to that patient
  • There is an appropriate standard of care and the doctor deviated from that standard of care, breaching a duty to the patient.
  • There is a direct connection between that deviation and the injuries suffered by the patient.
  • There was actual injury to the patient.

The key to proving negligence is proving what standard of care exists, and then proving that standard was compromised by the defendant.

While a doctor may be at the center of a malpractice suit, it is not uncommon for makers of prescription medications or medical devices to be sued for malpractice as well.  This can only happen if the pharmaceutical maker or the device manufacturer failed to warn users of potential side effects of a drug or use of a medical device.  A physician is considered a “learned intermediary” in these instances because they are supposed to have been given enough information to determine if a drug or device was appropriate for the patient’s use.

Another possible way to prove malpractice is if a doctor does not provide informed consent to a patient.  In this instance, a doctor has the duty to tell a patient all the benefits, risks and alternatives involved in a procedure or in the use of a drug or device.  Written consent by the patient is always needed prior to administering treatment.

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