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Key Components of a Medical Malpractice Claim

We place our trust in medical doctors to assess our health and to perform surgical procedures when the need arises. Most of the time, these procedures go off without a hitch, but that’s not to say that complications don’t arise. No doctor has a 100% perfect track record, that’s just human nature. But what about doctors who act negligently? What recourse do you have to claim damages? 

That’s exactly what medical malpractice claims aim to rectify. If it can be proven that your doctor acted inappropriately based on his or her duty of care to a patient, then you, or your family, may be entitled to a sizeable settlement.

Botched surgeries or improper care can have permanent physical and financial consequences, and filing a medical malpractice claim is often the only hope that the patient has of being able to live a normal life afterwards. Doctors take an oath to put the patient’s needs above their own. However, proof of negligence is required if the case is going to be decided in favour of the patient.

Here, then, are the key components that go into a medical malpractice claim:

Duty

Duty refers to the fact that it must be established that the medical staff had a duty to treat the patient to the best of their ability. All relationships between general practitioners and their patients have the element of duty. This ensures that the medical practitioner in question is actually responsible for the patient’s care. In medical malpractice suits, the only professionals that can have a claim filed against them are those who are directly connected to the patient.

For example, surgeons are expected to practice proper aseptic techniques to avoid infection and to properly stitch the patient back together once a procedure has been completed. Each and every profession in the medical industry has a comprehensive list of duties and responsibilities that are expected of them. Also, people charged with the more mundane aspects of a patient’s care such as replacement of bedpans or hygiene are also part of the overall medical system.

Breach Of Duty

For breach of duty to be proven, the medical practitioner will have to have failed in exercising their responsibility to care for the patient. Essentially, if another medical practitioner of the same stature, and in the same situation, could have performed the procedure without complications having arisen, then it can be assumed that a breach of duty has occurred.

Typically, if a claim does go to court – which they seldom do, as most are settled between the plaintiff and the insurer’s lawyers out of court – an expert is called in to outline what kind of behaviour is expected of a practitioner in a specific role and whether or not the practitioner acted accordingly. This is why a medical malpractice lawyer is recommended. Marc Brecher from Wapner Newman Attorneys at Law says that victims of medical malpractice need the help of an experienced malpractice attorney in order to receive compensation. Breach of duty can be as simple as a nurse choosing to ignore a patient’s pleas for increased supervision, to as complex as improper techniques being taken during the diagnosis and treatment phase under the supervision of a doctor. Multiple practitioners can be found in breach of duty if they willingly and knowingly contributed to a lower level of care.

Damage

Without damage, there’s nothing for the medical malpractice case to be based on. Damage refers to the change in the functioning/quality of life that has occurred due to the negligence of the medical practitioner in question. Damage can refer to any physical or mental mishaps that cause significant distress to the patient. Damage does not have to be a new injury. Aggravation of an existing condition above and beyond what the patient previously experienced can also qualify as damage. Even a mistake that results in the continued hospitalization of a patient can be considered to be medical malpractice even if there are very few physical or emotional indicators of malpractice. Think of any occurrence that is atypical for a medical procedure that results in a change in lifestyle for the patient, any of these occurrences may qualify as medical malpractice.

Cause

This final portion of any medical malpractice case requires proving that the person responsible for the care of the patient directly contributed to their current medical situation. It requires that due to the action or inaction of a medical professional continued or increased suffering by the patient has occurred.

The medical practitioner must be directly culpable for the change in medical status, meaning that routine complications or situations outside of their control cannot qualify as a justifiable cause. A doctor cannot always control how quickly a wound heals or whether or not infection occurs, but if it can be proven that their actions directly resulted in these adverse incidents then there are grounds for a medical malpractice suit. So, cause means that it is necessary for whatever happened to be as a direct result of the medical staff’s actions or inactions as opposed to a more abstract form of suffering.

two doctors clutching their heads in pain

Using these four key components, a claimant can structure their medical malpractice claim in such a way that a decision is more likely to be found in their favour. Simple human error is not always enough to qualify for medical malpractice. It requires a provable element of neglect, for which the person charged with the care of the patient is responsible.

Any person who has come in contact with the patient is eligible to have a medical malpractice claim filed against them. Everyone, from the personal service worker to the doctor, to even the admissions nurse, is expected to perform their duty to the best of their ability, with anything less possibly constituting medical malpractice.

Remuneration from a medical malpractice suit can very often effectively offset the burden that the mistake caused, allowing for more normality in the life of a patient who has suffered from the poor work of any individual practitioner.

Hopefully, most of us will never have to deal with a medical malpractice suit, but if you are entitled to compensation it is recommended that you do everything in your power to right the wrong that has occurred. If not just for you, then do it to avoid anyone else from falling victim to medical malpractice, and in doing so, force doctors to be vigilant in their duty.

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