How Do You Prove Medical Malpractice?

Perhaps you are considering filing a medical malpractice lawsuit and are wondering what you will need to prove to have a successful case. It is not enough simply to say that your doctor caused you harm, you must have facts to back that up. Before you go any further, it is important to establish whether a doctor-patient relationship existed between you and your doctor. If your health care provider either agreed to provide medical treatment to you, or if there was no specific agreement, but such care was provided, then you probably had a doctor-patient relationship (this is the one element of medical malpractice that generally is not challenged).

Was Your Doctor Negligent?

Next, you must show that negligence occurred. This means that whether in providing treatment to you, your doctor or health care professional failed to act in the way a skilled, competent doctor would have done under the same circumstances. This is known as the medical standard of care and is crucial to your case. You must then show that the lack of proper medical care directly caused your injury or injuries. Obviously, most of those who see a doctor are either sick or hurt, therefore it must be shown that the underlying injury or disease was not responsible for the injury, rather the doctor’s actions—or lack of action—caused the injury. Finally, the injury caused by your doctor must have resulted in quantifiable damages which could include medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity, or pain and suffering.

What is the Standard of Medical Care?

When the standard of medical care is considered, remember your doctor’s actions will be compared to similar professionals in a similar situation. It will likely be necessary to bring in expert witnesses who will testify about this matter, and the defendant will have his or her own expert witnesses since this question is at the heart of the matter of medical malpractice. As the plaintiff in the case, you must show that all the elements above are more likely to be true than not—a lesser standard of proof than the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal court.

What are the Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice?

Most medical malpractice claims fall under a failure to diagnose or a failure to warn the patient of unknown risks or improper treatment. If another doctor—under the same circumstances—would have discovered your illness or made a different diagnosis, leading to a better outcome, then you may have a valid medical malpractice claim. Perhaps your doctor failed to provide you with the potential risks of a procedure or drug, and a bad outcome resulted. If you would have chosen not to go through with the procedure or take the drug had you known the risks involved, then medical malpractice may be present.  Some of the most common types of medical malpractice include:
  • Errors associated with anesthesia. When a patient experiences harm as the result of anesthesia administration, he or she may have a medical malpractice claim. In some cases, errors in anesthesia are caused by defective equipment, but more often are due to incompetence or negligence on the part of the anesthesiologist. Either too much or too little anesthesia may have been administered, the patient might not have been properly monitored, or the anesthesia may have interacted with a patient’s allergies or prescription drugs.
  • Errors in the emergency room. Emergency rooms are typically rushed and chaotic, yet doctors and nurses must still maintain high standards of care. If a patient was harmed due to understaffing, improperly trained medical professionals, failure to respond to an emergency in a timely manner, failure to evaluate the medical condition, delayed diagnosis, unsanitary conditions, misdiagnosis, medications, surgical errors, failure to take a proper patient history or failure to monitor the patient, then medical malpractice may have occurred.
  • Malpractice in the hospital. The hospital can be liable for refusal to treat a patient, failure to offer necessary tests, improperly sterilized equipment, administering an incorrect drug or an incorrect dosage of a drug, post-op infections caused by the hospital, surgical errors, or surgery performed without the consent of the patient.
  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis from a doctor. The patient’s health can be severely compromised when an illness is not properly diagnosed or diagnosed too late. The most commonly misdiagnosed illnesses include cancer, infections, vascular diseases, appendicitis, and ectopic pregnancy.

What are the Statutes of Limitations in a Medical Malpractice Case?

The Statutes of Limitations—the amount of time you have to file a claim for medical malpractice—is different from state to state. In the state of Virginia, the medical malpractice statutes of limitations are two years from the date the injury occurred.

Should You File a Medical Malpractice Claim?

The decision to sue a medical professional is never an easy one; our Tronfeld, West & Durrett attorneys are highly experienced in medical malpractice claims. We will thoroughly assess the facts of your case, helping you determine whether a medical malpractice claim is in your best interests. Contact Tronfeld, West & Durrett today.