How Do I Know If I Have A Medical Malpractice Claim?

If you have been injured due to a mistake made by a healthcare provider, nurse, or caregiver, you may question if you have grounds to file a medical malpractice claim. What many people do not realize is that there is much more involved in proving malpractice than an injury.

What Constitutes Medical Malpractice?

Sometimes healthcare providers make an honest mistake, but that does not mean that the injured patient or his or her loved one can pursue a medical malpractice claim against them in court. There are actually a few important requirements that must be met in order for the unfortunate incident to be considered medical malpractice by legal standards. Before addressing those key factors, it is important to understand what constitutes medical malpractice. Medical malpractice includes:

  • Negligence on the part of a doctor, nurse, hospital staff, or caregiver, including acting negligently or failing to take appropriate action.
  • Medical mistakes, including improper diagnosis or treatment, medication errors, failing to diagnose or treat a condition in a timely manner, or improper monitoring.
  • Surgical mistakes, including wrong site surgery, injury to surrounding areas, leaving objects inside the patient, or mistakes with anesthesia.
  • Birth injuries to a mother or child caused by inappropriate diagnosis, monitoring, or treatment before, during, and after delivery. Also, birth injuries caused by forceful birth or medical mistakes during delivery.

Key Factors for Medical Malpractice Claims

When it comes to medical malpractice, the burden of proof falls on the shoulders of you, the patient/plaintiff. That means that you must establish the key factors that legally will move your case from a simple mistake to one of negligence or malpractice. These factors include:

Establishing the Existence of a Doctor-Patient Relationship: Establishing a doctor-patient relationship is one of the simplest factors in a medical malpractice case. This means that you, as a patient or loved one, can prove that the patient sought medical treatment from the provider, who then provided a diagnosis or treatment to the patient.

Proving that the Healthcare Provider Made a Mistake or was Negligent: Healthcare providers are tasked with performing their duties in accordance to a medical standard of care. In order to have a medical malpractice case, you must prove that the healthcare provider failed to act within the standard of care. To prove this element, it is commonly necessary to do the following: 

  • Utilize expert witnesses, such as healthcare providers or other professionals, to determine what a similarly skilled provider should have done in the same situation, or with the same diagnosis. This factor basically determines what your provider should have done, versus what he or she actually did. 
  • Utilize clinical guidelines, professional groups, and expert witnesses to show that the provider deviated from the acceptable medical standards of care. Determining the standards of care may require review of applicable state laws, the community in which the provider practices, etc. 

Proving that the Mistake or Negligence Resulted in Harm: In order to meet this key factor, you must prove that the action of the healthcare provider resulted in an injury. This requires proving that the actions (or failure thereof) of the provider directly resulted in an injury, or caused an existing condition to become worse. You must prove that the harm was not a result of an underlying or preexisting condition alone, but was the result of the care provided by the healthcare provider.

In order to establish a medical malpractice claim, these key factors must be proven by a "preponderance of the evidence", which simply means that these factors are most likely true based on the evidence and expert testimony.

Getting Help and Certainty

Establishing and pursuing a medical malpractice claim can be complex. The best way to determine if you have a medical malpractice claim is to contact an attorney in your area that specializes in such cases. By consulting with a medical malpractice attorney, you can be certain that your case meets the standards discussed here, and find out more about your legal rights and options based on your individual case.

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