Medical malpractice cases have gained notoriety in legal circles for being difficult to win. Insurance companies and medical groups have lobbied tirelessly to craft laws and rules that make it a challenge to bring claims against them or to be provided a maximized amount of compensation. There are also strict expectations that need to be met for a case to be taken seriously by the court. In particular, there are four “Ds” that must be present in a medical malpractice case for it to have a strong chance of success: duty, deviation, direct, and damage. When one of these elements or prerequisites are missing, a case can flounder before it can even develop.
Duty of Care Owed to Medical Patients
Medical providers owe a duty of care to their patients, which means doing what is in the best interest of their health and wellbeing. But the extent of that duty will change depending on the relationship between the medical provider and the patient. Without an official doctor-patient relationship, pursuing a medical malpractice claim becomes more difficult.
In most situations, you will have an established doctor-patient relationship with the medical provider who is treating you. Essentially, if your doctor agrees to see and treat you, and you agree to let them, then the doctor-patient relationship exists in both medical and legal terms.
However, emergency medical care prioritizing protecting a patient’s health over signing papers. With this said, there might not technically be a doctor-patient relationship between you and emergency room staff who need to perform treatments in the moment. Some patients who are taken to the ER are not even conscious, so establishing that relationship is virtually impossible.
Deviation from Standard Medical Care
Medical professionals are all trained to perform diagnoses and treatments in a way that matches what the global medical community deems correct and acceptable. There are always going to be new methods and treatments, but ample research and testing should be done first before those methodologies become used on the general public.
For a medical malpractice claim to be valid, the defendant must have deviated from the acceptable standard of medical care. This hurdle is perhaps the most difficult for a plaintiff to overcome. Oftentimes, a medical expert is needed to act as a witness to testify how the defendant did something wrong. The goal will be showing that they did something that another medical professional in the same situation reasonably would not have done. In other words, if your doctor hurt you and you know they did, then you still might not have a claim if they hurt you while performing a typical medical procedure.
Direct Causation Between Negligence & Harm
The third “D” in a medical malpractice claim requires you to establish that the medical provider’s deviation from usual care was the direct cause of your injury. Direct cause can mean an action that creates an injury, like operating on the wrong body part or nicking a nerve while conducting surgery. It can also be something more subtle, such as inaction. If a doctor’s failure to diagnose your illness and your illness worsens because it goes untreated, then the lack of diagnosis could be the direct cause of your worsened conditions.
Again, proving the direct link between a medical provider’s mistakes and your injuries is a challenge. You will probably need a medical expert to testify on your behalf after examining your medical records. Working with an attorney can help you connect with the right medical experts for your case.
Damages Caused by the Medical Error
Lastly, your medical malpractice claim has to be based on some sort of damage you have suffered due to the medical provider’s mistakes. In most cases, there are clear and tangible economic damages caused by medical negligence. For example, if you needed to undergo additional surgeries that cost thousands of dollars because of a surgeon’s original mishap, then you have experienced damages in the form of medical bills. Wages you have lost due to missing work can also be counted as economic damage.
Medical malpractice cases are also allowed to cite noneconomic damages in most situations. Noneconomic damages are related to the pain, suffering, and traumatization you have endured due to the defendant’s actions or inactions. Imagine that you lost the ability to walk for more than five minutes without pain because a surgeon made a serious mistake during a hip replacement surgery. You would understandably feel a lessening of the enjoyment you have for life. A lawyer can attempt to translate that suffering into noneconomic damage represented by dollars and cents.
Choosing an Attorney to Help
With the four Ds of medical malpractice cases leaving such little room for error, it is highly advised that you speak with a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as you can after a medical provider’s mistakes cause you or a family member to suffer. You can count on their experience to uncover viable evidence that proves the existence of the four Ds. At that point, your medical malpractice claim will have a strong foundation to build upon further. Or your attorney can advise you early on if your claim might not be pursuable due to a lack of convincing evidence.For honest representation in Queens, New York, choose the Law Office of David A. Kates, PLLC first. We have more than 20 years of legal experience fighting for patients just like you. Big insurance companies cannot intimidate us, especially when so much is hanging in the balance for our clients. Call (718) 866-3664 to learn more now.