Proximate Cause

In a medical malpractice case, proximate cause requires a direct link between the medical negligence and the patient’s injuries.

To hold a healthcare provider legally liable in a medical malpractice case, their negligence must be the proximate cause of your injuries. A proximate cause is an incident that results in another event. There must be a clear, cause-and-effect link between the liable party’s negligence and the harm you suffered.

At Medical Malpractice Help, we understand the proximate cause and medical malpractice law. We can look at the details of your case to determine if it qualifies for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Call us today at 855-633-2757 for a free consultation.

What Is an Example of Proximate Cause in a Medical Malpractice Case?

By way of example, imagine a patient reports feelings of extreme fatigue to their doctor. The doctor orders blood tests, which show abnormalities consistent with leukemia. The doctor quickly skims the lab report, does not notice the abnormalities, and tells the patient that there is nothing wrong. Six months later, the patient goes to another doctor, who correctly diagnoses leukemia.

Because of the six-month delay in diagnosis and treatment, the patient’s leukemia is fatal. In this case, the first doctor’s failure to diagnose is the proximate cause of the harm to the patient.

What Happens If There Was an Intervening Cause?

An intervening cause can reduce the responsibility of the doctor or make him not liable at all. An intervening cause is something that happened after the doctor’s negligence, but before the injury.

How an Intervening Cause Affects Liability

Continuing with the previous example, imagine that a few days after the first doctor failed to diagnose leukemia, the patient went to the hospital’s outpatient lab for additional blood tests. The technician who drew the blood negligently injected some air bubbles into the patient’s vein. This became an embolism and caused the patient to suffer a fatal stroke.

In this example, the technician’s negligence was an intervening cause. The amount of liability of the doctor and the outpatient lab will depend on how a judge decides to assign blame to each party.

If the intervening cause is entirely responsible for the injury, we can pursue an action against the negligent party responsible for it. If the intervening cause was only partly to blame, we would file a medical malpractice claim against both negligent parties.

How Will a Lawyer Link Cause and Effect?

Linking cause and effect is an essential step to proving a proximate cause. Based on the prior example, imagine that the first doctor was looking at the wrong patient’s lab results when they failed to diagnose leukemia. Later that day, the doctor realized the mistake, called the patient and ordered additional blood work. Then, the lab technician caused an embolism, which killed the patient.

In this example, we would obtain evidence to show that the patient died because of the lab technician’s negligence, not the doctor’s mistake. Even though the doctor was negligent, their oversight is not what caused the patient’s death.

How Can I Go Over My Case With a Lawyer?

At Medical Malpractice Help, we can help you understand how proximate cause will impact your potential case. Call us today at 855-633-2757 to get answers to your questions during your free consultation.


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