What Must Be Shown to Prevail in a Medical Malpractice Case?
The process of proving a medical malpractice claim in Pennsylvania is much more complex than many people realize. Many people mistakenly believe that not receiving the desired treatment outcome + means that their doctors or other health care providers committed malpractice. However, unhappiness with the outcome of treatment does not mean that malpractice has occurred. Instead, before you can prevail in a malpractice claim against your doctor or another health care provider, you will have to be able to prove that the doctor, hospital, or health care provider engaged in negligence in delivering your care. Here is some information about medical negligence from the Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys at Raynes & Lawn.
What Must be Proven in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Medical negligence claims include four legal elements. To prevail in your case, you must present evidence showing that the care you received violated the expected standard of care. If you are unable to prove one of the elements of negligence, your claim will not be successful. Each of the elements you are required to prove in a medical malpractice lawsuit is detailed below.
You and the Provider had a Provider-Patient Relationship.
The first thing you will have to show is that you had a provider-patient relationship with the doctor or health care provider you are suing. This means that you requested treatment, and the provider agreed to provide it to you. Overhearing a doctor at a private party discussing medicine and then relying on what you heard does not suffice. Instead, you must have sought treatment, and the doctor or other provider must have agreed to treat you. In practice, most defendants do not challenge this element. It is generally the easiest of the elements to prove in a medical malpractice case. Proving this element satisfies the requirement of demonstrating that the defendant owed you a duty of care.
The Provider Violated the Expected Standard of Care.
Proving that a doctor or another provider was negligent requires you to present evidence that the defendant violated the expected standard of care. This means that the care that you received was substandard and did not meet the standard of care that a reasonable practitioner with the same experience and knowledge in the same field and area would have provided under the same treatment circumstances.
The expected standard of care can vary based on the location where the treatment was provided and the relevant practice area. For example, the expected standard of care for a doctor practicing in a small town in the Midwest would not be compared to what would be provided by a doctor practicing in a major metropolitan area like Philadelphia.
All licensed doctors are expected to possess a basic level of skill in treating and diagnosing general types of injuries and illnesses. For example, a general practitioner who failed to properly administer cardio-pulmonary resuscitation could not claim that he or she did not provide substandard care because he or she is not a specialist. By contrast, a board-certified specialist couldn’t be called as an expert to testify that a general practitioner provided substandard care by failing to provide the type of care he or she would have provided with his or her advanced training.
To prove this element, you will need to retain a medical expert who can testify about the expected standard of care and the fact that the provider’s care failed to meet it. Pennsylvania requires plaintiffs to file certificates of merit when they file medical malpractice lawsuits. This certificate of merit is an attestation that the evidence has been reviewed by a medical expert who believes that the doctor’s care fell below the expected standard of care. Later in the case, you will also need to call the medical expert to testify about the standard of care and the treatment you received to demonstrate that it was substandard.
The Substandard Care Caused Your Harm.
The third element you will have to prove is that the substandard care caused your harm. It is not enough to prove that the doctor or health care provider was negligent. You are also required to prove that his or her negligence caused the harm that you suffered, and that your harm was not instead caused by a different issue.
You Suffered Calculable Damages Because of the Substandard Treatment.
The final element is that the negligence caused you to incur calculable damages. You will need to present proof of your damages. Damages are monetary amounts that are recoverable and can include your medical expenses resulting from your injuries and additional treatment, wage losses, pain and suffering, and other expenses you incurred because of the provider’s negligent care.
If you cannot present evidence to prove each of these elements, you will not prevail in your case. It is important to note that not all medical mistakes will amount to malpractice. Even if your provider’s care was negligent, you will not have grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit if you did not suffer any injuries or losses. For example, if a doctor misdiagnosed you, but you promptly sought a second opinion, obtained a proper diagnosis, and did not suffer any injuries or harm, you won’t have a valid medical malpractice claim.
What Happens If There Is No Evidence Available About the Injury’s Cause?
In some medical malpractice cases, there might not be available evidence about the cause of the injuries. However, this does not mean that you will not be able to prevail on the claim. Under the legal principle called res ipsa loquitor, you can prove your case by showing that your injury would not have otherwise occurred unless the provider was negligent.
Proving this requires you to show that the injury would not have otherwise occurred unless the medical provider was negligent and that you did not cause your own injury. You will also have to show that the medical provider had exclusive control of the thing that caused your injury and that your injury would not have occurred in any other way.
For example, if a medical sponge was left in your body after surgery and caused serious injuries, you might not have evidence of how the sponge was left in your body. However, it wouldn’t have been left behind unless the surgical team was negligent.
Talk to a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorney
Suffering injuries because of the negligence of a medical professional can leave you with significant medical expenses, wage losses, and other types of damages. If you believe that your injuries were caused by medical malpractice, you should consult with the experienced attorneys at Raynes & Lawn. Call us today to request a free case evaluation at 1-800-535-1797, or submit your information via our online contact form.
For the general public: This Blog/Website is made available by the law firm publisher, Raynes & Lawn, for educational purposes. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law but does not provide specific legal advice. By using this site, commenting on posts, or sending inquiries through the site or contact email, you confirm that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the Blog/Website publisher. The Blog/Website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.
For attorneys: This Blog/Website is informational in nature and is not a substitute for legal research or a consultation on specific matters pertaining to your clients. Due to the dynamic nature of legal doctrines, what might be accurate one day may be inaccurate the next. As such, the contents of this blog must not be relied upon as a basis for arguments to a court or for your advice to clients without, again, further research or a consultation with our professionals.