It can be surprising that one instance of a medical mistake leads to a large malpractice settlement, while seemingly similar situations result in no compensation.
Such lawsuits are complex and have a high burden of proof for the plaintiff. That proof of determining negligence comes down to the “four Ds” of malpractice.
1. Direct cause
A poor outcome from medical care must relate directly to the provider’s negligence. Such harm must be foreseeable and possibly preventable by the health care provider.
The medical practitioner must have had a duty to the plaintiff, meaning a patient-provider relationship existed at the time of the supposed malpractice. Said duty of care can depend on the patient’s condition, the type of health care provider and the resources of the treatment facility.
3. Duty breach
Even excellent medical care can result in poor outcomes. The issue of negligence is not necessarily about the result of treatment but whether practitioners reasonably fulfill a duty of care to patients.
A duty breach might include:
- Not promptly informing a patient of a diagnosis
- Neglecting to disclose treatment alternatives
- Not explaining possible risks of treatments or medications
- Not ordering examinations to determine the diagnosis
- Performing an unnecessary procedure
Often the only way to demonstrate a breach is to have another professional testify about how the defendant’s care was insufficient, abnormal or negligent.
A plaintiff needs to demonstrate the harm the health care practitioner caused. Medical bills, lost wages and costs for ongoing treatment are economic damages. A court can also consider noneconomic damages for loss of life enjoyment, pain and suffering.
Since plaintiffs only have two years to file a claim, gathering the necessary evidence can be challenging, so it is important to start gathering information immediately.