If you’ve been injured after a medical professional made a serious error, you may want to know, how hard is it to prove medical malpractice? Like all personal injury cases, it all resumes to the facts. How well-documented is your case? Do these facts show you were injured because a healthcare professional failed to treat you with the necessary skill and care?
Well, before you go file your claim, it pays to know that all medical professionals, nurses, medical facilities, and other healthcare providers have a legal duty to provide medical care to patients – and anyone in need of medical care. However, the same medical personnel can refuse to take a person as a patient for legitimate reasons. For instance, a healthcare professional may lack expertise and medical knowledge in a particular area. Or a person or medical staff may disagree on the right treatment for the patient. Yet, they cannot refuse to take an individual as a patient because of gender, age, medical condition, marital status, ethnic or national origin, mental or physical disability, religion, and more.
If medical personnel fail to provide appropriate medical care, that person can sue them for damages by filing a claim for medical malpractice. However, there are some general principles and broad categories of rules you need to follow in order to prove your medical malpractice case.
How Hard is It to Prove Medical Malpractice?
You must prove that medical malpractice occurred; it directly caused your injuries, and you suffered harm as a result. That means your injuries didn’t happen before you saw this doctor, and there wasn’t some other event subsequently that caused it.
How difficult is it to prove medical negligence? To prove these issues, you will need to contact a medical expert as soonest as possible. This expert will interview you, assess your medical records, and may examine you. Without an expert opinion backing and proving that you suffered harm as a result, you have no case. It gets easier when you have the right professional to support your story to jurors who are open to hearing your case.
However, some issues that can make your malpractice case more difficult to prove include:
- What’s the right standard of care? The court may disagree with how the defendant’s decisions and actions should be judged. You may need a very high standard applied; the defendant may claim that a lower standard of care applies, and it was met.
- The cause of the injury: If the claim is a medical professional recommended the wrong medication and it caused heart failure, might there be another reason?
- There could be multiple medical experts working for both sides: The court could get confused over the opposing opinion on the cause and who was to blame. Ensure you hire an expert who isn’t only a great doctor but also experienced with testifying.
Basic Requirements for Medical Malpractice Claim
To prove your medical malpractice case took place, you must be able to show all of these things:
- The medical professional was negligent.
Just because you’re unsatisfied with your result or treatment does not mean the medical personnel is liable for medical malpractice. The doctor must have made a mistake in connection with your treatment or diagnosis. To confirm your rights to claim, you must be able to show that the person who was responsible for treating you caused your injuries that a skilled medical professional, under the same circumstances, would not have. The doctor’s treatment is not required to be the best possible, but simply “reasonably careful and skillful.”
Whether the medical professional was reasonably careful and skillful is often at the heart of a medical negligence claim. As a patient (who has experienced medical malpractice), you must present a medical expert to discuss the appropriate medical standard of care and bring proof of how the defendant ignored those standards.
- A doctor-patient relationship existed.
The patient must show that a doctor-patient relationship existed with the doctor he or she is suing – that means proof of the doctor agreeing to be hired. For instance, you can’t use a medical professional you overheard giving advice at a wedding. If a physician began seeing you and treating you, it’s easy to prove a doctor-patient relationship existed. Inquiries of whether this relationship exists most frequently occur when a consulting physician didn’t treat you directly.
- The doctor’s negligence caused the injury.
More often than not, malpractice cases involve patients that were already injured or sick. This leads to questions of whether what the physician did, negligent or not, actually caused the injuries. For instance, if a person dies after lung cancer treatment, the medical professional did something wrong, it could be hard to prove that the physician’s inattention caused the death rather than cancer. The patient must bring proof of who the doctor’s negligence directly caused the injury. Normally, the patient must have a medical expert backing his case.
The injury caused specific damages. Even if you can prove that the medical professional performed below the expected standard in his field, you can’t sue for malpractice if you didn’t experience any harm. Some types of harm you can sue for include:
- Metal anguish
- Physical pain
- Additional medical bills, and
- Lost work and capacity of earning income
Are there any time limits to sue for medical malpractice?
Normally, you must start a medical malpractice lawsuit within two years of when the case occurred. The limitation period is within two years of when reasonable individuals would have realized they suffered harm from the physician’s actions and that the court system is an appropriate place to find a solution.
Even if your health doesn’t seem to deteriorate during this time, you should act in no time – while eyewitnesses are still available and their memories are fresh. That’s one major rule, but there are exceptions when the limitation period starts running at a different time. To better understand who the two-year limitation period might affect your ability to bring a lawsuit, seek legal advice.