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What Are the Four Elements of Medical Malpractice?

Posted in Our Blog on August 29, 2019

We visit the doctor to heal ourselves from ailments and injuries, trusting that these professionals can give us reliable assistance – but sometimes, doctors can breach our trust and cause harm to our health, our finances, and our emotional well-being. In these situations, you are the victim of medical malpractice and you could claim compensation for your injuries through a lawsuit with a New Orleans medical malpractice attorney.

In order to successfully win a case of medical malpractice, you and your attorney will need to prove four elements. You will need to back up each element with sufficient evidence proving that the medical professional caused you harm.

#1: Establishing Duty of Care

The first step to proving a case of medical malpractice is to establish that the medical professional you are holding liable owed you a duty of care. Every health care employee who is treating patients in a professional capacity has a duty to uphold a certain standard of care. You will have to prove that you visited a clinic, hospital, or other medical facility and received treatment from the at-fault party.

This element is in place to help further establish negligence, but to also protect health care workers who are not acting in a professional capacity. For example, say that you have some symptoms and ask a friend who happens to be a doctor what the symptoms could be over dinner. Since your friend is not acting in a professional capacity, you cannot hold him or her liable if he or she ends up being wrong about your symptoms.

#2: Proving a Breach of Care

Once you establish that the medical professional named in your lawsuit owed you a duty of care and was acting in a professional capacity, you will need to prove that he or she breached this duty of care. You can establish this breach in a number of ways, depending on the facts of your case.

If the medical professional’s actions were not in line with what a similarly trained and educated employee would do, you can establish that a breach of care occurred. For example, if a doctor failed to monitor your baby’s heart monitor during labor and your child suffered a brain injury, you could argue that a reasonable labor doctor would know to check this monitor carefully.

If you obtain the services of a medical malpractice attorney, your lawyer will likely consult with a medical expert about your case. This expert will be able to examine your injuries and the narrative of your case and provide an opinion about the at-fault party’s conduct.

#3: Establishing Negligence and Injury

Next, you will need to prove that the actions of the medical professional led to your injuries or the worsening condition you suffered. You can prove this element by providing copies of your medical records, further consulting with the medical experts hired by your attorney, and using scientific evidence to back up your claim.

Establishing this element will again depend on the facts of your claim. For example, say that you visited the doctor for a series of symptoms and he or she dismissed them as a mental health issue. Your symptoms gradually get worse, so you visit another doctor for a second opinion.

This doctor tells you that you have stage 3 breast cancer. Because your first doctor did not catch your breast cancer symptoms, you now have a lower rate of survival and have to undergo more intensive, painful treatment. If your first doctor did not dismiss your symptoms, you could have avoided these consequences – but now, you can hold him or her liable for your worsening condition.

#4: Proving That Damages Occurred

After you establish that the medical professional in question committed an act of negligence against you, you will have to prove that your injuries or illnesses resulted in damages you can collect in your lawsuit. You can collect multiple types of compensation in a medical malpractice claim, including various forms of economic and emotional damage.

  • Medical expenses for past and future treatment
  • Lost wages and loss of future earnings
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Disability accommodations
  • Emotional trauma and distress

Louisiana state law allows you to file a medical malpractice lawsuit up to one year after you discovered your injury or ailment. As soon as you realize that you are a victim of medical malpractice, contact an attorney to begin the lawsuit process. The sooner you file, the sooner you can collect compensation to recover from your damages.