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What do I have to Prove in a Medical Malpractice Case?

Medical malpractice lawsuits can stretch on for days on end if you don't have all the pieces of evidence-documents, testimonials, medical reports, and the bills-ready and strung together in a watertight case. Knowing what you have to prove in a case helps you gather relevant evidence and improves your chances of obtaining a desirable outcome.

Here's what you have to prove in a medical malpractice case:

A legal doctor-patient relationship was formed.

You have to prove that you and your doctor had voluntarily entered into a contractual relationship before he treated you. This means that you had hired the doctor to treat you and that he was willing to be hired. You cannot file lawsuit against a doctor whom you overheard giving medical advice to another person at the departmental store. Nor can you sue a doctor if you have followed his prescription that was intended for another patient.

Sometimes complications may arise if a consulting physician-a doctor who does not treat you directly-was involved at some stage during your treatment.

The doctor was negligent while treating you.

To prove this, you have to provide evidence that the doctor who treated you breached the standard of care clause during the course of the treatment.

Most states require that you provide expert testimonials to back your allegation. These testimonials should prove that the doctor acted in a way that another competent doctor with similar qualifications and under similar circumstances would not have done. However, from the point of view of the doctor, it is not required that he cares for you in the "best" possible way. The standard of care clause says that it is sufficient for a doctor to be "reasonably skillful and careful" while treating his patients.

Breaching the "informed consent" rule also constitutes an act of gross negligence. Expert testimony is required to prove that a doctor or a surgeon failed to obtain informed consent before performing a procedure that went on to harm the patient. However, there is an exception to this rule. The rule res ipsa loquitur, or "it speaks for itself," states that in medical cases where the act of negligence is "obvious" even to a layman, you can file a lawsuit without expert testimony.

The doctor's negligent act injured or harmed you.

This means that you have to prove that the act of negligence "directly" harmed or injured you and that there was no other factor that could have caused the injury. In this case too, you have to provide expert testimony to corroborate your claim.

There can, however, be complications in case of patients who were already ill or injured when they were treated by the "negligent" doctor. In such cases, the patient has to prove that it is "more likely than not" that the doctor's act of negligence caused the injury.

The injury caused you loss and/or suffering.

You don't have a valid medical malpractice case in your hands if you cannot prove that the doctor's act of negligence caused you harm. You can file lawsuits and claim compensation for these types of injuries or losses: physical pain, emotional suffering, loss of earning capacity due to a temporary or permanent impairment, and additional medical expenses such as long-term rehabilitation and caregiver costs and the costs incurred to buy equipment such as wheelchair.

Knowing what you have to prove in a medical malpractice case helps you prepare adequately, which is half the battle!

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