People trust medical professionals with their very lives, and much of the time, that trust is deserved. But there are times when it isn’t, and a patient ends up worse off than before their procedure or treatment was done. When it appears that medical malpractice is involved, it could be time to take legal action. Read on for what you need to know.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional (doctor, surgeon, dentist, nurse, therapist, etc.) causes harm to a patient through improper or negligent care or a lack of adequate skills.
Common examples of malpractice include incorrect or delayed diagnoses, surgical errors, or incorrect medication prescriptions. These are things that contribute to the worsening of the patient’s health or even death.
What Is Required to Prove Medical Malpractice in Court?
There are four elements needed to prove medical malpractice in court, and all four must be proven.
- Duty of care. A medical professional has a duty of care to do the best they can for their patients by adhering to a known standard of care. This is relatively easy to prove in medical malpractice cases since medical professionals are expected to help their patients to the best of their ability.
- Breach of duty of care. Once the duty of care is established, the next step is demonstrating that the duty of care was breached. This is where medical malpractice cases become complex, and you benefit greatly from the assistance of an experienced medical malpractice attorney. It’s also where medical witnesses become essential (more on that below).
- Injury or harm caused by the breach. This step outlines how the breach of duty of care led to the patient’s injury or harm. For example, a surgical error could have worsened a condition and resulted in further surgery or treatment.
- Resulting damages. Finally, this step completes the narrative that demonstrates the breach of duty of care led to harm, which led to additional damages to the patient. These can include financial damages (lost wages from time away from work, increased medical costs, etc.) and emotional distress.
What Value Do Medical Witnesses and Experts Bring to Medical Malpractice Suits?
As noted above, all four elements must be proven to have a successful medical malpractice case, and often the most challenging element is the breach of duty of care. This is where medical witnesses and experts come in and why they’re so important. There are several aspects of a malpractice case that they can explain and identify. Otherwise, it would only be a case of a trained medical professional against a patient who has no medical training and couldn’t be considered an expert.
Medical witnesses can provide the details of what standards should have been followed in each case. They’ll explain what the duty of care should have been and how the standards affect that duty. Then they can compare and contrast the medical professional’s actions and care against the standards and duty of care, highlighting where it varied and why it shouldn’t have.
Next, these witnesses can link the breach of duty of care to the harm done to the patient. This is key in medical malpractice. It’s also where the defendant (the person charged with medical malpractice) may try to claim things like pre-existing conditions caused the harm. The medical witness can help refute that.
The medical witness can also testify about the damages incurred by the patient. They can detail the connection between poor medical care costing the patient money and creating distress. One example is if a surgical error was made that caused the patient to need additional surgery. The medical witness could prove that if the error hadn’t been made, additional surgery wouldn’t have been needed, and the patient would have recovered more quickly and had much lower out-of-pocket costs.
Who Can Be a Medical or Expert Witness in a Malpractice Case?
There are several types of witnesses that can testify in a malpractice case. The primary type is the medical professional who has relevant training and experience in each specific case. In the surgery example above, that might be another surgeon who does those types of surgery, a medical school instructor who teaches that type of surgery, or a medical expert from an association of surgeons.
Other experts include people trained to determine if the patient can return to their previous lifestyle and how long it will take (if ever). Care planners who specialize in examining the patient’s long-term medical needs can testify about the long-term medical needs resulting from the malpractice. Economic experts can provide details of what the patient’s economic losses were due to the malpractice and what their financial needs will be going forward.
What Should I Do if I Suspect Medical Malpractice in My Case?
Call the Rizzuto Law Firm as soon as possible at 516-622-0606 for a free case evaluation. Medical malpractice is a highly complex type of case. The medical side will have extensive legal support, and you need the same. Our team of experienced, knowledgeable medical malpractice attorneys knows what tactics their side will pursue and how to counter them.
The medical professional’s insurance representative or attorney may try to contact you about the case. Don’t engage with them. Their intent is to get you to say something that indicates you don’t think they’re at fault or to convince you to accept a settlement far lower than you might be eligible for. Don’t answer any questions or enter a conversation. Instead, forward all communications to your lawyer.