Medical malpractice lawsuits are civil cases brought against healthcare professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and hospitals, with allegations of substandard care causing injury or death to a patient. These cases can be complex and often require the testimony of medical experts to establish the standard of care that the healthcare professional owed to the patient and to show that the care provided fell below that standard.
If the plaintiff successfully shows that medical malpractice occurred, they may be able to recover damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Elements of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
The four main elements that must be present in a medical malpractice lawsuit include:
Duty refers to the obligation owed by a healthcare professional to a patient to provide a certain standard of care. This duty arises from the professional relationship between the healthcare provider and the patient– based on the training, experience, and the healthcare provider’s specialty.
For example, a doctor must provide care for a patient that is consistent with the standard of care acceptable by the medical community. This standard of care will vary depending on the medical situation and the case’s specific circumstances.
Breach of Duty
Breach of duty is the failure of a healthcare provider to meet the standard of care that they owe to a patient. It can occur when the healthcare professional makes a mistake, exercises poor judgment, or fails to follow proper procedures.
To establish a breach of duty in a medical malpractice lawsuit, an attorney must show that the healthcare professional did not provide the appropriate standard of care to the patient.
Causation is the link between the healthcare professional’s actions (or inaction) and the patient’s injury or harm. The two types of causation that must be present to establish a medical malpractice lawsuit are:
- Causation is the “but for” test, which means the healthcare professional’s actions (or inaction) were the direct cause of the patient’s injury or harm.
- Proximate causation is the relationship between the healthcare professional’s breach of duty and the patient’s injury or harm. An attorney must show that the injury or harm was a foreseeable result of the healthcare professional’s breach of duty.
For example, if a medical practitioner fails to diagnose a patient’s illness, worsening the patient’s condition, an attorney would establish causation and proximate causation.
The patient’s condition worsening would not have occurred, “but for” the doctor’s failure to diagnose the illness, it was foreseeable that the patient’s condition would worsen if the healthcare provider did not correctly treat the disease.
Damages are an element that must be present in a medical malpractice lawsuit. They refer to the harm or injury the patient suffered, resulting from the healthcare professional’s actions (or inaction).
The various types of potential damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit include:
- Economic damages: These are damages that can’t be calculated with a specific dollar amount, such as lost wages, medical expenses, and lost earning capacity.
- Non-economic damages: These cannot be calculated with a specific dollar amount, such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
- Punitive damages: These are damages designed to punish the healthcare professional for particularly egregious behavior and to discourage others from engaging in similar conduct. Punitive damages are only awarded in cases where the healthcare professional’s behavior was reckless or intentional, making them rare.
To recover damages, the patient must prove that they suffered actual harm or injury resulting from the healthcare professional’s actions (or inaction).
A medical malpractice lawsuit is necessary when a patient has been injured or suffered harm resulting from substandard care provided by a healthcare professional. If you believe your injury or harm was caused by the healthcare professional’s actions (or inaction), seek legal counsel from a website such as ChicagoMedicalMalpracticeLawyers.com or any other trusted law firm within your jurisdiction.