After a person has been harmed as the result of a mistake made by a doctor or other medical professional, it is common for him or her to consult with an attorney. One of the first things that is asked after a brief recitation of the facts is whether the attorney thinks that it is a strong case. There is no easy answer to this question in most instances. The strength of a case depends on how much evidence there is that the healthcare provider made a mistake, in addition to how much harm was done to the person as a result of the negligence. However, even in situations where there is ample evidence to prove malpractice, there are not guarantees about a particular outcome. There are some factors that do indicate a good chance of holding the medical professional responsible for the negligence.
There is Ample Evidence that the Medical Professional was Negligent
In order to succeed in a medical malpractice action, it is necessary to prove the following:
- There was a legally-recognized relationship between the patient and the healthcare provider, which required that the provider adhere to a specific medical standard of care;
- The provider breached his or her duty to the patient by deviating from the medical standard of care;
- The actions of the healthcare provider were the direct and proximate cause of the injuries suffered by the patient; and
- There was actual harm.
A big part of a strong medical malpractice case is demonstrating that the the medical professional breached his or her duty of care. The standard that applies is what a reasonable and prudent medical professional with the same education, training, and experience and working in a similar community would have done under the same circumstances. The standard is based on comparison with a healthcare provider who is the same as the defendant as it would not be fair to hold him or her up next to a professional with more training or resources.
Once the standard has been established through the testimony of an expert witness, the witness then testifies about the deviation from the standard. For example, the case may involve a doctor who delayed ordering an emergency Cesarean section and the delay led to permanent brain damage for the child because of oxygen deprivation. In testifying about the standard, the expert may opine that a reasonable and prudent doctor would have ordered the Cesarean section 15 minutes earlier than the defendant had done and that would have prevented or minimized the injury. The case would then move on to a demonstration of the harm that was caused by the negligence.
Demonstrating that there was Actual Harm
No matter how egregious the error that the doctor committed, if it did not result in actual harm, then there is little for an individual to do to hold the doctor accountable through a medical malpractice case. It is necessary to prove that the actions of the doctor or other medical professional were the direct and proximate cause of harm that can be proven in a court of law. In most cases, the harm involves physical injury, mental anguish, and financial losses. The causal link between the actions of the healthcare provider and the injury also must be proven. It is not enough to show that the patient had a heart attack a week after a doctor prescribed a new medication, it must be shown that the patient had a known heart condition and the drug that the doctor prescribed was contraindicated under these circumstances.
Once the existence of harm caused by the doctor has been established, it may be possible to recover damages that include:
- Money to pay medical bills and ongoing treatment and/or rehabilitation – in some cases, this care may last for the life of the patient;
- Lost wages – this may include money and benefits that would have been earned in the natural progression of the career that the person would have had but for the medical negligence;
- Compensation for pain and suffering – this is considered a non-economic damage and may be subject to a cap, depending on the state in which the action is brought. In many cases, this award may be far greater than the award of economic damages; and
- Miscellaneous costs – there are many additional costs that a person may incur after being injured as the result of a preventable mistake, including expenses relating to renovating a residence and retrofitting a vehicle to accommodate a wheelchair and paying someone to perform services that the person was able to do himself before the injury.
There are many different things that go into a strong medical malpractice case, but the best way to determine whether it is a legal action worth pursuing is to sit down with an experienced and caring attorney who will discuss the various options that you might have.
Stern Law, PLLC Provides Thorough Case Evaluations
The first step to holding a doctor or other healthcare provider accountable for a serious medical mistake is to consult with an experienced attorney. At Stern Law, PLLC, our attorney has worked to get the best results for our clients for more than 30 years. We have a team of medical professionals who can review the records and determine whether there is a viable legal option for a person who has been injured after receiving medical care. In addition to fighting for our clients’ interests, we also provide resources for those who may have been impacted by medical malpractice, with compassionate and committed staff available to answer questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call us at 1-844-808-7529 or fill out an online contact form in order to learn how we can help you get through this difficult time.