The first element in a medical malpractice case is establishing that the patient had a relationship with the medical provider who owed him or her a duty of care. This is important because the patient may be exposed to several medical professionals, especially if receiving care at a Cleveland-area hospital. Just because a physician enters a hospital room doesn’t automatically mean there is a relationship. The case must originate with someone who has provided care or treated the patient.
The second element -- which is generally the toughest to prove -- is that the medical provider in question was negligent. Dissatisfaction with the results of a procedure or not feeling better after a period of time doesn’t necessarily mean the physician was negligent. Plaintiffs must prove that the healthcare provider’s actions (or the lack thereof) were unreasonable and unreasonably deviated from an acceptable standard of care.
Some examples of medical negligence include:
Some types of malpractice are easier to prove than others. For instance, if a surgeon left a medical instrument inside a patient after surgery, X-rays could show its presence in the patient’s body. Or if someone was given too much medication, notes on the patient’s chart might show how much was administered. But other situations (such as not diagnosing in a timely manner) might be more difficult to prove.
There are numerous types of documents and records that could help establish a medical professional’s negligence. Photographs of injuries, test results, doctor’s notations, nurse’s notes and discharge instructions are some examples.
The third element in a medical malpractice claim is proving that negligence caused the injury or illness. Even if a doctor makes a serious mistake, if it doesn’t harm the patient, it wouldn’t warrant pursuing a claim.
Let’s say someone suffers cardiac arrest and it’s later discovered a nurse gave the wrong medication prior to the heart attack. If the medication had nothing to do with the patient suffering a heart attack, the patient does not have a medical malpractice claim. But if evidence establishes that the medication did cause the heart attack, the patient may have a valid case.
The last element is proving that because of the medical professional’s negligence, the patient suffered damages. This means there was financial, physical and/or emotional harm that resulted from the negligent act and resultant injuries. Damages for medical malpractice may include medical bills, missed time from work or other consequences, such as disability or disfigurement.
If the doctor was negligent and the negligence caused minor injury but the patient suffered no damages, it wouldn’t warrant a medical malpractice claim. Discuss the validity of your case – including each of these four elements – with a lawyer at Ryan, LLP in Cleveland to learn more about how to prove medical malpractice. Call us at (877) 864-9495 or fill out our contact form.