The Journal of Psychiatric Practice provides this succinct summary of conditions that constitute as the four elements of medical malpractice—referred to here as “the four Ds”:
- Duty: The duty of care owed to patients.
- Dereliction: Or breach of this duty of care.
- Direct cause: Establishing that the breach caused injury to a patient.
- Damages: The economic and noneconomic losses suffered by the patient as a result of their injury or illness.
A lawyer will seek evidence to show that these four elements of a medical malpractice case exist as they pursue compensation for their client.
More on Medical Malpractice
The legal term medical malpractice refers to a medical professional’s act or omission that deviates from the accepted medical standard practice.
The accepted medical standard practice refers to whether the care that another physician of the same or similar education and background would prescribe to a patient under the same or similar circumstances.
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When to Consider Legal Action for Medical Malpractice
Medicine is not a perfect science. Sometimes a patient suffers injury or passes away even when physicians practice at the highest standards of care. On the other hand, if a physician or other healthcare professional caused injury, illness, or loss of life through reckless acts or omission, you may be able to recover compensation.
Medical malpractice cases are complex. A lawyer can identify if your case upholds the four elements of medical malpractice to hold a negligent practitioner or facility accountable.
Your Doctor’s Duty of Care for Your Health and Safety
Fundamentally, a medical malpractice case must establish that a doctor-patient relationship existed between the plaintiff and the defendant. If a physician was treating you, then they owe you the same duty of care that would be expected of another doctor of the same or similar education, background, or geographic area.
Doctors have an obligation to their patients—one of upholding accepted medical practices without deviation or omission.
Understanding Breach of Duty
A physician can breach their duty of care to a patient in many ways which would be grounds for a medical malpractice case. Some examples include:
- Leaving a surgical tool or gauze inside your body.
- Incorrectly diagnosing or missing a diagnosis.
- Failing to recognize signs and symptoms of a clinical condition.
- Prescribing the incorrect type or dosage of medicine.
Your physician may not have acted maliciously, but the result is the same: you or a loved one became ill, injured, or disabled because of medical negligence or error.
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How Negligence Caused Your Injuries or Illness
A medical malpractice lawyer will uncover evidence to show a relevant and plausible connection between a doctor’s negligence and your injuries.
In some cases, a clear and easily defined causation of injuries exists. For example, if your surgeon removed your spleen instead of your gallbladder. In other situations, connecting the doctor’s breach of duty to your injury or illness presents a greater challenge.
Some of the factors to consider in a medical malpractice case include:
- Your age, gender, and risk factors of your medical history.
- Whether you are receiving treatment for multiple medical conditions.
- Whether you receive medical treatment or care from more than one physician.
A defense lawyer may argue that you have a pre-existing condition that caused your injury or illness. For this reason, you should consider hiring a medical malpractice lawyer who can build a strong and compelling case.
Proving Damages in a Medical Malpractice Case
All personal injury cases, including medical malpractice, must show that you sustained damages as a result of your injury or illness.
You could receive an award consisting of two types of damages: special and general.
Special damages consist of specific, quantifiable losses that might include:
- Lost pay.
- Cost of corrective surgery.
- Prescription medicine.
General damages consist of less tangible losses. They may include:
- Loss of consortium.
- Pain and suffering.
- Diminished quality of life.
How to Prove the Four Elements of Medical Malpractice
In our experience, negligent medical professionals rarely come forward to admit liability or wrongdoing. For this reason, victims often hire teams of lawyers and investigators to uncover the evidence.
An investigation of the four elements of medical malpractice within a case may include:
- Collecting medical records, test results, and other evidence of medical treatment.
- Securing expert testimony from medical professionals.
- Reviewing previous malpractice claims or complaints.
- Creating the timeline of events and involved parties.
A law firm will also compose a demand letter of your damages and present it to the negligent party’s insurer for payment. They will negotiate with the insurance company, and, if the adjuster does not agree to a fair settlement, the attorneys can file a lawsuit and present the case for a jury or judge to decide.
Ben Crump Law, PLLC Offers Free Case Evaluations
It takes time to prepare a medical malpractice case (see: Florida Statutes § 766 for reference), and each state enforces its own statute of limitations. Consider contacting a medical malpractice lawyer today to learn more about your legal options.
For a free, no-obligation case evaluation, call Ben Crump Law, PLLC: 800-641-8998.