Studies reveal that medical errors account for almost a quarter of a million deaths in the U.S. each year, making medical errors the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.
Medical malpractice is a form of personal injury and occurs when a health care professional causes injury to a patient, either through their negligent actions or failure to act. Doctors and other medical or healthcare professionals are expected to adhere to a certain level of competency and care when treating patients. When their actions fall short of this standard, resulting in harm to a patient, they may leave themselves open to a medical malpractice claim.
If you have been injured due to a medical error it is advisable to seek legal help for your medical malpractice situation. This article will outline some of the ways to prove medical malpractice.
To prove medical malpractice it must be shown that the medical professional acted negligently, resulting in harm to the patient. To establish negligence, the injured party must prove the following:
- The existence of a doctor-patient relationship under which the patient was owed a duty of care by the healthcare professional
- The healthcare professional breached their duty of care through their failure to act according to the standards expected of them
- As a direct result of this breach of duty, the patient suffered harm
- The injury resulted in quantifiable damages
Proving a medical professional was negligent, will require showing that their conduct fell short of the acceptable standard of care within their profession. The testimony of a medical expert in the same field is often required to establish whether or not this standard was met.
Examples of Medical Negligence
Medical negligence can occur in several situations and result in the worsening of a condition, physical and mental pain and suffering, loss of income from the inability to work and reduced quality of life. Some common examples of negligence that may lead to a medical malpractice claim can include:
- Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose
- Ignoring or misreading lab results or patient’s chart history
- Surgical errors or unnecessary surgery
- Premature discharge
- Incorrect medication or dosage
- Poor follow-up or aftercare
- Childbirth injuries
- Failing to recognize symptoms
The Res Ipsa Doctrine
Establishing negligence on the part of a medical professional (defendant) is not always straightforward and usually requires the testimony of an expert witness.
However, in cases where a patient (plaintiff) does not know the exact cause of their injuries, they may invoke res ipsa loquitur. This legal doctrine which translates as “the thing speaks for itself,” relieves the plaintiff from having to prove the defendant was negligent as there is a presumption that negligence applies.
Instead the burden of proof shifts on to the defendant who must disprove negligence on their part. To successfully invoke the res ispa doctrine, the plaintiff must show:
- The injury would not ordinarily occur unless there was negligence;
- The injury occurred while the plaintiff was under the defendant’s care and control;
- The plaintiff was not responsible for their own injury.
Follow the guidance in this article to successfully prove your medical malpractice claim.
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