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What Makes a Malpractice Case, and How to Know You Have One

Posted by Robert T. Karns | Jul 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

If you've come out of a medical procedure with new or unexpected injuries, you may be wondering if you can file a lawsuit.  Medical malpractice law is complicated, so it's not always easy to tell.  Our team put together this guide to help you understand the framework and limits of the law. 

Medical Side Effects, Injuries, and Complications

First, it's important to understand what is and is not covered by malpractice law.  Medicine is inherently dangerous—surgeries can cause unexpected and life-threatening complications, medications may lead to serious side effects in some patients, and miscommunications can result in incorrect prescription drug usage.  When something goes wrong, a patient isn't necessarily entitled to make a claim against their doctor.  Medical malpractice cases are only valid when a doctor's actions fall below the standard of care for a procedure.  Typically, you can identify cases of malpractice by considering the issue of informed consent.

Did You Give Informed Consent?

Informed consent means you decided, with full knowledge of all the risks attached to a procedure or medication, to move forward with it.  This means your doctor must have taken the time to explain the possible benefits and drawbacks of therapy before prescribing it.  If they did this, either verbally and/or through sharing educational resources, you should already know a lot of what might go wrong.

The important part of informed consent from a legal standpoint is that, by acknowledging the risks inherent to treatment, you have assumed liability for them.  If you end up experiencing side effects or complications you were warned might happen, you do not have a lawsuit—no matter how much damage you are now facing.  Comparing the results of a process with expected negative outcomes can help you determine whether your claim is valid.

Or Was It Medical Negligence?

We mentioned previously the role a doctor's work plays in medical malpractice.  If they do not provide treatment that meets the standard of care—that is, the way any trained doctor would be expected to approach a situation—their negligence makes them liable for a lawsuit.  The reason this doesn't apply to known side effects or complications of a therapy is there's often no way to tell who might be affected or to prevent these things from happening.

However, when treatment results in an injury you weren't warned of, you might be facing a case of malpractice.  It's a good idea to review any educational materials you were given by your doctor to make sure your condition was not mentioned as a possible side effect.  If it was not, asking your treatment team for more information on the complications could help you determine whether a doctor's mistakes caused you to suffer an injury.

The Legal Components of a Malpractice Case

The instructions above are meant to help you determine whether to speak to a medical malpractice attorney after treatment goes poorly.  However, they are not are only a part of the argument a lawyer would use to prove your case to a judge and jury.  Legally, each medical malpractice case must have four elements:

  1. A duty of care to the patient: There must be a doctor/patient relationship between you and the person/entity you are accusing of malpractice.
  2. The doctor breached their duty of care: The defendant's actions demonstrably fall below the standard of care given the plaintiff's condition and needs.
  3. This breach caused an injury: Some mistakes can be harmless.  For a malpractice case, you must show a doctor's negligence had negative effects on the patient.
  4. The injury caused damages: In this case, “damages” is not a synonym for “injury.”  It refers to expenses, both tangible and not, faced by a patient due to the doctor's mistake.

These four points may seem to have some overlap, and, in some ways, they do.  However, all four must be proven true to demonstrate the links between your doctor's actions and the damages you are facing.

Not Sure If You Have a Case?  Ask Our Team.

If you can't tell whether your injury was caused by medical malpractice, our attorneys can sit down with you to get the full details and clarify whether you have cause to file a claim.  We've helped many patients fight back after cases of a doctor or hospital negligence caused them to suffer preventable injury. 

With this firsthand experience, we know just how complex medical malpractice cases can be.  When multiple factors contribute to a bad outcome, we can investigate each one to figure out where you can take legal action (and who holds liability).  We also work with experienced medical experts to help determine the true worth of each medical malpractice claim.  Medical injuries can be serious, resulting in costly corrective work and potential long-term needs or challenges.  If you believe you have the right to file a lawsuit due to a doctor's negligence, come to Karns & Kerrison.  We are here to help you fight for justice and compensation.

Call our team at (888) 281-3100 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.  We provide the caring and understanding support clients need as they face challenges in their lives.

About the Author

Robert T. Karns

Founding Attorney


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