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How do I Know if I Have a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Medical procedures do not always have the desired outcome; sometimes unexpected or unpreventable results occur and are not the consequence of medical malpractice. In order to have a claim for medical malpractice, your injury (or undesired/harmful result of a medical procedure or treatment) must have been caused by negligence by a healthcare professional. Medical professionals must meet the industry’s standard of care when treating patients. This standard of care is determined by the level of care other medical professionals or workers would provide to an individual under the same or similar circumstances. Healthcare workers that are held to this standard may include doctors, nurses, hospital staff members, dentists, other medical related workers or the hospital itself. If the standard of care is not met and the patient is injured as a result of this failure, the injured party may have a claim for medical malpractice. To determine if the facts of your case merit a medical malpractice claim, it is important to speak to an attorney knowledgeable in this area of law.

If you do have a claim for medical malpractice, you must be able to prove certain elements of your case to the judge or jury. There are four elements to prove, the first is that the defendant (medical professional or hospital) had a duty to the plaintiff. The second is that the defendant breached this legal duty and (third) the breach caused the plaintiff’s injury. Lastly, the defendant’s failure to meet the industry’s standard of care (negligence) caused harm to the plaintiff. The third element (causation) is often the most difficult to prove in a medical malpractice case. The plaintiff must show that the defendant caused his or her injury due to negligence; that the injury was not a typical (or common) result of the plaintiff’s illness or medical condition that could not be prevented.

Accordingly, the cause of the plaintiff’s injury may be actual or proximate. If the causation is shown to be actual, the plaintiff’s injury was directly caused by an action (or nonaction) by the defendant. If the defendant had not been negligent, the plaintiff would not have suffered injury. Thus, proving actual causation uses what is called the “but for” test; the injury would not have occurred “but for” the defendant’s negligence (or action). Likewise, the cause of the plaintiff’s injury may be proximate if it can be shown that the defendant’s negligence was the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injury. The proximate cause set forth a sequence of events that caused the plaintiff’s legal injury. Since actual and proximate causation may be difficult to prove, it may be necessary to rely on the testimony of an expert witness to show causation in your case. The facts of your case and kind of injury will help determine the type of medical expert you should have. Additionally, an attorney knowledgeable in medical malpractice litigation will be able to assist you in deciding if expert testimony is in your best interests to prove causation in your case.

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