Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is harmed by a doctor, or other medical professional, who fails to competently perform his or her medical duties. But it’s important to keep in mind that just because something goes wrong—or the patient’s condition goes from bad to worse—that doesn’t always mean the patient has a legitimate medical malpractice claim.
Let’s take a look at the four “D’s” of medical malpractice: duty of care, deviation from duty, damages, and direct cause. Each of these four elements must be proved to have been present, based on evidence, for malpractice to be found.
Duty refers to a healthcare provider’s duty of care. A patient must demonstrate they have an established relationship with their healthcare provider; this proves the healthcare provider owed them a duty of care.
Doctors, surgeons, nurses, and other medical professionals owe their patients a duty of care. This duty requires that professionals treat their patients in a manner that measures up to a generally accepted standard of care. In other words, they must provide the type of treatment and level of treatment as would a reasonably skilled and competent healthcare provider with a similar background in the same medical situation.
In the medical industry, a professional must follow protocols and exercise compassion when caring for a patient. If a specialist feels they lack the credentials to care for a patient properly, then it’s their responsibility to refer them to another medical professional.
Proving a duty of care is as easy as providing copies of your medical records, which contain your physician’s or healthcare provider’s information.
Physicians and healthcare providers who deviate from an accepted industry standard can be held liable for medical malpractice. The patient must demonstrate the physician or healthcare provider didn’t follow medical standards, including those specific to their profession.
Some examples of deviation from the standard of care include:
The patient must also prove, using evidence, that the physician’s deviation from the standard of care resulted in damages. Said damages can be physical, mental, emotional, and financial.
Additionally, the evidence must show the breach of duty caused the injury, and the injury included physical and financial damages.
Finally, a patient must prove the deviation by the healthcare provider was the direct cause of their injuries. For instance, a patient’s broken leg doesn’t heal correctly because the orthopedist didn’t put on the cast according to industry standards. In this situation, the patient can hold their healthcare provider accountable for their injuries.
On the other hand, if a patient went to the doctor for a fractured leg and was told to avoid physical activity, and instead the patient played football later that day and fractured it further, then the physician isn’t liable. Instead, the patient is responsible for not following the treatment protocol for their injury.
Medical Malpractice cases are complex. If you even suspect that your injuries were caused by a medical professional’s negligence or malpractice, contact our team of attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. today for a free consultation. You can reach us via phone: 570-346-2600. We have decades of experience handling these types of cases.