Many people are aware of the different types of harm that can be done by a doctor or other medical professional, but few people understand the complexities of building a strong medical malpractice case that will convince an insurance company to settle a claim for a reasonable amount or to persuade a jury to award a settlement that compensates a victim for the harm that was done. At the Stern Law, PLLC, our attorney, legal professionals, and medical consultants know how to gather the evidence necessary to succeed in a legal action. However, there are basic elements that must be met.
When bringing a medical malpractice case, it is necessary to demonstrate that the doctor or other medical professional acted in a negligent manner. In order to build a case, the following elements must be proven:
- The medical professional had a duty to act in a reasonable manner in accordance with the applicable standards of the profession;
- The doctor or medical professional breached this duty;
- The breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of the harm that the person suffered; and
- The breach caused actual damages.
Although these seem very straight-forward, there are many complications when the case arises out of medical malpractice, where witnesses are reluctant to contribute to a case against a doctor or other medical practitioner. In addition, depending on the law of the particular state in which the case is being brought, there are regulatory hurdles to meet in order to satisfy the burden of proof. This is one of the reasons that Stern Law’s three decades of experience is so critical in getting the right results for our clients.
Duty of Care
When a person seeks medical attention from any type of professional, there is a standard of care that must be satisfied. When a doctor is providing medical care, the creation of a doctor-patient relationship imposes an obligation for a doctor to act in a manner consistent with a reasonable doctor practicing competently. The standard is based on a doctor with similar training and skills under the same general conditions. What this means is that there are times when a doctor will take extraordinary or unusual actions in response to a medical condition, but as long as the “reasonable doctor” standard is met, the doctor did not breach a duty to the patient. It only is if the doctor took action that is in contravention to what a reasonable doctor would have done that there may be a breach of duty. This is a subjective analysis, typically supported by another medical professional offering an expert opinion about the existence of the duty and a breach of that duty.
Breach of Duty
A breach of duty happens when a doctor or other medical practitioner takes actions that are not in accord with the applicable standard of care that is required under the circumstances. It is important to realize that this changes based on the circumstances. When there is an emergency, a doctor can take actions that would not be deemed reasonable under normal circumstances, but are necessary based on the exigent circumstances. However, even in this situation, it is crucial to analyze what another doctor with comparable training and skills would have done under the facts of the case. This also requires a report and testimony by a medical expert in most cases.
The Breach of Duty was the Direct and Proximate Cause of the Harm
This is more difficult to prove than most people think. There are many different things that may have happened that contributed to the injury suffered by a person getting medical care. The critical analysis is whether or not the injury would have happened “but for” the actions of the doctor or other medical professional. This requires an analysis of each step of the medical care to determine whether there were any other intervening acts that may have altered the outcome of the medical treatment or care. If the ultimate determination is that the patient would not have suffered the harm that is at the heart of the medical malpractice action, but for the actions of the medical professional, then it is possible to move forward with a claim.
The Breach of Duty Caused Actual Damages
In order to prevail in a medical malpractice case, there must be quantifiable damages. This means that the person must have suffered from some form of physical or psychological harm that can be valued monetarily. A person who had the flu for a few extra days because his doctor forgot to call in a prescription, but had sick days to cover the lost work time, may not have any damages. However, a person whose doctor forgot to call in a prescription and the flu progressed into pneumonia that led to a long hospital stay may have the basis for a medical malpractice claim. The damages can range from a small amount to millions of dollars, depending on the harm that was suffered.
Stern Law, PLLC Advocates for Medical Malpractice Victims
At the Stern Law, PLLC, we understand how to analyze medical records, victim testimony, and witness statements in order to build a case that satisfies the elements of a medical malpractice case. We work hard to get people the compensation that they need after being harmed because of a medical mistake. We believe that it is critical to have legal resources available for our clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week in order to answer questions and provide information, so we always have people available to answer your questions and concerns. 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.