There are typically four elements to determine if someone is the victim of medical negligence. You must prove all four to win a medical malpractice case. If you experience a bad outcome from a medical procedure or a health care provider makes a mistake, it is not automatically medical negligence.
What Are the Four Elements of Medical Negligence?
To prove someone was the victim of medical negligence, you must prove four things:
- There was a doctor-patient relationship or health care provider-patient relationship between you and the person or facility that harmed you;
- That doctor, hospital, or other health care provider had a duty of care toward you;
- The provider breached that duty of care; and
- The breach caused or directly contributed to your harm.
Why Does There Have to Be a Doctor-Patient Relationship?
The existence of this relationship is what imposes a duty of care on the doctor, hospital, or other health care provider. If you are a patient and you tell your doctor about your symptoms, the doctor has a duty to take certain actions to either diagnose or rule out medical conditions.
What Is the Medical Duty of Care?
This question is difficult to answer because there is no single medical duty of care that applies to all circumstances. The medical duty of care will depend on the facts of your case.
The medical duty of care is the yardstick by which we measure a health care provider’s actions to see if they meet legal expectations. In evaluating actions of doctors and hospitals, we must look at how a reasonably prudent and careful health care provider would have acted in a similar situation. This medical expert often must have similar education and training as the doctor in question and frequently must practice in the same medical community. Testimony from this expert can establish the standard of care in your case.
What Is a Breach of a Medical Duty of Care?
After we establish the standard of care, we can measure your doctor’s actions. If your physician’s behavior met the standard of care, he did not breach his duty toward you.
In other words, if a reasonably prudent, similarly situated doctor would not have acted any differently, your doctor’s actions likely do not constitute a breach of the duty of care. If, on the other hand, he did breach the duty of care, we can move on to the fourth and final element for evaluating medical negligence.
What Is the Fourth Element of Medical Negligence?
The doctor’s negligence must have caused or directly contributed to the harm you suffered. No matter what the health care provider’s actions were, if negligence is not what caused your damages, you do not have a claim for medical malpractice.
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