Determining Negligence in a Medical Malpractice Case

Medical malpractice claims arise when victims suffer preventable harm as a result of negligence committed by doctors, nurses, and other health care providers. While these cases are difficult because they entail complex and highly technical medical information, they also introduce added difficulties when it comes to understanding negligence and how it is established.

Proving negligence is at the core of any injury case, and in many cases it can be a straightforward matter. In the context of injuries or illnesses arising from medical treatment and procedures, however, proving negligence becomes a case-by-case matter. This is because negligence in medical malpractice cases is defined as the failure to treat patients in accordance to acceptable medical standards, which can vary depending on the condition being treated, the patient and their health history, and many other factors. For example, the standard of care in emergency situations can differ from the standard in treating a patient undergoing an elective procedure.

Despite the risks inherent to medical treatment, there are instances when doctors fail in their legal obligation to take reasonable steps for safety and steps to keep their care in line with the care any reasonable medical professional would provide under the same or similar circumstances. Determining negligence in medical malpractice cases may be a matter that varies according to the facts, but establishing the essential elements of a claim is always required:

  • A duty of care existed – Doctors and other health care professionals have a duty to treat patients in accordance to medical standards whenever there a doctor-patient relationship has been established. Overhearing a doctor giving advice to another patient, and following that advice, would not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. However, being treated by a doctor you agreed to have been treated by would.
  • A duty of care was breached – Doctors breach their duty when they fail to provide acceptable care. This can occur in many different ways, but generally involve negligence or wrongful and intentional acts. Doctors who fail to identify and diagnose a condition a reasonably skillful doctor would under similar circumstances breach their duty, as do doctors who leave an instrument in a patient’s body during surgery. These are common examples of negligence.
  • Causation – Victims must prove that a health care provider’s negligence more likely than not led to their injuries. This can be established through testimony from medical experts, who can help highlight how substandard care led to harm.
  • Damages – In order for a malpractice claim to have merit, victims must have suffered damages. These include their physical injuries, pain, and suffering, as well as medical expenses, lost wages, loss of quality of life, and other economic and non-economic damages.

Pursuing a medical malpractice claim begins with understanding your rights and whether negligence is truly to blame for your poor outcome. By working with our award-winning attorneys at Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP, you can receive the support you need from the very moment you reach out to us. Over the years, our firm has recovered more than $1 billion in compensation for victims and families, and we are prepared to fight for you. Call (216) 600-0114 for a FREE case evaluation.


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