How Do You Prove Medical Negligence?

Posted On January 17, 2024 Medical Malpractice
How Do You Prove Medical Negligence

We expect to receive the best possible care and attention when we visit a healthcare professional. We place our health and, in many cases, our lives in the hands of doctors and other healthcare providers. However, medical professionals may fail to provide appropriate treatment, leading to harm or injury to the patient. When this happens, it can feel like betrayal.

Statistically speaking, up to 120,000 Americans die due to medical negligence annually. While the laws governing medical malpractice vary significantly from one state to another, the general rule is that a harmed patient can seek compensation for their losses if a healthcare provider is negligent in their practice.

But how do you prove medical negligence to obtain the compensation you rightfully deserve? Below, we discuss some things you need to know about proving medical malpractice, provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about medical negligence and how a Bridgeport medical malpractice lawyer can help you with legal procedures.

 

What Are the Four Elements That Prove Medical Negligence

When building a successful case for medical negligence, you must prove each of the following four elements:

  1. The Existence of a Doctor-Patient Relationship. First and foremost, you cannot initiate medical malpractice proceedings without establishing the existence of a doctor-patient relationship first. This relationship is formed when a patient seeks medical care from a healthcare provider, and they agree to provide the patient with treatment. Without this relationship, holding the healthcare provider accountable for any harm they may have caused is practically impossible.
  2. The Healthcare Provider Failed to Uphold the Standard of Care. This element involves proving that the healthcare provider deviated from the accepted standard of care. This legal term refers to the level of care that a reasonable healthcare provider should provide in similar circumstances. When a healthcare provider deviates from this standard of care, they may be liable for medical malpractice if you can establish causation and damages. Some examples of medical negligence that may constitute a failure to uphold the standard of care include misdiagnosis, prescribing the wrong medication, or performing a surgical procedure incorrectly.
  3. That Neglect Caused You to Suffer an Injury or Harm (Causation). The third element of medical malpractice requires proving that a patient suffered an injury or harm because the healthcare provider failed to uphold the accepted standard of care. This is usually the most difficult element to prove, as medical malpractice lawsuits require clear and convincing evidence of causation. To show that the healthcare provider’s negligence directly caused the harm you suffered, you may need to provide medical records, expert witness testimony, and other evidence to support your claim.
  4. The Harm Resulted in Damages. This element involves proving that the harm you suffered resulted in damages. These damages can include additional medical expenses, lost income, loss of enjoyment of life, disability, mental anguish, pain and suffering, and other losses and damages related to the injury. Determining damages requires assessing the extent of the harm you suffered and its impact on your life, which often requires working with a skilled medical malpractice lawyer.

Evidence to Establish a Medical Malpractice Claim

Prove Medical Negligence

To make a claim for medical malpractice, you need evidence, including:

  • Medical records. Medical records can provide a detailed history of the patient’s medical condition before, during, and after the treatment during which the healthcare provider was negligent. These medical records may include doctor’s notes, diagnoses, test reports, and medications prescribed, among others. Medical records are arguably the most critical evidence in a medical malpractice claim. You should request copies of your medical records as soon as you suspect negligence, as some of those records may go missing, be tampered with, or otherwise become unavailable as time passes.
  • A timeline of the appointment history. The appointment timeline, which shows all activities related to your trips to the doctor’s office, including the time and dates, can be used to prove any gaps or inconsistencies in care. This particular piece of evidence can also demonstrate whether the healthcare provider provided appropriate treatment during the entire treatment.
  • Photographs of any injuries or harm suffered. Photos can show the severity of harm caused by medical negligence. For this reason, taking detailed photographs of any visible injuries immediately after they occur and how they change as time goes by and you undergo treatment is beneficial.
  • Expert witness testimony. Expert witnesses provide testimony from medical experts who make persuasive claims regarding the healthcare provider’s medical negligence. Expert witnesses can provide insight into the standard of care that should have been provided by a healthcare provider and how the provider’s actions or omission constituted a neglect to uphold the standard of care. Many states do not allow medical malpractice lawsuits to go forward in the absence of expert witness testimony. Specifically, Connecticut law requires an affidavit from a qualified expert witness when pursuing medical cases (CT Gen Stat § 52-184c).
  • The testimony of the patient and their family. The testimony provided by the harmed patient and their family members also plays a pivotal role in building a case for medical malpractice. You can use this particular type of testimony to demonstrate how your condition has changed throughout the treatment and how the medical negligence impacted the quality of your life and all areas of your life.
  • Record of damages. This type of evidence refers to detailed and documented proof of the physical, financial, and emotional harm caused by the medical negligence in question. Damages can include physical pain and suffering, medical costs, lost income, and psychological damage, among others.
  • Past malpractice claims against a healthcare provider. Past malpractice claims may provide valuable information about the healthcare provider’s competence and ability to adhere to the accepted standards of care when treating patients. The history of past claims and lawsuits can strengthen your case if you are making a claim against a healthcare provider, even if those claims seem unrelated to your case.

The evidence required to support a medical malpractice claim may vary from one case to another. While some of the above-mentioned pieces of evidence may be readily available, collecting certain pieces of evidence may require the legal help of an attorney.

Factors That Make Proving Medical Negligence More Difficult

Medical Malpractice Claim

The effort it takes to prove that a healthcare provider was negligent in providing medical care depends on the unique facts of your case.

These factors can make proving medical negligence more challenging:

  • The requirement to establish causation. Establishing causation is by far one of the most challenging aspects of proving medical negligence. This element requires the patient (or their lawyer) to prove through compelling evidence that the negligence on the part of the provider directly caused the harm they suffered. Often, there may be other factors that can cause or contribute to the patient’s harm, making it more difficult to prove that the medical professional was at fault.
  • The legal complexities. Cases involving medical negligence involve complex medical evidence and terminology. This complexity can make it difficult for you to understand the details of the case and navigate the legal system. Fortunately, you do not have to go through this alone. A lawyer can guide you through the ins and outs of medical malpractice law and manage the procedural aspects of your legal claim.
  • A long time has passed since the malpractice occurred. Sometimes, patients do not realize they have been a victim of medical negligence until some time has passed after the malpractice occurred. This can be because the symptoms of the harm suffered appeared months or even years later. When this happens, it becomes more challenging to prove the link between the malpractice and the harm suffered by the patient. The healthcare provider can argue that the injury might have happened due to other factors outside of the medical professional’s control.
  • Lack of expert witnesses. Finding and hiring an expert witness is critical to winning a medical malpractice case. However, finding reliable expert witnesses is no easy task, especially if you do not know where to look for them. You might want to seek the assistance of a lawyer to find expert witnesses relevant to your specific case and get the testimony you need to support your med-mal claim.
  • The cost of litigation. Litigating medical negligence cases can be expensive. The costs of filing for medical malpractice, finding expert witnesses, and paying for legal fees can quickly add up. In addition, there are attorney’s fees to consider, though many lawyers agree to represent clients on a contingency fee basis (meaning you pay nothing unless the lawyer wins).
  • The legal nuances involved when filing a medical malpractice claim. Medical malpractice cases require a relatively high level of legal experience. Remember that filing a medical negligence claim is a complex legal process that requires you to adhere to strict requirements and procedures.

Navigating the legal system when trying to prove medical negligence may be a task too overwhelming for someone who has suffered harm due to a doctor or hospital. That is why you may benefit from letting a lawyer take the lead in your legal case while you focus on your recovery.

How Can a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Help?

A medical malpractice lawyer can benefit you in many ways, including:

  • Investigating your case and gathering evidence to prove negligence
  • Consulting with medical experts to evaluate the standard of care and the extent of injuries
  • Offering legal guidance throughout the case and representing you in court
  • Negotiating with insurance companies and healthcare providers to obtain a fair settlement
  • Handling paperwork and legal procedures on your behalf
  • Keeping you informed and updated on your case progress
  • Fighting for your rights and seeking maximum compensation for your injuries and damages

When looking for medical malpractice lawyers, you need to find a lawyer with the necessary experience to handle your claim and present your case in the best possible light.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Proving Medical Negligence

Are you considering filing a medical malpractice claim but have a few questions before you get started? You might want to check our FAQ section below for some answers. For further guidance, schedule a consultation with a lawyer and discuss your specific case.

What is the standard of care in medical malpractice cases?

In medical malpractice cases, the standard of care is the level of care and treatment that is expected, reasonable, and appropriate for healthcare providers to provide. The standard of care depends on what a competent healthcare provider should do under similar circumstances. When a medical professional fails to meet the standard of care, it can result in medical negligence that can lead to injuries or other negative outcomes.

Is it medical malpractice if you are not satisfied with the results of your medical treatment or surgery?

No, the mere dissatisfaction with the result of medical treatment or surgery is not necessarily medical malpractice. It is medical malpractice when a healthcare provider fails to provide the accepted standard of care, which leads to an injury or harm to the patient. Consult a lawyer to discuss your case and determine if your situation warrants legal action.

Brian Flood, Attorney for Car Accident

Brian Flood, Medical Malpractice Lawyer

How long do you have to sue a healthcare provider for medical malpractice?

The statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims varies from state to state. Generally, it ranges from one to three years from the date the patient suffers or discovers harm. However, some states may have shorter or longer statutes of limitations. In Connecticut, a victim of medical malpractice has two years from the date of the injury to sue a negligent healthcare provider for the harm they have endured (CT Gen Stat § 52-584).

If the victim does not realize their injury right away, which is common with medical injuries, the clock starts ticking from the date they discovered or should have reasonably discovered the injury. However, most victims cannot bring a medical malpractice case later than three years from the date of the negligent act (the “statute of repose” in Connecticut).

Time is of the essence, so always seek a free consultation with a medical malpractice attorney near you as soon as possible.

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