The legal standards to hold your doctor liable in a medical malpractice lawsuit are fourfold. One, your doctor must have had a duty of care to you (or your injured loved one). Two, your doctor must have failed to uphold that duty of care. Three, you or your loved one must have suffered injuries because of your doctor’s failure. Four, you must have incurred compensable damages because of the injuries suffered.
Medical malpractice law is one of the most complex areas of the legal system. The payoffs, however, of a successful lawsuit can total hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, depending upon your injuries and medical malpractice cap laws in your state.
If you suffered an injury and believe your doctor was responsible, you should contact a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options.
1 The Four Legal Elements of a Valid Medical Malpractice Claim
Let’s look more closely at the previously-mentioned four legal elements of a valid medical malpractice claim, because you need compelling evidence that your case satisfies all four of them to have the best chance of winning damages. They are as follows:
1.1 Duty of Care
The first element required to hold your doctor liable is a duty of care. That is, we must show that by virtue of your relationship to your doctor, he or she owed you a certain level of care.
All doctors have this duty to their patients. Once you enter a doctor-patient relationship, your doctor must provide a level of care that meets the “reasonable person” standard. In other words, they must provide at least the same level of care one would expect from a reasonable person in the same situation.
It is also important to note is that a doctor’s duty of care extends to their medical staff. Nurses, physicians’ assistants, lab technicians, and other healthcare professionals in your doctor’s employ are bound by the same duties. Moreover, the medical facility that employs your doctor has vicarious liability over their actions.
1.2 Failure to Uphold Duty of Care
The second element is a failure by your doctor, or their staff member, to uphold the required duty of care. To prove a failure of duty, we must show that the responsible party fell short of the reasonable person standard.
One way to do this is to call upon a medical expert witness to review the evidence in your case and assume the role of the reasonable person. This person will put herself in the shoes of a doctor faced with the same situation as yours and testify as to how she would have acted differently from your doctor.
1.3 Injuries Suffered
The third element is showing that you suffered specific harm because of your doctor’s failure to uphold their duty of care. Drawing a compelling cause-and-effect link between your doctor’s actions (or inaction) and your injuries is essential because it forms the critical nexus of a successful malpractice claim.
To make this connection clear, we can draw upon many forms of evidence, including your medical records, statements from other doctors, lab test results, billing statements from the hospital, the defendant’s own incriminating statements, and testimony from medical expert witnesses.
1.4 Damages Incurred
The fourth and final element required to hold your doctor liable for medical malpractice is listing the damages you incurred because of your injuries. These damages may be economic, meaning they involve actual financial loss, such as:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income from work
- Reduced earning capacity
They can also be non-economic damages, which do not involve financial depletion and are thus more subjective in nature. Non-economic damages include:
- Pain, suffering or inconvenience
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional anguish
- Scarring and disfigurement
2 Statutes of Limitations on Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
For your medical malpractice claim against your doctor to be valid, you must file it within your state’s statute of limitations. This time limit varies significantly from state to state.
If you are considering pursuing medical malpractice damages, you should speak with a lawyer sooner rather than later. If needed, your lawyer can file a quick lawsuit to forestall any looming deadlines. Your attorney can also make you aware of any specific nuances in the medical malpractice laws of your state that may affect your claim.
The medical malpractice attorneys at Newsome | Melton want to help you recover damages for your doctor’s wrongful or negligent actions that led to injury. We have a successful track record and want to put it to work for you.
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