Proving a Medical Malpractice Case

If you want to sue a doctor for medical malpractice, you'll have to prove these key legal issues.

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by Rebecca Berlin

Medical malpractice involves more than an undesirable outcome to medical treatment. If you want to sue and win on a malpractice claim, you'll need to prove several elements to have a successful case.

Your doctor or other healthcare provider owes you a legal duty by virtue of your provider patient relationship. The duty is to provide you with care that is in keeping with professional standards. If you are going to prove a malpractice case, you need to be able to prove that the doctor did not meet the standard of care.

What is the "standard of care"?

The "standard of care" refers to those actions or measures that a reasonable healthcare professional in your community would take in similar circumstances. The actions that are considered reasonable will vary depending on the type of healthcare professional and the particular community. So if you saw a general practitioner in a rural and medically underserved community, you won't be able to hold that doctor to the same standard of care as you would a highly specialized physician in a large community with state of the art medical tests and facilities available.

You'll need medical experts to testify.

In order to prove the standard of care in your case, you are going to need a doctor to testify as an "expert witness". This doctor will need to say that the course of action taken by your doctor was unreasonable under the circumstances. You should be prepared to have a difficult time finding a doctor to do this for you. Most doctors are reluctant to testify against a colleague in a malpractice case.

Even if you are able to prove that the doctor treated you with substandard care, you will still need to prove that it caused injuries or damages to you. This may seem like a no-brainer, but chances are you weren't in perfect health before you saw the doctor. Is your current state of health a result of negligent medical care or is it a result of the disease or injury that would have happened anyway? You are going to need to be able to prove that your medical outcome would probably have been different if not for the substandard care, not just that it might have been different.

Once you have done all that, you will need to prove to what extent your injuries are greater because of the substandard care. For example, if you were in the hospital for a month, you'll need to prove that your hospital stay would have only been 2 days if not for the malpractice. Or if your quality of life has been reduced, you'll need to prove how good it would have been if you had received adequate care.

If you have suffered serious injury as a result of medical malpractice, contact an attorney with experience in medical malpractice cases. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case, help you find an expert witness, and will know how to prove your damages.

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