In order to win a medical malpractice case, you must know how to prove medical malpractice. To do so, you must produce adequate evidence that substantiates the following four elements:
- A valid doctor-patient relationship existed.
- The doctor (or other medical professional) was negligent in your care.
- The doctor’s actions (deviation from the standard of care) are what caused your injury.
- You sustained actual harm and, as a result, qualify for damages.
The first element, referred to as duty of care, is fairly easy to establish by simply using your medical records and bills of receipt. So long as you sought treatment from the doctor, a doctor-patient relationship likely exists. The other three elements – negligence, causation, and damages – are a little more complex and take more work to prove.
Below, we discuss what goes into proving the elements of a medical malpractice case as well as what types of evidence may be useful. If you think you may have a valid medical malpractice case in Pennsylvania, call a medical malpractice lawyer from Cordisco & Saile LLC for a free consult at 215-791-8911.
How do I prove negligence?
Negligence is the legal term for breaching a duty of care. It involves doing something that puts a patient in at an unreasonable risk of harm. Certified medical professionals must uphold an industry standard of care that everyone certified in that field should know and adhere to.
For example, doctors should know to check a patient’s medical history before moving forward with treatment, when to order certain diagnostic tests based on patients’ symptoms, and which treatments to recommend.
In order to prove a medical malpractice case, you have to prove that the doctor did something that was not in alignment with the standard of care. In other words, that he handled your care in a way that other doctors in a similar position would not have handled it.
To prove this, you will need your medical records that document the care the doctor provided you with, as well as the expert testimony of another medical professional in the same field – or multiple medical professionals. Expert testimony can help to demonstrate that the action taken by your doctor was not consistent with what another professional would consider reasonable medical care.
How do I prove causation?
Next, you will have to show that the doctor’s negligence is what caused your injuries. You will have to demonstrate that you would not have sustained harm, but for the medical professional’s negligent action.
While proving causation seems straightforward, it often gets muddy. For instance, let us say a patient had an undetected treatable cancer, but because his doctor failed to correlate his symptoms to cancer and did not order the correct tests, it was too late to catch and treat the cancer, and the patient passed away. While causation seems clear-cut, the doctor may try to deflect blame by saying that the patient would have passed away anyway, irrespective of the doctor’s role.
As the claimant, it will be your (and your lawyer’s) responsibility to produce evidence that proves causation existed.
Rest assured, medical providers, insurance companies, and their attorneys will try to argue against your claim using myriad defenses. Common defenses in malpractice cases include the following:
- You would have developed the condition anyway.
- You were responsible for your injury.
- The injury could have been caused by an unrelated factor.
- The injury was pre-existing.
Much like proving negligence, the expert testimony of other medical professionals can help to disprove these defenses, and establish that negligence was, in fact, the real cause of your harm.
How do I prove damages?
After you have established the doctor was negligent and responsible for your injuries, you will then need to prove the amount of damages to which you are entitled. You will need to show the actual and quantifiable extent of the harms you have suffered.
Compensable damages include those for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. There are actually dozens of expenses and harms that you may entitled to compensation for, so long as you have the evidence to validate your claim.
To substantiate your demand for damages, various types of evidence may be helpful. Below are some common examples.
- Medical bills
- Receipts for other items related to your injury, such as for transportation to medical appointments, the cost of hiring help around the house, home renovations, prescriptions, etc.
- Personal testimonies
- Record of your lost wages and lost benefits
- Expert witness reports from medical professionals, social workers, therapists, rehabilitation experts, and financial experts
- A pain journal
Where do I find expert witnesses to testify for my case?
Obviously, testimonies from expert witnesses will be pivotal to proving your medical malpractice case. “Expert witnesses are used in a wide range of litigation and their opinions are often viewed as critical—frequently they can make or break a case. As a result, many trials have turned into a battle of the experts,” according to a Lexis Nexis white paper (authoritative report).
Not just any professional in a given field will necessarily be appropriate for your case. A Google search will not cut it. Acceptable experts will need to have certain credentials, be familiar with providing legal testimonies, and be able to withstand the other party’s attempts to discredit them. It is difficult – if not impossible – for non-lawyers to know which experts will benefit their case, and which likely will not.
We strongly urge you to seek counsel before hiring any experts. In fact, your medical malpractice attorney will be your best resource of finding local suitable expert witnesses for your case.
Where can I get legal help proving my case?
If you are looking into your legal options because you believe your, or your loved one’s, serious injuries were a result of medical malpractice, you should have an attorney review your case and provide you with counsel. Because these case are exceptionally technical, involve a lot of legal documents and procedures, and place a high burden of proof on you, professional legal representation is a must.
A lawyer can guide you through everything you need to know about gathering evidence and proof, as well as explain what to expect each step of the way and what general time frame you are looking at.
For an attorney that handles all types of medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania, speak to an attorney at Cordisco & Saile LLC. Our team believes that all victims of medical malpractice deserve fair and adequate compensation for their harm. We will fight hard to help you recover damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Contact us today at 215-791-8911 for a free case evaluation.