Nothing is more satisfying than seeing justice served. Especially when you or your family are the ones who’ve suffered at the hands of negligent doctors. But proving medical malpractice is like trying to run a marathon. You can’t lace up your shoes and hit the ground running without some careful preparation.
In this article, we’ll show you how to prove medical malpractice and get the outcome you deserve. Keep in mind that these tips represent only the tip of the iceberg. Every case is unique. If you’d like to discuss your situation in detail with a knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer, contact us here.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
The first step in proving medical malpractice is determining whether it occurred or not. Just because you’re unhappy with your doctor doesn’t mean you can sue them. A poor-doctor patient experience isn’t always malpractice. Neither is not getting the health outcome you hoped for.
So what is medical malpractice? Here’s the textbook definition: it’s when a medical practitioner fails to do what any trained physician would do in a certain situation. That failure causes harm to the patient.
Sometimes medical malpractice is as easy to spot as a cardinal in the snow. For example, a surgeon leaves a sponge inside a patient and it causes harm. A simple x-ray can reveal the sponges presence. No one can argue that it’s supposed to be in there.
Other times, proving medical malpractice is much more complex. For example, a patient passes away from a terrible infection after a routine procedure. Perhaps the infection started because a nurse didn’t use proper hygiene. But only a thorough investigation will reveal the true cause.
Proving Medical Malpractice: Basic Requirements
In the United States, the burden of proving medical malpractice falls on the plaintiff’s shoulders. Here’s what you need to show in order to win your case:
Maybe you saw a doctor’s social media post offering poor advice that harmed you. Can you take that doctor to court? Not if you never hired her to treat you. If you want to prove medical malpractice, you have to show that you started seeing a doctor and that doctor treated you. Demonstrating physician-patient relationship is one of the pillars of how to prove medical malpractice. You might use your medical records, bills, and prescriptions to prove the relationship existed.
The Physician Was Negligent
Next, you need to show that your doctor made a mistake. Here’s where you’ll ask, what would any competent doctor have done under these circumstances? That’s known as the “standard of care”. The standard of care dictates protocol that physicians should always follow. Here are some examples: They must wash their hands and instruments. They have to prescribe adequate testing before making a diagnosis. They can’t let student doctors perform procedures without supervision.
If medical staff didn’t follow the standard of care at some point in your treatment, they were negligent. But how can you prove it? You’ll need the testimony of a medical expert. But there’s no need to start a frantic Google search for one. The medical malpractice attorney you hire should have access to an arsenal of medical experts. Your lawyer will find an expert with knowledge about cases like yours.
The Doctor’s Negligence Harmed You
Just because a doctor made a mistake doesn’t mean you can sue for malpractice. You have to prove that the mistake injured you in some way. But patients seek medical care when they are already sick or injured. This is why proving medical malpractice is so tricky. You have to show that negligence was the culprit, and not an underlying condition or illness.
For example, patients who received radiation therapy for cancer have sued for malpractice. They had to prove that too much radiation, and not cancer, was what harmed them.
How do you prove that the doctor’s negligence was the primary cause of your injury? Your main two allies for this are medical records and expert medical testimony.
The Harm Led to Damages
When proving medical malpractice, you have to show that your injuries caused damages. Damages are consequences that you seek compensation for. Here are some examples of what qualifies as “damages”.
- Pain and physical suffering
- Mental/emotional suffering
- Medical bills
- Loss of ability to work, lost wages.
- Need for future medical care
- Loss of quality of life
Measurable losses (ones you can put a number on) help your case. They are directly related to the amount of compensation you may receive. But non-economic losses (like suffering) have legal validity as well.
How To Prove Medical Malpractice: Is It Difficult?
We’ll be honest here: proving medical malpractice is no cake walk. Even a mountain of evidence is sometimes not enough. Why not? Here are some of the reasons:
The burden’s on you: It’s up to the plaintiff to prove a physician’s actions were inappropriate beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Hospitals/doctors often have the advantage: Hospitals and doctors have access to plenty of colleagues who will take their side. Some states put a limit on the amount of compensation hospitals have to pay. So even if you’re entitled to more, the hospital can sometimes get away with paying less.
The statute of limitations is your hourglass: And the sand could already be running out. When did your injury occur? When did you realize you were injured? Those are important questions when proving medical malpractice. Why? Because you must file your claim within the statute of limitations.
This is the time limit on when you can file. For some states, it’s as little as 6 months. In others, it’s 2-3 years. You have to file soon after your injury in order to have a chance at getting compensation. If you wait too long or don’t discover the injury in time, courts will dismiss your case. This is true even if you have airtight evidence.
How To Prove Medical Malpractice: Your First Step
As you can see, proving medical malpractice takes tenacity— and a tribe. You’ll need a boost of bravery to go up against a medical institution. But having a “tribe”, your legal team, will make the process much easier. With medical experts and knowledgeable attorneys on your side, your chances of winning increase.
So your first step to proving medical malpractice is finding support. Grab your phone and give a medical malpractice attorney a call. Schedule an initial consultation.
During this first meeting, you’ll tell the lawyer all about your case. They will then determine whether your case is viable. If it is, they will explain how to prove medical malpractice. The legal office shouldn’t charge you for this initial consultation.
When choosing someone to represent you, be sure to ask questions. Has the attorney handled cases like yours before? Do they have access to medical experts who can provide testimony? Do they have a history of being successful at proving medical malpractice cases? Do they work on a contingency fee basis? (This means no charge unless you receive compensation).
If you’re ready to take the first step towards proving medical malpractice, we’re here to help. Contact the expert malpractice lawyers at Hampton & King here. We operate on a contingency fee basis, so you have nothing to lose. Let us put our 60+ years of experience to work getting justice for you and your family.