Medical malpractice is notoriously difficult to prove. When attempting to demonstrate that a doctor’s negligence caused you harm, the burden of proof is far more complex than in other personal injury claims, such as a straightforward auto accident. You’re also probably facing an extremely well-financed legal defense team and a jury that’s biased in favor of the doctor.
For these reasons and more, physicians win 80 to 90 percent of jury trials when evidence of negligence is weak. They even win 50 percent of trials when the evidence is considered strong. But if you’ve suffered an injury due to medical malpractice, don’t despair: these cases can be won with the right attorney, strategy, and evidence. Here, we’ll outline what you must prove, the obstacles in your way, and how to overcome them.
What You Must Prove in Medical Malpractice Cases
As the injured party, you need to show that the medical professional acted negligently while treating you, thereby causing your injury. A successful medical negligence claim requires you to prove the following four conditions.
1. The Doctor Owed You a Duty of Care
A copy of your medical records is usually enough to show that a doctor-patient relationship existed. This means the doctor or medical facility owed you a duty of care.
2. The Doctor Acted Outside the Medical Standard of Care
This is where things become a little tricky. The injured patient must prove that the medical provider failed to act with the care and skill that other physicians would have provided under the same circumstances. This is often called acting outside of the medical standard of care.
Such medical errors include treatment without informed consent, surgical error, incorrect medication, misdiagnosis of your condition, poor communication between doctors and nurses, insufficient monitoring, premature discharge, and more. For your claim to succeed, any such medical error must clearly result from negligence, which can be difficult to prove.
3. The Doctor’s Negligence Caused Your Injuries
Having proven negligence, the claimant then needs to prove that the physician’s medical mistake “more likely than not” caused or contributed to the patient’s injury. Some common medical malpractice injuries include dangerous infections, allergic reactions to medicine, drug overdoses, unnecessary surgery, and wrongful death.
4. Your Damages Resulted From These Injuries
This stage is where you put a monetary value to the damages you’ve suffered because of your injuries. Your damages might include medical bills, lost wages, physical pain, psychological suffering, and more.
Many of these damages are relatively straightforward to prove, but to prove medical malpractice, the hardest part is demonstrating that the physician was negligent and their negligence caused your injury.
Why It’s So Hard To Prove Medical Malpractice
There’s a Chance of a Negative Outcome in Any Medical Procedure
It’s an unfortunate fact that every medical procedure comes with the risk of a negative outcome, even when the doctors act competently and to the best of their abilities. This simple fact muddies the waters of most medical malpractice claims. As the plaintiff, you’re trying to prove error and negligence while the defendant is disputing your claims and placing the blame on unfortunate causes that were out of the doctor’s hands.
Disputes almost always arise around exactly what a medical standard of care should look like under the conditions of your case. You essentially need to prove that if another medical professional had treated you instead, the outcome would have been different. All this hypothesizing and ambiguity leads to a great deal of complexity and room for disagreement.
The Highly Specialized Nature of Modern Medicine
These days, health professionals receive years of training in very narrow fields of medicine. The tools and methods they use for diagnosis and treatment are often sophisticated and highly specialized. Their patient records are also often technical and difficult to decipher.
The level of knowledge required to understand and clarify the facts of the case draws out the investigatory stage of litigation, which is why medical malpractice cases last so long. It’s also why specialist attorneys are needed for these cases. And finding a sufficiently experienced medical malpractice lawyer isn’t always easy.
The Wealth and Protection of Defendants
All healthcare providers fear medical malpractice lawsuits. A staggeringone in three physicians has at least one medical malpractice claim filed against them during their careers. Because of this threat, a powerful system of legal procedures and insurance companies has grown to protect practitioners in the multi-trillion-dollar healthcare industry. Medical providers and their insurance companies can afford the very best of legal defense teams, which you’ll be going up against with your claim.
On the flip side of that coin, settlements successfully won are far larger in medical malpractice claims than most other personal injury cases. The average US medical malpractice settlement is $242,000. This rises to an average of $1,000,000 in compensation for claims that escalate to the courtroom. Proving medical malpractice is harder, and the risk of loss is greater, but the potential reward is a lot higher, too.
The Natural Bias Toward Medical Practitioners
Doctors are universally seen as a source of authority and professionalism. This usually well-earned reputation makes it all the more upsetting when a doctor’s negligence or incompetence leads to your suffering.
Unfortunately, the common bias in favor of medical professionals plays a role when trying to prove their culpability. If your case goes to court, as five to ten percent of medical malpractice cases do, the jury members are likely to have a natural inclination to trust the defendant. This is one more hurdle when proving your claim.
How To Prove Medical Negligence and Win Your Case
All these difficulties may seem a little intimidating, but don’t worry; they’re far from insurmountable. Remember that claimants win fair compensation in medical malpractice cases all the time. The key is to hire a very good medical malpractice attorney with a proven track record of winning cases similar to yours.
Despite the sizable costs involved in any medical malpractice claim, you can ensure that the attorney’s fees and all out-of-pocket costs come from the winnings, if and when a settlement arrives. This removes the financial pressure from your own shoulders.
To prove negligence and medical error, your attorney is likely to build your case in the following ways:
Investigation and Analysis
With medical negligence, in-depth analysis is required. Medical malpractice attorneys and the special investigators they hire look at exactly how the medical provider acted and how they deviated from the accepted standard. They’ll look into healthcare policies and regulations, the defendant’s previous patients, and your medical records, including all personal medical factors your physician should have been aware of when treating you.
They’ll also collect comparable cases that were treated successfully, the accepted procedures and protocols for your medical condition, and statistical data from similar cases, including the usual treatment outcomes. They can even collect medical journals that publish news and advancements that your physician should be keeping abreast of.
Because medical errors are difficult to prove, any medical malpractice lawsuit must be buttressed by a mountain of evidence. Hospital records can reveal hospital policies and practices, doctors assigned to you, and who made entries into your patient’s file.
Diagnostic test results from blood tests, biopsies, MRI scans, mammograms, and all kinds of other tests can often provide critical proof of medical malpractice. There might even be videos or photographic evidence of incorrect surgery or other abnormal procedures.
Expert Witness Testimony
The most vital piece of evidence you can use in a medical malpractice case is often the testimony of an expert witness or two. Medical expert witnesses are doctors, surgeons, dentists, nurses, or other medical professionals who provide expert testimony regarding the defendant’s actions and help explain and prove that negligence occurred. Your medical malpractice attorney will be able to find and retain the best witnesses for your claim.
Call Wendt Law Firm P.C. today at 816-542-6734 for a free consultation. We’ve helped over 1,000 clients win their personal injury claims. With our award-winning legal assistance, we’ll battle to prove medical malpractice in your case and win the settlement you deserve.