Suffering adverse effects from medical treatment can be a devastating event in anyone’s life – especially if that injury could have been avoided had the medical professionals paid closer attention or taken greater care. Even so, the prospect of bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit can be intimidating. You may not feel ready to move forward with filing a suit until you have a better idea of your odds of victory. What does it take to win a medical malpractice suit?
Medical malpractice suits are a special kind of negligence suit. In any lawsuit for injuries that result from negligence, the attorney for the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) will have to prove:
- that the defendant (the person or entity being sued) had a duty to act in a certain way
- that the defendant violated that duty by acting carelessly or recklessly
- that the plaintiff suffered actual, demonstrable harm, and
- that the plaintiff’s injury was the direct result of the defendant’s breach of duty
What sets a medical malpractice suit apart from a standard negligence lawsuit is that medical professionals have specific duties to their patients that regular people do not have towards each other. Because of their special training and expertise, and because of the trust their patients put in them, medical professionals have a strict standard that they must comply with when performing medical procedures.
The standard of care
The minimum standard of competency for medical professionals comes from their industry as a whole. In other words, courts decide if a doctor acted negligently by comparing his or her actions with those of the average member of their profession.
If a doctor misdiagnosed a disease that most other doctors would have recognized accurately, then that doctor may be liable for malpractice. Likewise, if a doctor makes an avoidable mistake when carrying out a procedure that the average doctor paying close attention would not have made, a malpractice suit may be on the table.
There is no way to know for certain beforehand whether you will be able to successfully recover for medical malpractice. Even so, knowing how courts determine liability can give you a general idea of whether you have a valid claim against the medical professionals that caused your injury.